Poster Paper: Assessing Effectiveness: Strategies for Achieving Local Economic Development Goals

Saturday, November 10, 2012 : 12:00 PM
Liberty A & B (Sheraton Baltimore City Center Hotel)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Rebecca Moryl, Clara Ren, Mark Decristoforo, Colin Shea and David Somerville, Emmanuel College

Assessing effectiveness: strategies for achieving local economic development goals

This paper will present findings of a study that examined the extent to which local economic-development policies and programs align with their stated goals. States and cities invest tremendous resources each year in efforts to reinvigorate struggling municipalities through economic-development policies. Yet in many cases, economic stagnation persists.  This paper considers the problem of economic stagnation in municipalities by focusing on the complex interaction of economic development goals and policies.

A body of economic development literature focuses on the effectiveness of local economic development policies.  The purpose of this study was: (1) to unify that literature and use it to determine the expected outcome of local economic development policies; (2) to gauge the alignment of goals and policies by comparing those expected policy outcomes to the stated economic development goals.

The research was part of a larger study of the alignment of economic-development goals and actions among citizens and policy makers. In-depth case analysis of three cities provided evidence for several areas of goal/policy misalignment and drivers of that misalignment, including weak, “public relations” focused goal statements; and a lack of linkage between goal statements and the policy decision-making process.  This paper seeks to assess the extent of the problem of misalignment by gauging the extent of alignment or misalignment among a broader sampling of 35 Massachusetts cities, using qualitative data.

This project developed a comprehensive menu of economic development activities undertaken by each municipality.   The study methodology included development of a schema of expected economic development policy outcomes. This schema can be a valuable tool for policy makers and practitioners seeking advice from the literature of the evidence for outcomes and effectiveness of various economic development policies.  It highlights the areas where evidence of policy effectiveness is inconclusive, or more study is needed.  Where evidence is consistent, it provides a tool for improved implementation of effective policy at the local level, as well as a new, concrete framework localities can use to assess and improve their own alignment between economic development goals and policies.

This paper aligns with the APPAM 2012 Fall Research Conference theme by providing tools for assessing the potential effectiveness of economic development policies, as well as a snapshot into the current state of alignment of local economic development goals and policies.