Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Spurring Inclusive Growth


Hello Everyone:

A good lovely Tuesday afternoon to you all.  Blogger is in rare good mood after scoring an interview at school library.  If all goes well, yours truly will be a working blogger; able to save up for some new technology and have real insurance.  Yay.  With that good news, yours truly has plenty of energy to log away on inclusive growth.

Thanks to the ongoing gridlock in Congress and a president who seems to care little about doing his job, cities and states have stepped in to fill the policy void.  Cities, in particular, have been particular focused on filling the federal budget, climate change void and  consider how mayors are in the best position to support innovation growth.  Greg Fischer, Bruce Katz, and Julie Wagner report on the 85th annual meeting of the United States Conference of Mayors, held at the end of June in their CityLab article "How Mayors Can Drive Inclusive Growth."  Innovation growth, according to the writers "...will be part of a broader agenda of re-enforcing local power in the face of uneven, if not uncertain, support from the federal government."  A word about the writers: Mr. Fischer is the Mayor of Louisville, Kentucky and Chair of the USCM Council on Metro Economics and the New American City.  Mr. Katz is a the Centennial Scholar at the Brookings Institute.  Ms. Wagner is the co-director of the Bass Initiative on Innovation and Placemaking at the Brookings Institute.

Over the past year, the Brookings Institue and USCM; the Project for Public Spaces have collaborated to create a new model of growth emerging in cities and the unique part that mayors can play in supporting it.  At the June USCM gathering, the assembled body released a handbook-available at http://www.brookings.edu-that presents solid strategies for mayors to facilitate the growth of innovation districts.  What is are innovation districts?  Innovation districts are, "small geographic areas within cities where research universities, medical institutions, companies cluster and connect with start-ups, accelerators, and incubators.  They reflect profound market and demographic dynamics that are revaluing proximity, density, walkability, and accessibity-...the natural strengths of cities."

Innovation districts present great potential for innovative growth, as ideas incubated in universities, for public consumption, by students, faculty, entrepreneurs, and mature companies.  Innovation districts are typically located near low-income communities, they can "also spur inclusive growth by intentionally including residents in employment opportunities and using increased tax revenues to provide needed services and enhance the affordability of housing."

Until recently, most of the innovation districts evolved via a collaborative process between research institutions, companies, and intermediaries.  However, mayors from Boston to Barcelona demonstrated that mayors can play a major role in furthering in these burgeoning hubs of innovation.

The writers report, "One such role is mayor as convener.  Mayors can use their soft power to pull together leaders of local institutions to find a set of common interests compelling enough to take a collective approach to innovative growth."  The broad urban point-of-view affords the mayors a look at the big picture and allow them to create important connections between people, places, and concepts.  "It is this perspective that enables disparate local actors to see what's possible and collaborate to compete."

Another role for the mayors is that of champion.  "A mayor is often viewed as being at his or her best when declaring a vision for future prosperity that is grounded in evidence and conveyed with conviction and purpose."  A small group of American and European mayors have shared a vision for nurturing innovation during their inaugural or state of the city speeches.  In several cases, the mayors have linked their vision of innovative growth to a particular location-i.e. district-for future activity and investment.  for example, former St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay bestowed authority to a local non-profit to accelerate the transformation for blighted neighborhood into a flourishing innovation districts.  (http://www.usmayors.org). "Mayor Slay opted to embolden this local to not only develop the master plan but to also serve as master developer with the authority to issue tax abatements and exercise eminent domain."

Finally, we have the role of the "mayor as catalyst."  Municipal governments have sizable regulatory and fiscal powers that can spur innovation districts.  The majority of American innovation districts lack the civic and physical real estate to facilitate "...the exchange of ideas and the continuous invention and deployment of products and technologies."  Mayor can collaborate with public, private, and civic leaders to alter local zoning ordinances to increase activities and ease public space regulations to create a greater range of programs and activities that facilitate innovation networks.  For example, the ride-hailing Uber is testing autonomous vehicle technology in the city of Pittsburgh.  Although the relationship between the company and the city has had its tense moments (http://www.citylab.com; Jan. 31, 2017) nevertheless, "Mayor Bill Peduto successfully removed regulatory obstacles-enabling Pittsburgh to not only invent next generation technology but to be the first to deploy it." (Ibid; June 6, 2017)

Bottom line, cities are facing challenging fiscal, political, economic times, however, mayors can play a variety roles in moving ahead the potential of their cities to incubate good jobs, generate new economic opportunities for all citizens, and generate very needed fiscal revenues.  The writers report, "The good news is that a growing number of mayors in the United States are stepping up and leading in way that can be adapted and adopted by others."  The mayors are in a unique position regarding domestic policy because they are the ones that can advance innovation and inclusive growth simultaneously while bridges economic inequalities.   

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