What is Economic Development?

Economic development is a term used to describe concerted actions taken for the purpose of economic progress within a specific area. It is the process of generating and sustaining wealth in a

Joseph R. Biden, Jr. Railroad Station, Wilmington, Del.

Joseph R. Biden, Jr. Railroad Station, Wilmington, Del.

community. Every community has unique assets that can be used to attract employers and investment. Building on these assets is one of the best ways communities can stimulate their economies.

The Complete Communities philosophy facilitates economic development because it provides a planning framework for communities to build upon existing plans and leverage local assets to improve the quality of life to residents. When local governments implement the elements of Complete Communities, they bring together many factors that combine to create places that are enjoyable to live, work, and play. Being located in an area that boasts a high quality of life gives businesses the opportunity to attract and retain talented employees.

The Complete Communities philosophy also advocates for a proactive approach to planning for economic development.  One of the first steps towards implementing a successful economic development initiative is public engagement. Engaging and gaining input from stakeholders gives local government leaders the necessary perspective to formulate plans that will best serve the needs of businesses and community members. Local government stakeholders can articulate a vision for the future during the comprehensive plan process, or a separate consensus-building process like a charrette.   The comprehensive plan can set forth a vision and goals that provide a blueprint for growth, development, and efficient land use to spur meaningful economic growth. The right balance of complimentary land uses can attract investment in areas intended for growth and development, consistent with the Delaware Strategies for State Policies and Spending. It is essential to coordinate land-use decision-making with the provision of infrastructure and services that support business investment and market-ready (re)development. Local governments should foster a supportive regulatory environment that is streamlined and business friendly. The adoption of form-based codes that use pictures and diagrams to convey the types of (re)development, parking, buildings, streets, and open space that is consistent with the local vision. All of these measures prepare communities for economic growth.

All levels of government play a role in putting forth policies that foster economic development. Intergovernmental cooperation and interaction among businesses, community organizations, civic leaders, and residents is a key to envisioning and building a better economy. When communities build on unique assets and plan for growth, the benefits build on one another. Local governments can play a major role in planning for economic development. A 2014 Economic Development Survey conducted by the International City/County Management Association (ICMA) highlights what local governments throughout the nation are doing to spur private investment and job creation.


Next to Strengthen the Economic Development Element within a Comprehensive Plan

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