Tag: Economy

Economic Opportunity & Small-Scale Manufacturing

GMDC picThere is a new opportunity in our changing cities to connect more residents with economic opportunity. We can do so by integrating small-scale industrial uses into our city development. Let’s call this mixed-use industrial real estate.

We are seeing a resurgence of small, local producers who are harnessing cheap technology and changing markets to sell hundreds and thousands of locally produced consumer products. Documented early on by Chris Anderson, and seen across the country today, these companies are often businesses with fewer than 20 employees and sell both in local markets and globally online.

These small-scale manufacturing business owners generally need dedicated production space of less than 5,000 square feet (often as little as 1,000 sq. ft), use clean technologies (think laser cutters), but need affordable, dedicated industrial/production space. They do not fit into office space because of noise, and most retail space is too expensive. So they often find marginal, cheap space at the fringes of our cities and survive on short-term leases or move far out into the suburbs.

The time is ripe for policy change and private sector investment to create this kind of development. The demand for small-scale consumer goods and locally made custom goods are growing and access to tools and technology gets cheaper. We need to provide affordable space for our local producers to grow their businesses in our city neighborhoods. By doing this, we will be able to connect more people to good-paying jobs, strengthen our small business and startup sector, and keep them all in the city.

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Spotlight on Sustainability: Madison, WI

Unsustainable growth, lack of economic opportunities, community health concerns, and loss of natural resources—these are issues facing cities and towns across the country, and Madison, Wisconsin is no exception. But, regional planning organizations in the Greater Madison area are now attempting to confront these endemic issues in a strategic and sustainable way that utilizes Madison’s strengths rather than allowing its weaknesses to be barriers to an effective response.

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Partnership in the News: HUD officials visiting Texas witness economic development in action

During a recent trip to seven Sustainable Communities grantees in Texas, Department of Housing and Urban Development staff were able to see new and innovative economic development strategies in action. They visited Regional Planning grantees Houston-Galveston Area Council and Heart of Texas Council of Governments near Waco, as well as Austin, which received both Regional Planning and Community Challenge grants, and other Community Challenge grantees Dallas, Fort Worth, and Garland.

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Smart growth gaining traction during economic downturn

Smart Growth America’s President and CEO Geoff Anderson and Vice President of Policy and Research Bill Fulton sat down last week with the San Diego Union Tribune‘s Roger Showley to talk about places using smart growth strategies in a tough economic climate and the state of the smart growth movement. From ‘Smart Growth’ gaining traction in downturn:

Q: What is the state of smart growth at a time of slow growth and economic stagnation?

Geoffrey Anderson: Smart growth is gaining traction, particularly if you look over a 15-to-20-year perspective. If you think back to the mid-’90s when cities were almost assumed to be dead — relics of a past age that were overtaken by the domination of auto-oriented suburbs — the contrast between that view of walkable neighborhoods, of smart growth and what we see today, is striking by any measure, and nowhere more so than how the market views it. There was a lot of skepticism among the private sector that this was something people wanted, and now it’s practically a given by a lot of the development community.

Q: What’s driving this change?

Anderson: We’d be fools to discount the impact of changing demographics. The difference between the 1960s, when half the households had kids and today’s (is that) it’s 30 percent and headed downward — you can’t overstate that difference in the population. We’ve built up a regulatory, financial and development infrastructure to serve that market. Look away for a second and it’s changed, and we forgot to change with it.

Q: How has smart growth played out in the real estate recession?

Anderson: Part of what we’ve learned is where we have really overbuilt. Virtually every place around the country forms a concentric circle. Moving out, values have been dropping. You see center areas and walkable areas holding values best, and large-lot, drive-only places are losing value.

Read the full article: ‘Smart Growth’ gaining traction in downturn (San Diego Union Tribune, February 13, 2012).

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Spotlight on Sustainability: Mitchell to Rapid City, South Dakota

The following is based on an interview with Bruce Lindholm, Program Manager, South Dakota Department of Transportation.

For farming communities in South Dakota, high transportation costs for crops has a major impact on the economy. Increased mileage and fuel prices mean that less money goes back into farmers’ pockets and into the local community. All of that is about to change with the help of a TIGER II grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation, through the federal Partnership for Sustainable Communities. The Mitchell-Rapid City Rail Line, in the midst of rehabilitation, will soon be able to transport agricultural commodities shorter distances and at lower costs than the trucks currently in use. Once completed, the Line will carry grain and fertilizer over 60 miles from Mitchell, SD to Chamberlain, SD.

The improvements will be a boon to the economy. “Significant savings in transportation costs will allow the local elevator to pay farmers 15-25 cents more per bushel for their product. That money goes back into the local economy,” says Bruce Lindholm, Program Manager at the South Dakota Department of Transportation (SDDOT). He and others at SDDOT are overseeing the reconstruction of the rail line through a predominantly agricultural and rural region of the state.

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Spotlight on Sustainability: Thurston County, Washington

The following is based on an interview with Kathy McCormick, Senior Planner for the Thurston Regional Planning Council.

When the state of Washington adopted a Growth Management Act in 1990, local jurisdictions set about creating Comprehensive Plans; soliciting public participation in the process. Thurston County was one of them. Now, in the twenty-plus years since that piece of legislation was enacted, the region has grown by over 100,000 people, making it one of the fastest growing counties in the state. “We have a great foundation in the plans that exist from the 90s,” says Kathy McCormick, Senior Planner for the Thurston Regional Planning Council, “But, how can we continue to grow if people don’t know about those plans and how can we address the needs of a changing population if we don’t know what those needs are?” Over two decades later, the region is getting the chance to revisit those issues.

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Smart growth news – September 6

Innovation key to cities in 21st century
The San Diego Union-Tribune, September 2, 2011
As former Pittsburgh Mayor Tom Murphy was about to sound a warning Friday to American cities about surviving in the 21st century, a large Navy vessel came into view as it sailed out of San Diego Bay. “What a spectacular city!” he said from the outdoor terrace of the San Diego Hilton Bayfront hotel. “I just want to turn around and see this ship go by.”

Sister cities share plans for downtown growth
Montgomery Advertiser (Ala.), September 4, 2011
Montgomery leaders have made the Alabama River a key ingredient for downtown redevelopment. Included so far have been a minor league baseball team housed in a $25 million stadium, and, a block away, the $200 million Renaissance Montgomery Hotel & Spa at the Conven­tion Center.

How should Syracuse transform its Inner Harbor?
The Post-Standard (N.Y.), September 4, 2011
Developers, architects and planners are citing the successful transformation of Syracuse’s Armory Square from rundown warehouses to trendy residential, retail and office buildings as the kind of mixed-use development that would work at the Syracuse Inner Harbor, the former state Barge Canal terminal the city will soon own.

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Transportation projects will stimulate new jobs

The unemployment rate is staying stubbornly above nine percent and the President is preparing to offer new ideas for job creations. Hopefully he will pay attention to what groups like the American Society of Engineers and Transportation for America are promoting: infrastructure and transportation will create good, sustainable jobs across the country.

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Living may actually be cheaper in the region’s core

Originally written by David Alpert and posted on Greater Greater Washington
August 3, 2011

The classic rule of thumb, “drive ’till you qualify,” holds that the farther you go from a city center, the cheaper the cost of living. But a new report shows how in the DC area, housing near the core and near transit stations can be cheaper when transportation costs are factored in.

The Office of Planning worked with the Center for Neighborhood Technology to customize their “H+T” housing and transportation index for our region, and to incorporate more recent American Community Survey data as well as Census data.

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Smart growth news – July 7, 2011

Key Senate Dem: Two-year transportation bill coming
The Hill, July 6, 2011
A leading Senate Democrat said Wednesday that the chamber will likely move forward with a two-year measure funding roads and public transportation – not a six-year bill, as originally planned. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), the chairwoman of Environment and Public Works Committee, also told reporters that lawmakers would have to fill a roughly $12 billion shortfall for those two years, and that her committee would mark up the $109 billion legislation in the next few weeks.

Bank plan would help build bridges, boost jobs
MSNBC, July 6, 2011
American has fallen to 23rd in infrastructure quality globally, according to the World Economic Forum. It will take about $2 trillion over the next five years to restore the country’s infrastructure, says the American Society of Civil Engineers. Given America’s weak economy and rising national debt, the government can’t promise anything close to an amount that dwarfs most countries’ total economies. But a national infrastructure bank could help.

UN environmental initiative is the Tea Party’s new nightmare
The Daily Caller, July 6, 2011
Tea Partiers aware of the initiative are eager to get the word out and stop what they see as an encroachment of an international agenda, manifest in local planning programs such as smart growth, land use policies, and green building codes.

Five Bay State projects will create housing and boost transit
New Urban Network, June 30, 2011
Five projects in eastern Massachusetts — the majority of them along mass transit lines — have been chosen by the Massachusetts Smart Growth Alliance to receive a total of $1.5 million in aid from the Barr Foundation and the New York-based Ford Foundation. They are the first projects to be selected in the Alliance’s Great Neighborhoods program, which promotes development not dependent on the automobile.

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