Economic development was the top issue for mayors in their annual State of the City addresses for the fifth year in a row, according to State of the Cities 2018, a new report from the National League of Cities. However, priorities within economic development have changed over the last year.

The top economic development subtopics in 2017 were job creation and business attraction. In 2018 mayors more frequently addressed downtown development, arts & culture, and neighborhood vitalization — showing a growing preference for place-based initiatives compared to business attraction strategies.

The report also found:

  • Innovation districts and tech entrepreneurship garnered greater mayoral attention than in previous years, indicating new interest in economic transformation topics, according to the report’s authors.
  • In thinking about business retention, expansion and attraction, mayors are increasingly concerned with creating equitable access to economic opportunities across their cities.
  • Workforce development was a priority topic only in cities with populations greater than 300,000.
  • Housing rose to the fourth most popular topic, with housing supply & development and affordable housing the leading subtopics in that category.
  • Climate change is listed as an issue to watch as more cities commit to uphold the goals of the Paris climate agreement and develop their own sustainability plans.

For more information and to read the full report, please see

The 2018 report is based on a content analysis of 160 mayoral speeches delivered between January and April 2018.