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December 12, 2007

People versus place development

Economic development is a big issue in North Carolina, especially in rural and slow-growing counties. There are two fundamental approaches to improving economic development. One focuses on places and the other targets people. Listen

Dr. Mike Walden, North Carolina Cooperative Extension economist in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at N.C. State University, responds:

"There is actually a long history in the economic development literature. And the two approaches are the people approach and the place approach.

"The people approach says that to get economic development what you need to do is empower people. You have to give people the training, you have to give them the education, the leadership, the entrepreneurial skills - all those characteristics that people need to be economically successful. And if the people in an area are successful, so will the area be. So that's the people approach.

"The place approach says that you want to focus on getting the good paying jobs to come to the region. You're not ignoring the characteristics of people, but your focus is on going after companies, going after businesses to come into a region that perhaps does not have enough jobs.

"Now of course these two approaches can and do work together. In North Carolina, for example, the best example of a people strategy is education. We spend the biggest part of our state budget on education, everything from K through 12 to the community college system to higher education. One disadvantage that some see in the people approach is that if you are worried about developing a particular area and you get folks empowered with training and education, they may leave. And that is a big issue in many rural counties. Folks who attain educational standards and move up the educational ladder simply move to the big city.

"Now the place strategy we implement with, for example, building roads, building water and sewer facilities and with the very controversial aspect of incentives. So both of these strategies can work together; however, there are some issues with each."

Posted by Dave at December 12, 2007 08:00 AM