Regional/Greater Community Development News – October 29, 2012

    Multi-jurisdictional intentional regional communities are, in all cases, “Greater Communities” where “community motive” is at work at a more than a local scale. This newsletter provides a scan of regional community, cooperation and collaboration activity as reported in news media and blogs.
Top 10 Stories
Rather than selling themselves at a discount — cheap land and cheap labor and  tax giveaways – most highly successful cities are investing in better workers,  high-quality universities, quality of life and efficient public services.
Here’s our start on economic development priorities for the planned plan for Memphis and Shelby:
• Investments in Universities. …
• Redevelopment in the Urban Core. …
• Balanced Transportation Policy. …
• Technology Clusters. …
• Local Innovation. …
• Understanding Our Competitive Context.  Memphis starts by  understanding its competitive context, including market and demographic trends  in the region and its strengths and weaknesses. Most of all, we need to use new  measures that matter in the knowledge economy rather than on the indicators from  old-style economic development. Memphis can find its distinctive niche to leap  frog ahead of other cities, but it must be equally based on solid research and  imaginative strategies.
• Fixing the Basics. …
• Acting (As Well As Talking) Regionally. Memphis talks a  good game of regionalism, but we’ve never truly engrained regional thinking into  our plans and actions. Too often, we lapse into “we versus them” and “if you’re  winning, we must be losing” attitudes. Economic activity and innovation occur in  a regional context, and we ignore this at our peril. It is increasingly clear  that Memphis and its suburbs are inextricably linked into a single economic unit, and Memphis shouldn’t be the only city in the region saying this.
• Vibrant Culture and Entertainment Centers. …
• Thinking and Acting Collaboratively. This requires a shift in leadership styles from traditional authoritarian models to a new environment  of inclusion, mutual influence and community building. Opening the door wider to all segments of the community and inviting new voices to engage in decision-making is the mark of a mature and competitive city. Most of all, we  must rid the halls of government with their “it’s not your time yet” responses  to any initiative shown by young leaders.
• A 21st Century Workforce. …
• Competition on a Global Scale. …
• High-Quality Eco-Assets. …
• A Reputation for Tolerance. …
I recently dined with a senior City of Edmonton manager, part of the leadership group around City Manager Simon Farbrother that’s getting a great deal done.
We talked about global energy/petro-chemical companies, how decisions are made about where multi-billion dollar plants will be built.
“We’re part of the Pacific rim,” our manager said. “The guy making that decision is based in Shanghai or Beijing. He’s deciding if that plant should be built in China, somewhere else in Asia, Canada, the USA or Mexico. His only interest is the well-being of the company he works for.
“He has hundreds of options – countries and states and cities are all offering economic incentives.
“If we (Greater Edmonton) want to compete, we have to have the complete package – land fully serviced and ready to go, feedstock, infrastructure, labour, financing, tax incentives. In fact, we have to offer more. Their future consumers are all over there, not here.
“How do we compete,” he said, pointing his fork at my nose, “when we don’t have a single economic development agency for the region? How do we compete when 24 regional municipalities spend more time coming to a consensus than they do pursuing the prize?
“Our political structure,” he concluded, “is built for failure. When a third of the population of Greater Edmonton lives outside the city’s borders, getting things done quickly, making decisions quickly, competing on that global scale, is near impossible.”
“The Way We Prosper” is the economic development component of an overall planning exercise by the city.
A report into Wellington’s local government structure has recommended a total overhaul, including a new Lord Mayor and one powerful council governing six smaller councils.
The report slams current structures in the Wellington area, saying the region has “lost its way” and needs to be “reborn”.
Collated by the Wellington Region Local Government Review Panel, the report recommends the region’s nine councils be legally dismantled and replaced by the new structure.
This means the 107 current elected councillors would be reduced to 79 and the nine chief executives would be reduced to one.
Under the plan, the Greater Wellington Regional Council will become a new Greater Wellington Council led by an elected Lord Mayor.
The eight remaining councils would become six ‘local area councils’ tiered underneath the new main council with the task of managing local issues.
In Wairarapa, the three current district councils would be merged into one local area council.
A political paradigm has shifted, and 24 towns in St. Louis County are reaping the benefits.
Fragmentation and self-imposed isolation have long been norms in the countryside that rings St. Louis city. The city itself set that tone in 1876, when it broke away from the jurisdiction of St. Louis County because city residents were disinclined to continue subsidizing their “hillbilly” counterparts.
Modern discussions about reuniting the city and county plod on, but 24 St. Louis County towns aren’t waiting around. They’ve stuck out their necks and are giving berth to several new concepts and processes that have lowered municipal expenses only as a first step.
Just as importantly, according to Chris Krehmeyer, the new thinking is improving the standard of living of residents by providing affordable housing, supporting children’s education and ensuring access to healthy lifestyle choices and health care.
Krehmeyer is the president and chief executive officer of Beyond Housing. The community support organization counts among its successes improving the affordable housing market in a number of cities in the region in defiance of the subprime mortgage mess and subsequent recession.
CAPITAL REGION — Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Tuesday continued his statewide Regional Economic Development Council (REDC) Progress Tour in the Capital Region, where he visited projects to see their progress and their economic impact in the region.
It was the fifth visit in the governor's REDC Progress Tour, which is part of a review of last year's strategic economic development plans and job-creating projects.
"Under the Regional Council process, which has given individual regions the power to shape their own economic trajectory, New York State no longer has a top-down approach when it comes to economic development," Governor Cuomo said. "The Capital Region is putting their own strategic plan to action and growing jobs and businesses in their communities."
"Today Governor Cuomo, Lt. Governor Duffy, and the Strategic Implementation Assessment Team saw first-hand that, through this regional economic development process, we are successfully collaborating across sectors and regions to strengthen the Capital Region economic ecosystem, thereby maintaining and creating jobs, preparing and retaining the workforce, and celebrating and strengthening our communities," said Regional Council Co-Chair and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute President Dr. Shirley Jackson.
"Guided by our strategic plan, the Council is engaging with business, education, government, and other community leaders across our 8 county region, working together to lay the foundation for long-term economic security."
When the One Region organization recently published its 2012 analysis of 10 key indicators of the quality of life in Northwest Indiana, I joined other region residents in studying the valuable information.
This report presents an honest analysis of where we stand as a region with an unbiased assessment of our many positive points and where we have room for improvement. It’s an ideal reference for Northwest Indiana leaders and concerned citizens to help us plan for the future.
The People chapter states, “We aspire to be a region that is diverse and values inclusion.” This chapter contains an in-depth look at the demographics of Lake, Porter and LaPorte counties.
Our region has seen some amazing changes in the past few decades. An industrial giant for years, it has undergone countless changes as times and people changed.
Region residents moved from our urban core to the developing suburbs. As roads improved, people who no longer needed to live close to their jobs moved to spacious new suburban neighborhoods in Lake, Porter and LaPorte counties.
Our families have changed, too. We see fewer households with married couples and more single-parent families. More people live alone.
We’re getting older. Our median age in Northwest Indiana has increased from 36.4 years in 2000 to 38.5 in 2010. This trend could have serious implications on region business, employment, health care, education and infrastructure in coming years.
However, our racial and ethnic diversity has seen little change. In 2010 whites continue to account for most of our area population,  the African-American population was about the same as it was in the 2006 report at 19 percent, and the Hispanic population grew a few percentage points to 13 percent.
The report reminds us that Northwest Indiana has an amazing diversity of races, ethnic heritage, politics, ages and incomes. A diverse population is an asset for any community.
England's regions can no longer rely on handouts from tax receipts collected in the City, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has said as he announced Government plans to hand more local authorities, including Sunderland and Tees Valley, wider spending powers.
A selected group of 20 cities and regions could be exempt from meeting strict diktats from Whitehall as part of plans to give some councils the right to spend tax revenues collected by companies based in their area.
Ministers have already handed eight cities, including Manchester, Sheffield and Newcastle, more powers over strategic planning decisions and transport budgets. Now they plan to allow 20 other towns, cities and regions the right to bid for increased powers.
But, as the list was announced, Mr Clegg warned the successful councils they can no longer rely on Government handouts for major infrastructure projects which were paid for by large tax receipts collected within the Square Mile.
"You can't revive the regions just through handouts from Whitehall. Certainly not now when the Treasury's coffers are bare. And even if we did have lots of money, the previous approach was fundamentally flawed," he said.
"Revenues from the financial services sector were recycled round the rest of the country through the long arm of the state, creating the illusion of strong, national growth. Jobs were created but in an unbalanced way, over-relying on the public sector, funded by tax receipts from the City of London.
REMEMBER when we were all passionate people living in a passionate place?
One of the real legacy projects of regional development agency One North East was the excellent regional image campaign, which seemed to receive buy-in from the entire region.
“Passionate People, Passionate Places” was a wonderful campaign and showcased what an amazing region the North East is to live, work and visit – we always knew it here in the region, but it was great that the message was being carried outside our boundaries.
Sadly the campaign was a casualty of the public sector cuts and when the RDAs days were numbered so was the campaign, or was it?
Momentum may have been lost when One North East closed, but there is no reason why the businesses, public bodies, education establishments and any Joe Public with a passion for the region can’t continue to carry that message.
We must continue to talk our region up here in the North East, nationally and internationally.
The abolition in principle of regional bureaus of central government ministries is a pillar of the DPJ-led government's policy of pushing devolution. Of some 300,000 national public servants, nearly 200,000 belong to regional bureaus of central government ministries. The first step toward the abolition of regional bureaus is the transfer of regional bureaus of the infrastructure and transport ministry, the trade and industry ministry and the Environment Ministry to regional federations of local governments. But the Cabinet has not yet endorsed a bill for the transfer — a step needed for submission of the bill to the Diet.
The main purpose of the transfer of regional bureaus of the three ministries is to eradicate overlapping of administration between the ministries and local governments. The transfer must be designed to contribute to increasing efficiency and ending the wasteful use of funds, personnel and other resources. But the new setup must be capable of quickly and properly meeting the needs of local governments and residents. This will not be an easy task.
The main reason for the delay of the bill's submission to the Diet is that many municipalities are opposed to the transfer of regional bureaus because they saw the Tohoku Regional Development Bureau of the infrastructure and transport ministry play an important role in the rescue and restoration work in the aftermath of the 3/11 disasters.
The cities, towns and villages fear that if regional development bureaus are transferred to regional federations, they may not be able to promptly take necessary actions to fulfill their duties in a variety of areas including infrastructure construction and disaster prevention. In August, a group of some 500 city, town and village mayors adopted a resolution opposing the transfer of regional bureaus.
MOUNTAIN Gorillas, hippos and various bird species are some of the most common tourist attractions in Virunga National Park.
The park covers approximately790, 000 hectares of forest in the three countries of Rwanda, Uganda the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
According to figures from Rwanda Development Board (RDB), last year tourism sector generated US$253 million.
The population in the vicinity of the national park has over the years closely worked together to conserve it. But stray animals that destroy crops pose a major threat to the communities.
Recently residents living around the park, in Rwanda and DRC, built 2 kilometres parameter of stones and a trench to deter stray buffaloes and other wild animals which destroy crops whenever they come out of the park.
"It is a way of ensuring that residents do not lose their harvests as a result of wildlife," says Sam Mwandha, the Executive Secretary of Greater Virunga Trans-boundary Collaboration (GVTC).
A mechanism to coordinate joint conservation efforts in the park is underway under which the government engages other partners both at the national and regional levels.
Elizabeth Fretwell was sworn in as city manager of Las Vegas in January 2009. In what can only be described as a bout of very bad timing, at that moment, Las Vegas was on the front edge of a precipitous fall-off in city revenues.
As consumer spending dropped in response to the onset of the crisis, first to drop were revenues from a state-administered tax that includes levies on sales of liquor, cigarettes and other goods, as well as real estate transfers. Before long, city revenues from the property tax followed suit as real estate values in the city began to plummet. In the downtown area alone, the assessed value of land and buildings dropped by $1 billion from its peak between 2008 and 2010.
In all, the City of Las Vegas saw a 20 percent decline in revenues in just two years.
In Washington, D.C., and in state capitals across the country, policymakers would respond to a similar declines with a mix of budget cuts and revenue fixes to try and draw in money from other sources. But in Las Vegas, budget cuts were the only available answer.
That's because when it comes to raising revenues, the city’s hands are tied. Local governments in Nevada control just 13 percent of their revenues; the remaining 87 percent are determined by state formulas. As a result, Fretwell had no alternative: she cut 615 positions in city government, amounting to one in five workers. Local government also moved to a cheaper City Hall building, while slashing funds for everything from education and health care and parks.  
Las Vegas is hardly alone in its inability to develop reliable revenue streams that can support local priorities through good times and bad. Indeed, most cities are highly constrained in what they can do by state laws that place limits on local government taxing and spending authority.
SAULT STE. MARIE, MI - The Upper Peninsula Economic Development Alliance, in partnership with the sister cities of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. and Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., are hosting a Conference on Bi-National Regional Collaboration yesterday and today, with events taking place on both sides of the border.
“Bi-national regional cooperation and collaboration are becoming more and important to successful economic development,” stated Kim Stoker executive director of UPEDA. “Our conference will highlight economic areas that have high potential for enhanced bi-national collaboration and future initiatives.”
Conference sponsors, in addition to the hosting organizations, include the Sault Ste. Marie (Ontario) Economic Development Corp., U.S. Economic Development Administration, Eastern Upper Peninsula Regional Planning and Development Commission, Lake Superior State University, and the Michigan State University Center for Community and Economic Development, MSU Canadian Studies Center, MSU Institute of Public Policy and Social Research, and the Great Lakes International Trade and Transportation Hub (GLITTH).

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