In pursuit of prosperity: local government and economic development*
By Sasha Lennon, Director SC Lennon & Associates
Local government is an important contributor to economic development. While business and industry drives economic activity and employment creation, local government directly influences the enabling environment by providing the foundations for prosperity. This includes infrastructure, community services and facilities, access to employment and places where industry can invest and do business.
A council’s ‘economic development role’ therefore cuts across all areas of the organisation’s work and strategic objectives and typically involves multiple departments. What sorts of activities then should a Council’s economic development unit focus on as its core functions? The answer lies in three key areas of focus.
1. Enabling Prosperity: Strategic planning and infrastructure provision - Through its strategic planning and place management functions, local government can investigate, plan for and deliver information on local retail, commercial and industrial land capabilities, to articulate what the area can accommodate and then plan for future requirements.
2. Supporting Prosperity: Investment attraction and industry support - Local government can facilitate inward investment by targeting prospective investors in key sectors, promoting what the area has to offer and by encouraging additional investment from incumbent industries.
3. Promoting Prosperity: Economic development advocacy and partnerships - By undertaking the necessary investigations and preparing informed business cases, local government provides a conduit for government funding for bigger infrastructure projects like sporting, community and cultural facilities and health, education and transport infrastructure.
These core areas of focus provide a general guide. The economic activities that a council does focus its energies on will be determined by the outcomes its economic development strategy planning process and the identification of priorities for action.