Upstate “Legacy Cities” Gain the Most from Regional Approaches to Economic Development

Download and share the report (complete press release here) that calls upon elected, business, and civic leaders to double down on innovative and regionally focused approaches to economic development for Upstate NY’s “Legacy Cities”—a term being adopted by a growing number of those working to improve America’s older industrial cities that have experienced significant population loss.

The report summarizes input from over one hundred public, private, and non-profit sector leaders recently assembled from across New York State to prioritize economic development strategies. Lieutenant Governor Duffy, charged the policy workshop participants to identify key Upstate Legacy City revitalization priorities for practitioners and policy makers. Moreover, the recommendations provide critical tools to encourage and inform a growing national dialogue on the future of Legacy Cities and their critical role in 21st century economic prosperity and quality of life.

“If the United States is to successfully adapt and compete in the more globally oriented 21st century economy, we must better align federal, state, and local efforts on the ground in our metro regions. These local markets have unique clusters, assets, and strengths that are best leveraged through creation of cohesive regional economic development strategies.”

Brad McDearman, director of the Metropolitan Export Initiative at the Brookings Institution

The two most important approaches for implementing innovative economic development strategies, as argued here, are regional planning and decision-making, and partnerships with major institutional anchors. Recent efforts, such as Governor Cuomo’s Regional Economic Development Councils (REDC), are praised for taking an integrated approach and crafting economic development strategy at the regional scale, where investments are most likely to a have positive and sustainable impact. The report applauds the ambitious metropolitan business planning methodology being developed in Western and Central New York in conjunction with partners such as the Brookings Institution. It also recommends reversing dated laws and practices that drive unsustainable land use and encumbered governance.

Specific recommendations for tying funding and planning decisions to already successful regional economic development efforts include:

Enhance local government efficiency by recalibrating the Local Government Efficiency / Shared Services program and aligning local government operations with the governance model and strategic vision embodied in the Regional Economic Development Councils.

Support land use coordination and urban place-making by communicating the business case for Smart Growth in New York State, removing legal barriers to strengthening urban cores and promoting density and encouraging anchor institution involvement in neighborhood planning and development – innovators in this area include the Syracuse Connective Corridor and Near West Side Initiative, and University of Buffalo’s downtown investments.

Target urban education by making schools neighborhood magnets. Encourage investment in strategic workforce alignment and educational programs—such as Say Yes to Education.

Build a world class innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem by spurring the creation of regionally-based venture funds, commercializing bountiful research in market-ready products, and connecting upstate firms to downstate venture opportunities.

Drive competitiveness in the global export and commerce marketplace by increasing export capacity, developing regional export plans, appointing a statewide export council and czar, and connecting upstate products and services with downstate markets.

Enable Legacy Cities to lead in the production of clean, sustainable sources of energy and in approaches to energy conservation by establishing a statewide commission to investigate energy conservation and production.

The convening and report were cosponsored by The American AssemblyCenterState Corporation for Economic OpportunitySyracuse University, and SUNY Buffalo School of Architecture and Planning.

Hard copies available on Amazon.

If you would like to purchase bulk copies of the report, please contact the American Assembly.

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