What are the functions of Urban Planner in Economic Development and Growth

Economic development planning is the mechanism for the allocation of resources between and within organizations which is held in contrast to the market mechanism. As an allocation mechanism for socialism, economic planning replaces factor markets with direct allocation of resources within a single or interconnected group of socially owned organizations.

When planning for economic development, the goal of the urban planner is to create and maintain a strong, vibrant local economy. The economic development plan provides a comprehensive overview of the economy, sets policy direction for economic growth, and identifies strategies, programs, and projects to improve the economy.

This page includes general background information on economic development planning and samples economic development plans.

There are various forms of Economic Planning

The level of centralization in the decision-making depends on the specific type of planning mechanism employed. As such, one can distinguish between centralized planning and decentralized planning.

An economy primarily based on planning is referred to as a planned economy. In a centrally planned economy, the allocation of resources is determined by a comprehensive plan of production which specifies output requirements.

Planning may also take the form of directive planning or indicative planning. A distinction can be made between physical planning (as in pure socialism) and financial planning (as practised by governments and private firms in capitalism).

The central goal of urban and economic development planning is to produce policies and programs to promote economic growth. Urban planners and economic planners always struggle to define economic development policies to improve the growth in a way that enhances the quality of life in the community people live and work.

!investigation of factors affecting economic growth at the regional level helps decision-makers such as urban planners and economic development planners develop smarter policies to increase more opportunities for economic growth. The main questions of this article should include:

  • What is economic growth at the regional level, and what factors influence the growth of urban regions?
  • Is there any relationship between transportation investments and economic growth?
  • What can urban planners and economic development planners learn from the findings of the growing literature that can better link urban planning with economic development planning and policies?

As neoclassical economists discussed, labour, capital, and human capital and technology are the primary production factors. However, contemporary literature reveals secondary factors that stimulate the efficiency and quality of these primary factors.

Findings show that secondary factors such as transportation infrastructure, amenities (schools, housing, weather, and historical, cultural, and recreational centres) and disamenities (pollution, road congestion, and crime rate) influence regional economic growth process.

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These material factors of economic growth are typically addressed by economists and economic development planners via quantitative analysis of the variables associated with per-capita regional GDP growth. I find, however; that urban planners address a qualitative set of secondary factors related to social norms and institutions.

The normative factors include equity, diversity, and housing affordability, and the procedural factors are public participation, government policies over land use and land development. By reviewing existing regional economic planning, I highlight the lack of a strong linkage between economic development planners and urban planners.

In the end, an economic growth guideline is developed which might help decision-makers such as urban planners and economic development planners derive smarter policies to increase opportunities for economic growth and development. Source

Economic Development Planning General Information

The following 4 publications and guides provide useful background on the economic development planning process

An Economic Development Toolbox: Strategies and Methods, Terry Moore, Stuart Merck, and James Ebenhoh, Planning Advisory Service Report No. 541, American Planning Association, 2006 (Available through MRSC Library Loan) – Practical guide for local governments planning for economic development

A Guide to Preparing the Economic Development Element of a Comprehensive Plan, Wisconsin Economic Development Institute, Inc., 08/2003 – Wisconsin has a “Smart Growth Law,” similar to Washington’s Growth Management Act; this is one of few general guides on this topic; older but still useful

Economic Development: Strategies for State and Local Practice, by Steven G. Koven and Thomas S. Lyons, ICMA, 2003 (Available through MRSC Library Loan) – Useful general guide to economic development concepts and tools

Learning to Lead: A Primer on Economic Development Strategies, Washington State Department of Community, Trade and Economic Development (now Department of Commerce), 1999 – General overview of the major issues related to economic development; older but still useful

A comprehensive economic development strategy (CEDS) is a strategic planning document and planning process that helps guide the economic growth and development of communities and regions.

The comprehensive economic development strategy is required by the federal Economic Development Administration (EDA) in areas designated as economic development districts and for certain EDA grant funds, including

  • Grants for public works and economic development.
  • The preparation of an economic development plan can also improve access to other federal, state, and private aid programs.

Steps to Develop a Strategic Economic Development Plan

Strategic economic development plans are integral to achieving sustainable and measurable economic growth, as well as the quality of place

With a formal plan, communities can take control of their economic development, set clear and attainable economic development objectives, and design policies and programs to achieve them. Without one, your economic future is reactive at best. At worst, it’s in the hands of others.

But how do you create a strategic economic development plan? Here are 5 steps to developing a plan that is right for you; one that will lay the foundation for long-term success.


You need a formal economic development strategy. Whether you lack a formal strategy or are seeking to update an outdated plan, the first and most important step is recognizing the need and embracing responsibility.

Economic development plans are carefully and strategically built frameworks. Long-term in scope, they provide a pathway community can follow to overcome diverse, often challenging situations. Created the right way, they can help you account for the following:

  • Rapid population growth or decline
  • Booming economy or stagnation
  • Job creation or retention issues
  • Economic stability in an unpredictable federal and/or global market
  • Public and private partnerships and investment
  • Human resource development, education and training
  • Land use and sustainable housing growth
  • Commercial and industry stock
  • Social, recreational, arts and cultural development.
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The creation of strategic economic development. the plan is often led by an economic development professional and typically reviewed on a yearly basis.

Most plans are recreated entirely every 3-5 years (often sooner given the pace of change in today’s economy) to ensure they align with ever-changing needs. Step five below digs deeper on the importance of continuous evaluation.

Assemble a team of 6-12 key stakeholders

A dynamic plan requires a dynamic team. Your list of potential members should consider local elected officials, non-profits and representatives of the business community, to name a few.

Next, you need to create a team of key stakeholders who are committed to developing a strategic plan. But “key” isn’t used loosely here; each player on your team should have a distinct role. In addition, a dynamic plan requires a dynamic team. Your list of potential representatives should consider:

  • Influential local elected officials
  • Local economic development organization (LEDO) representatives
  • Leaders within the business community
  • Resident members
  • Non-profit agencies
  • Local churches or places of worship
  • A member of a local or regional workforce development office

The size of your community will likely dictate the size of your team. But, as a general rule, your team should comprise between 6-12 members. Fewer than six and you might lack the diversity needed to approach your plan from important angles. More than 12 and you might end up with too many voices to reach an amicable consensus (“too many cooks in the kitchen”).

Develop your plan

Create a straightforward and working plan with key milestones. At a minimum, your economic development plan should include a vision, mission, goals, strategies and actions.

Economic Planning

A strategic economic development plan can be complex, but it’s important to keep things as simple and straightforward as possible. The most successful plans are understandable to your key stakeholders and economic development officials.

Ultimately, the success of your economic development plan hinges on the activities, investments and programs you have in place to, for example, increase employment and job quality, improve quality of life for today and in the long term, and boost the overall business climate.

Once you have a team in place and an understanding of the initiatives needed to create sustainable economic development, it’s time to create your plan.

Begin by creating a working, fluid plan with key milestones. Your milestones should include tasks, deadlines and costs for completion and implementation. As shown below, here is an example framework: vision, mission, goals, strategies and actions.

Implement your plan

Implementation of your plan should be based on key projects and programs upcoming or in the works. Prioritize by short-, medium- and long-term goals, and consider costs associated with implementation.

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Much like any capital improvement plan, implementation of your economic development plan should be based on key projects and programs upcoming or in the works. Prioritize by short-, medium- and long-term goals, and consider costs associated with implementation. Implementation (i.e., “action”) must be a standalone chapter or section within your plan document.

Short-term, quick-win programs might include:

  • Creating a list of all commercial, office and industrial businesses within your community.
  • Establishing an annual local economic development report card to monitor and track economic growth.
  • Meeting with the top-10 employers in the community to learn past, present and forecasted happenings.

Long-term, strategic programs might include:

  • Identifying and developing an area for industrial development.
  • Improving local educational programs to meet the employment needs of a targeted industry.
  • Cultivating social, cultural, arts and/or recreational infrastructure or programs – such as bike trails, nature conservation areas and other cultural amenities to supplement community programming.

Developing technology-based or application-based districts for individuals in order to develop hi-tech tools or computer applications. This is an important and emerging industry in our global economy; it takes into account all spin-off or supplemental development associated with this type of niche district.

Never. Stop. Updating.

Continuously evaluate your plan to ensure your economic growth and the plan itself remain consistent with the vision, mission and goals you’ve established.

Truly strategic economic development plans are dynamic and fluid. It’s unwise to “set it and forget it.” Use your annual local economic development report card or another progress-monitoring tool to ensure that economic growth and your plan remain consistent with the vision, mission and goals you’ve established.

Lastly, review your plan for modifications on a regular basis always weighing new development, evolving economic trends and emerging technologies.

In brief, the headline says it all: never stop updating. Continuously evaluate your plan and your progress. This is the best way to make sure your plan aligns with the needs and goals of your community.

Culled from Sehinc.com | How to Develop a Strategic Economic Development Plan

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About the author

I am Adegboyega Tunde Temitayo. A registered Town Planner with the Nigerian Institute of Town Planners (NITP) and Town Planners Registration Council (TOPREC).

I love to think differently and possibly on various Urban and Regional Planning issues to proffer solutions to Urban and Rural Environmental Problems. You can subscribe to my YouTube Channel

As the Chief Editor of Town Planners Diary, I humbly welcome you to this platform which is about enhancing Planning Education through research on various Town Planning and Environmental issues.

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