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| 1 minute read

Validation of Our Focus

A report issued by the Brookings Institute last week highlights what has been core to our economic strategy work with communities... that investments in quality of place are more impactful than an outdated business incentives approach. 

We created Fourth Economy in 2010 based on the recognition that the traditional approaches to economic development created a never-ending competition between communities to land the big job creation announcement. We knew that what was really needed was a focus on why residents and visitors should love the community and invest in its future. 

In 2012, we created our Community Index to put data behind our Competitiveness Framework and guide communities on some core metrics that could define Quality of Place.  

In 2014, we were commissioned by the Central Indiana Corporate Partnership and Indiana Economic Development Council to evaluate how fast-growing communities throughout the country transformed themselves from economic and population loss. The simple answer, you guessed it—they defined. a vision for a better place and made investments in outdoor recreation, arts and culture, education, and health. This effort, Benchmarking U.S. Regional Cities: A Study and Guide for Transformation, and based on our findings and strategic advice, the IEDC created the Regional Cities Initiative to incentivize regional collaboration, cross-sector partnerships, bold planning, and quality of place investments by offering $126 million in matching funds to three regions. According to a report by Ball State University, in December 2017, just two years after the three winning regions created their plans, the Initiative’s $126 million leveraged $1.2 billion in additional non-state investment, $802 million of which came from the private sector. In May 2021, the State of Indiana updated the program, now known as the Regional Economic Acceleration and Development Initiative, and committed $500 million, which is expected to be matched with $2 billion in local public and private investment. 

We are proud to have supported many early pioneering communities to develop this approach to economic development and look forward to continued success. 

now there is compelling new data that these traditional economic development tools may be ineffective compared to investments in quality of life and place. Our research on smaller communities has found that community amenities such as recreation opportunities, cultural activities, and excellent services (e.g., good schools, transportation options) are likely bigger contributors to healthy local economies than traditional “business-friendly” measures.


cities & places, development planning, economic development, fourth economy, policy strategy & regulation, urban design & placemaking