NOTE: This article is by guest blogger Darrene Hackler.

Today many cities and urban counties are facing the same issue—recovery from the recession but inequitable growth. Equitable Economic Development (EED) has emerged as a new lens on pursuing growth. It embeds intentional policy guidance and program design to achieve an inclusive approach to a community’s economic development goals. Local and state economic development practitioners seeking to realign their programs and incentives can benefit from utilizing a framework designed to think about their communities’ “economic capacity” actors and resources. 

As a Smart Incentives and BDA advisor, I developed the People-Business-Place-Policy framework to highlight a community’s vital economic capacities and how Policy-driven investments in People, Business, and Place are building blocks of a successful economy. Although People- and Place-based strategies dominate most incentive programs, current government strategies don’t prioritize linking the programs and services across different people and business assets to the challenges of the places they reside and how to improve access to opportunities in the larger city or region. In addition, there is a lack of coordination across the lead administrating government departments. 

This disconnect suggests a different approach to program planning and delivery of services is needed to improve the linkages to programs that are meant to assist People, Business, and Place. Thus, Policy, the act of governance, is a consequential fourth capacity. Coordinated strategic investments in these capacities can improve the opportunities of People, Business, and Place beyond a single service or isolated location and make connections to regional opportunities and national and global markets.

The People-Business-Place-Policy framework can guide EED efforts as seen in my work in Sacramento, CA and BDA’s work in Franklin County, OH.

In Sacramento we focused the People-Business-Place-Policy framework to assist the city in mapping out how it could take comprehensive, intentional actions to increase and diversify economic growth to strengthen people, business, and place capacity to promote inclusive and equitable economic growth. The work resulted in Project Prosper: a Council policy resolution on inclusive and equitable investment that focuses on neighborhoods and their unique needs; a multi-neighborhood community engagement effort to assess needs; and the design of a city program to assess neighborhood needs. The Council is currently considering the Mayor’s proposed budget memo implementing specific components of the work and $16 million in investments in inclusive economic development, whether in neighborhoods or populations that have traditionally been underserved. Examples of the priorities include investing in:

  • People: Kindergarten to College (K2C) – College Savings Program Underserved
  • Business: Neighborhoods and Commercial Corridors: Restoration of Iceland Ice Skating Rink in the underserved neighborhood corridor of Del Paso Heights
  • Place: Catalytic Housing Bond for Affordable Housing and Neighborhood and Schools Ped/Bike Safety Study & Implementation Planning

Business Development Advisors assisted the Franklin County, Ohio Economic Development and Planning Department to refine its work and complement County initiatives seeking equitable prosperity. The large urban county seat of Columbus, OH has been growing 7.4% over the last decade, yet frustrating levels of poverty and disparities are a threat to the region’s trajectory. BDA utilized the People-Business-Place-Policy framework to develop strategic and data-informed advice for Franklin County. The resulting strategic plan describes a more resident-centric and equitable approach to economic development, whether using incentives to stress quality jobs or increasing engagement with the community in discussions about economic and community development vision and opportunity. The intent was to be more inclusive of a more diverse set of voices through outreach and the design of policy and metrics.