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Urbanization and local economic development

/ March 22, 2013

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Urbanization and local economic development

The paradox of globalization is that cities have emerged as critical sites for economic development.  While our supply and value chains are expanding into new global markets, urban density is increasing at an unprecedented rate.  According to the United Nations Global Compact Cities Program 180,000 people are added to urban economies each day and over 50% of the world’s population is urbanized.

So what does this mean for local economic development? An evolving international “urban agenda” calling for federal governments to recognize that cities are not only the engines for economic prosperity, but also cites for self-actualization to over roughly 4 billion people.

Urbanized areas create unique challenges for local economic development that can only be solved at the local level.  These challenges include infrastructure and transportation, education, health, justice and poverty.  With economic development planning and investment happening disproportionally at the central level, the urban agenda advocates for improved relationships between federal and municipal agencies, and increased autonomy to deal with challenges locally.

The recent Caribbean Urban Forum hosted by BlueSpace pulled together an international audience of economic developers and urban planners including the European Union, UN Habitat, and Canadian International Development Agency to discuss how to address the challenges of urbanization.  Most importantly, the conference focused on vertical collaboration between governments and horizontal collaboration between NGOs and institutions whose work supports strengthening urban economies and the citizens they serve.

My next three posts will discuss local economic development in increasingly urban and global cities, and will consider new models of “community local development” that foster local prosperity.