Place-Based Economic Development

Placemaking as an economic development strategy, also called place-based economic development, is the practice of using a community’s public amenities to make economic progress. This approach focuses on the unique features of particular places, building on existing assets, and using them to attract new investment and strengthen existing businesses. Placemaking as an economic development strategy is particularly relevant in today’s age of globalism. Jobs tied to this form of economic development are tied directly to specific places, and therefore cannot be outsourced.

When communities commit to using placemaking as a method of economic development, the benefits extend far beyond enticing visitors, entrepreneurs, small businesses, and corporations. To local economies recovering from a loss of conventional industry, placemaking is a method for capitalizing on existing strengths, rather than inventing new ones, for the purpose of developing a stronger economy. Delaware has seen impressive returns to its economy from tourism, an intrinsically place-based industry. Placemaking is an environmentally friendly form of economic development. The walkable, bikeable, and transit friendly streets that are favored by the placemaking philosophy, lessen a community’s dependence on automobiles and fossil fuels. When open spaces are part of a community’s identity, and therefore its development strategy, there is more impetus to protect them. The distinct cultures of neighborhoods and communities are enhanced by this form of economic development. Placemaking encourages the recognition of local artists and musicians. It also places importance on preserving local landmarks and significant architecture. The Historic Preservation section of this Toolbox further discusses benefits of heritage tourism, such as providing opportunities for place-based economic development—particularly rural communities.

The State of Michigan has been in the forefront of the placemaking movement. Through a statewide initiative, MIplace, communities are harnessing the power of placemaking to give local amenities a dual purpose: enhancing quality of life for all residents and attracting investment. The group’s logic is simple: green spaces, walkable streets, unique downtowns, attractive gathering places, and engaged citizens are great for communities and businesses. The group is now helping Michigan’s communities attract and retain the state’s next generation of innovators and job creators.


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