Volume 40 Planning for the New Economy (2015)

Editors: Cara (Wittekind) Isher-Witt and Julia Barnard


The most common question we heard in putting this volume together was: “What is the new economy?” To which we would say, “Exactly!” We present this issue of the Carolina Planning Journal as a conversation about what planners need to know about our changing economy and how we can work proactively to prepare communities to be economically sound and prosperous in the new economy.

As a way of starting this conversation, we look to the Brookings Institution’s 2010 “State of Metropolitan America” report, which characterizes the New Economy according to five primary “new realities:” growth and outward expansion, population diversification, aging of the population, uneven higher educational attainment, and income polarization. The authors in this volume of the Carolina Planning Journal are hard at work facing these new realities and working to imagine and re-imagine strategies with which to look forward.

Several key themes emerge from the authors featured in this issue. First, the necessity of long-range planning is echoed again and again. Planning is inherently forward- looking, and economic development planning in particular requires both forethought and flexibility. Planners must not only imagine what the next economy will be and start to prepare for it, but we must also constantly evaluate the changing economic tides and be ready to recalibrate strategies when our forecasts are incorrect.

We also heard many cases of cities and regions stretching the boundaries of traditional jobs- and revenue- focused economic development to include placemaking, transportation, culture, and livability. This growing understanding of what makes a place prosperous is exciting news in the field of planning, and we hope that the articles in this issue encourage readers to think broadly and creatively about the new economic development strategies that might serve their communities.

Finally, readers will notice that many of the authors conceive of equity as a primary goal of economic development, rather than an optional and inferior item on the development checklist. Many of the articles featured ideas about sharing prosperity, creating more and better jobs, and building wealth and opportunity across our communities. We are inspired by the work being done to improve quality of life for all, and hope that readers take away some strategies for incorporating equity as a key feature of their own economic development plans.

A digital version of this edition is available here.

Planning for Inclusive Prosperity: Lessons from the North Carolina Experience

Nichola Lowe, Meenu Tewari, and Bill Lester

We present North Carolina as a working laboratory for agency within a new political economy. North Carolina has gone through a significant political transformation in recent years, threatening key institutions and channels for promoting inclusive forms for economic development. But this shift has not meant a wholesale loss or retreat of progressive actors and actions. Progress is still being made by planners and practitioners, though often in new forms and through alternative channels and partnerships. This paper presents three examples of continued efforts by planners to promote living wage standards, extend job-centered training opportunities, and upskill and upgrade legacy industries. It demonstrates the ways that planners can redirect policy goals and collectively articulate a vision of a more equitable form of economic development.

From Concentrated Poverty to Community Wealth Building: A Report from the Field on Richmond’s Comprehensive Poverty Reduction and Wealth Building Initiative

Thad Williamson

The City of Richmond, Virginia has recently embarked on an ambitious effort to reduce the city’s 26% poverty rate, encompassing multiple policy areas from education to economic and workforce development to housing. This innovative plan was developed via extensive input from citizens and strong support from Mayor Dwight C. Jones, who in 2014 established the nation’s first Office of Community Wealth Building to lead implementation of the plan. This article summarizes the key components of the initiative, identifies ongoing challenges to its successful implementation, and offers brief lessons for planners and policymakers in other communities from the Richmond experience.

 Bay Area Blueprint: Worker Cooperatives as a Community Economic Development Strategy

Alison Lingane

The growing low-wage service sector in our economy, combined with overall wage and wealth gaps that are especially concentrated in communities of color, means many working adults don’t make enough money to cover basic needs. Businesses that are owned and run by their workers offer a different way of doing business that benefits workers, businesses, and society. Worker coops are a key component of a “new economy,” and as such, Community Economic Development efforts should incorporate worker cooperative development into their strategies. This paper describes a project in the Bay Area of California to create a local action plan for moving towards scale and impact of worker cooperative development by engaging multi-sectoral actors. It includes a framework for assessing the opportunities in a local region to increase worker coops to benefit low wage workers, and takeaways for other regions that want to apply a similar approach.

Planning the City in the New Economy: Comprehensive Planning in Austin, Texas

Gregory Claxton, Matthew Dugan, and Larry Schooler

Austin, Texas exemplifies many challenges in planning for fast-growing Sun Belt cities. The process to create the recently adopted Imagine Austin Comprehensive Plan shows the difficulty in matching the tools of traditional comprehensive plans with interrelated New Economy issues and best practices in community engagement.

Planning the City in the New Economy: Plan Cincinnati

William S. Fischer, Katherine Keough-Jurs, and James Weaver

The City of Cincinnati, Ohio recently completed it first comprehensive plan in over 30 years. Developed through a highly collaborative community-driven process, Plan Cincinnati aims to “re-urbanize” the depopulated Rust Belt city and strengthen its economy. Alongside goals to increase industrial recruitment as well as homegrown small businesses, a key economic strategy of the plan is focusing investment geographically in the City’s established neighborhood centers.

Planning for the New Economy in a Local Context: Case Studies from NCAPA Contributors

Ben Hitchings, Rodger Lentz, Lance Hight, and Jenny Mizelle

Carolina Planning regularly publishes a feature highlighting projects from members of the North Carolina Chapter of the American Planning Association (NC-APA). This year’s submissions focus on community planning initiatives that address changing demographics, industry, and infrastructure needs.

Best Master’s Project of 2014
Kyle Onda
Book Reviews
Amanda Martin, Julianne Stern, Adam Levin, and Rachel Eberhard
Final Thoughts
Emil Malizia