Economic Development

Dear Management Doctor:

Do you know of any model structures for organizing and integrating a municipal's planning and economic development departments? More specifically, do you have any ideas on what has been the best organizational structure for progressive cities? I was hoping you might point me in the right direction for my current research as it relates to creating a restructuring and integration plan for the City of Binghamton, NY's Planning, Housing & Community Development and Economic Development Departments.


J. Justin Woods
Binghamton, NY

Dear J. Justin,

The answer depends on the size of the city and the size of both the planning and economic development functions. It also depends on how aggressive the city is on economic development and if there is any split on planning or economic development policy.

For small cities, I recommend that planning and economic development simply be combined. As either function gets larger, then it may be appropriate to have two separate departments. However, these two departments must work closely together.

The key questions may relate less to how the functions are organized but how well they work together. For example:

  • There should be an economic development element in the comprehensive or general plan. The element should be a joint product of the economic development and planning staffs.
  • Planning needs to recognize that when the city makes a commitment to economic development projects, then the projects require special attention. This does not mean that planning gives up on due process, but it does mean that planning makes certain they are involved in the front end of projects before the city makes too many commitments. Planning should also make certain that these projects are well coordinated across all functions in the city and timelines meet the needs of the customer.
This is a controversial topic amongst many planners and I assume some of our readers will chime in with their opinions.

The Management Doctor

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