Council revs up economic research and assistance to communities

Date: Wednesday, February 4, 2015
In 2015, the Council will provide local governments with more economic information and technical assistance. The goal is to give communities additional insight into what drives the region’s economy and their local economy. 

Communities may choose—but will not be required—to incorporate this information into the next updates of their local comprehensive plans starting in 2016. 

Strengthening the region’s ability to compete globally

“We need to work together locally and regionally to plan for and provide competitive sites for economic growth and infrastructure, as well as the amenities needed to attract, retain, and grow businesses and a talented workforce,” said Metropolitan Council Member Steven Chávez, who serves on the Council’s Community Development Committee. “In a time of tight local budgets, we want to ensure that all cities and counties in the region have access to this information.”

The Council’s new program will provide communities with a variety of economic information, such as the location of jobs with career ladders and living wages.By providing expanded economic information and technical assistance, the Council will support its partners to strengthen the region’s ability to compete effectively in the global economy. Prosperity is one of five key regional outcomes the Council identified in its long-range comprehensive development framework, Thrive MSP 2040.

Outreach confirmed need for more economic data

In 2014, the Council held a series of workshops with counties and communities in the seven-county metro area, and introduced the concept of integrating economic competitiveness into the comprehensive planning process. Many local government officials said that more economic data and analysis would be useful to them. 

“Providing comparable and unique economic data will be helpful to cities in setting benchmarks and measuring progress on land-use-related goals,” said Marc Nevinski, Physical Development Director for Golden Valley.

Geographic distribution of businesses, real estate requirements, and more

The region’s freight system is critical to our economic competitiveness.The Council plans to develop information and tools to help communities identify and analyze: 

  • The geographic distribution of businesses that drive the regional economy.

  • Land use and real estate requirements of these economic drivers.

  • Sites for economic growth.

  • Our region’s freight and distribution system and connections to the global economy.

  • The geography of the workforce and access to jobs.

The Council will work with the state Department of Employment and Economic Development, the University of Minnesota, the Minnesota State Colleges and University system, GREATER MSP, and other partners to produce this information. And the Council will support community efforts to draw on insights from local chambers, employers, educational institutions, workforce organizations, and others regarding the workforce, workforce housing, and access to jobs as they develop their comprehensive plans.

Equity is a key factor in economic competitiveness

This new program will support a variety of efforts to ensure that the region’s economic competitiveness work improves access to opportunity for all residents. In particular, the Council will:

  • Identify industry sectors and sector-related occupations that provide career ladders for populations with lower income and educational attainment.

  • Identify occupations that offer living wage and benefit opportunities.

  • Analyze the locations of jobs with career ladders and living wages in relationship to areas of concentrated poverty and racially concentrated areas of poverty.

Local Planning Handbook will provide guidance

The Council will also provide technical assistance for communities who seek advice on how to apply these resources to their local planning and development activities. And later this year, an updated version of the Council’s online Local Planning Handbook will include help to integrate economic data into local comprehensive plans.

“The new Local Planning Handbook will include not just the minimum requirements for local governments,” explained Lisa Barajas, manager of Local Planning Assistance for the Council. “It will also connect planners and local officials to a variety of tools and resources that will help communities get more out their comprehensive plans if they choose. This economic data is part of that effort.”

Communities can choose their level of involvement

The Council recognizes that counties and communities across the region have different challenges, opportunities, and priorities at any given point in time. Participation in this project is entirely voluntary.

For those counties and communities that choose to participate, the Council expects that the level of engagement will vary, from minimal engagement such as simply reviewing research, to collaborative efforts among communities and other partners to work on comprehensive plans and create joint economic development strategies.

More information

Posted In: Communities, Planning

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