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Reconsidering Economic Development: The Prospects for Economic Gardening

Author: SHARON BARRIOS and DAVID BARRIOS
Published in PAQ, Vol. 28 No. 1

For decades many local development and community leaders
have been questioning the effectiveness of business attraction to create
new jobs and expand local economies. At the same time, there has
been growing interest among some professional planners and citizen
groups in the concept of sustainable development, which suggests
replacing short-sighted development plans which convey limited
benefits with future-thinking strategies that improve and preserve the
quality of life for the entire community. And yet, many local
governments continue to rely on business attraction as a key component
of their economic development strategies. This paper attempts to
explain why these governments are resistant to more progressive
economic development strategies. It first examines how and why
traditional strategies are ineffective. It then argues that, by contrast, the
more recent "economic gardening" approach, which centers on the
cultivation of local entrepreneurship, is more effective, particularly
with regard to long-term sustainability issues. The paper concludes by
discussing economic gardening's prospects of becoming the dominant
approach to economic development, and the key role coordinating
agencies play in helping communities build the capacity to meet this
challenge.

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