U.S. Metros: Open for Business Despite Everything

by Mark Muro | April 8, 2011

Whether or not the federal government shuts down this weekend, I have an announcement: U.S. metropolitan areas are open for business and striving innovatively to create jobs and transform the economy.

How do I know it?  Because we’ll be talking with more than 300 business, government, and community leaders from around the country at a forum Monday morning at Brookings to debut metropolitan business plans—a new concept in action-oriented, bottom-up economic development that we’ve helped to launch and  I describe in our framing paper, “Metropolitan Business Plans: A New Approach to Economic Growth.

Metro business planning, as I noted a few months ago, exemplifies the pragmatic, increasingly assertive, and self-sufficient style of U.S. regions, which have grown tired of the unhelpful posturing and rigidities of Washington.  

Through this approach, smart consortia of regional leaders have come together to apply the methodology of private-sector business planning to the business of revitalizing regional economic development. In that fashion, smart regions are pursuing a disciplined, rational process to prepare tailored, data-rich, highly specific challenges to federal, state, local, and philanthropic players to “invest” in their “bottom-up” plans for economic growth (with a firm promise of return on investment).

So who’s doing them? Three diverse metropolitan areas—Northeast Ohio, Minneapolis Saint Paul, and Seattle—are applying the new methodology, and are working intensely and pragmatically this year while Congress bickers and the nation drifts.

Northeast Ohio has a plan for helping dozens of its small and medium-sized manufacturers transition into more innovative growth industries.  Minneapolis Saint Paul aims to boost entrepreneurship with a new accelerator.  And the Seattle region has a game-plan for turning its strong energy efficiency cluster into a world-class export sector.

In short, while Rome burns, leaders in these metros are engaged in practical, smart, and self-starting efforts to grow the economy that are all about pragmatic, bottom-up problem solving at a time when the ills of top-down, business-as-usual economic affairs have become increasingly apparent.

I don’t know about you, but I’m reassured that some of metro leaders are working intently and creatively on the deepest problems facing our troubled national economy.

In any event, at our forum, we will focus on this new concept in regional growth strategy: metropolitan business planning. I don’t know about our federal colleagues, but we and our regional friends will be there, working to create jobs, opportunity, and a more sustainable economy.

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