Economic Development: An End in Itself?

"Money isn't the only factor in shaping a new Tacoma."

So says Peter Callaghan in a News Tribune article in which he takes on the hegemony of Economic Development in Tacoma.

Callaghan points to the dominance of Economic Development in recent Link route alternatives discussions. He looks at Tacoma's focus on art and museums, at the saving of the Murray Morgan Bridge, and the growth of UW Tacoma and the "Medical Mile," and asks whether the privileging of economic development above all else is a good thing.

Callaghan will be moderating the upcoming Re:Tacoma 2013 discussion series on transit-oriented development, attracting housing downtown, and how the arts contribute to a vibrant, livable community. Among the questions he may ask panelists on these topics is "whether these things are attractive in themselves or whether they are simply the latest economic development program."

On the other hand, if a city can successfully create these things, along with high quality schools, parks, and city services, will the economic development follow?

Chicken or egg? Building assets or economic development? Which comes first?

Read the full article from The News Tribune.


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Comments

fred davie

“....will economic development follow?”

Sadly, try as they might, Callaghan and his economic forum will not be able to answer this question.  Economic development is highly complex and is driven or impeded by many factors the city council has no control over.  By trying to oversimplify economic development we risk turning Tacoma’s purse strings over to charlatans and political hacks hoping to fund their own pet projects.

For example, look at our $84,000,000 convention center that the public paid dearly for. That was the result of well meaning (but not especially well informed) city “visionaries” who claimed that such an investment would be the catalyst for DT development. However,  in almost 10 years it’s never hosted a major convention of any kind and only draws an average of approximately 300 folks every day. It’s not even as busy as a typical Starbucks.

September 13, 2013 at 12:57 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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sid

Tacoma still lacks a soul, an identity, something that cannot be spoken of, but rather felt, like love.  It wil come but it has to happen organically, not by forcing it.  There is no arguing that Tacoma is a beautiful city full of potential, but until we exploit our different districts and stop pretending that downtown and its immediate area is the only TACOMA, we will never move forward.  Tacoma is not a tidy city, most entry points are dirty and morbid, our city fails at identifying the small details that people look for that serve as invitations to enter and explore more.  Look at S. 38th by McKinley, a mess with the vegetation over the highway, not one proactive soul in the city has the ability to send a crew.  The Winthrop occupied by drug dealers and criminal.  What city with any kind of common sense gives away one of their best housing assets to criminals? TACOMA.  What city builds a link to nowhere? TACOMA What city names a district after breweries, after breweries are torn down? TACOMA What city spends 10k on a totem pole no one wants? TACOMA What city places bike cops in downtown, but not where they are needed in the districts?  TACOMA.  After a while companies, investors and people add it all up and leave, or don’t even come here.

September 13, 2013 at 4:24 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Tom Llewellyn

“Tacoma still lacks a soul”? Serious?

Perfection is not a requirement for a soul. Tell me a city that has more of one? L.A.? New York? No way in hell? Seattle? Portland? These humorless hipster wastelands are far more soulless.

New Orleans? OK, maybe. Chicago? Perhaps. These cities are soulful, but boy are they flawed. The people who live there describe the authenticity even as they describe the problems.

Same as Tacoma. Of all the places I’ve lived or visited, it’s got the deepest, purest soul.

That part of its being ain’t got nothing to do with convention centers, neighborhood names, bike cops or any similar bullshit. It’s because the people who choose to live there are soulful people. Real people.

September 16, 2013 at 2:39 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Sid

Seems like you had a pretty bad time out there in the real world buddy.

September 16, 2013 at 4:03 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Tom Llewellyn

I’ve found plenty of wonderful people in lots of cities. In Seattle, you can find them in Georgetown and Columbia City and First Hill and Beacon Hill. In London, you can find them in Soho. In New York, they’re in Harlem and Brooklyn. In San Francisco, you just cross the bridge to Berkeley or Oakland and there they are. What do all those neighborhoods have in common? The shared values of interdependence, which creates all kinds of wonderful side effects like authenticity and selflessness and humility and a crazy kind of joy in little things, like trees and live music and a great burger.

Those things all define Tacoma. And its very real soul.

September 16, 2013 at 8:17 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Sid

Tom, I think your argument would be better understood if you made a point.  I grew up in many inner cities in the East Coast and can tell that you have no idea what you are talking about.  You rant like a transplant, the very same one that spends a week in a city and assumes an identity completely erroneous to the native one and then goes on websites and speaks on behalf of the beautiful people of such places.  City council has left Tacoma with no soul, or identity that is tangible enough to warrant enough of the stimulation needed to invigorate our districts.  I grew up in roach infested basements and dingy apartments in Harlem and the far away land of Jamaica Queens and even Loisaida if you even know what that means.  We were the beautiful people you speak of and we hated it, because it was only a facade to deal with the difficulties we encountered, it had nothing to do with an identity.  We wanted public safety and reasonable people to take care of our government affairs, like we do here.  Don’t confuse nice people with an identity of a city.  People should not have to struggle to be beautiful to entertain your outside views.  Those people that you deem as beautiful would probably kill to get out of there and find a safer and more stable area.  You are right, there are plenty of beautiful people here.

September 16, 2013 at 9:05 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Xeno

It is the first thing looked at because typically these monies are grant funds and grantors want to see their investment or oversight of those funds stretch.  You can’t simply say gimmie money for light rail to 6th Ave because the most people will ride it.  6th Ave was not the most beneficial route in terms of equity, access, and economic development on the table.  The area is already quite successful, with people with transit/transportation options.  That’s why it ended up in 3rd place in City Council’s vote.

We won’t be winning any grants any time soon if there isn’t a story to the need of those funds that are somehow in sync with the grantor’s vision of providing those funds.  That’s why grants hardly ever like to give awards to equipment or overhead.  It is the nature of the money game.

But let’s be real.  Money is scarce and we don’t build Museums, Trains, and Bridges just because they are what they are or because of one purposeful reason like ridership, traffic count, or ticket sales.  Otherwise we’re building the Bridge/Train To Nowhere or a Museum of little intellectual value and are seen as being unprudent with taxpayer/donators money.

September 13, 2013 at 4:29 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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scoutRegistered

Tacoma’s Economic Development Department is bloated and in constant search of projects to justify its existence. They hire consultations to deliver reports that the city ultimately ignores. What have they ever done to help downtown or any other Tacoma neighborhood businesses?

September 13, 2013 at 8:43 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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scoutRegistered

Tacoma’s Economic Development Department is bloated and in constant search of projects to justify its existence. They hire consultants to deliver reports that the city ultimately ignores. What have they ever done to help downtown or any other Tacoma neighborhood businesses?

September 13, 2013 at 8:44 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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JDHasty

It is worse than that. Policy is conceived, debated and implemented from within the American Leadership Forum. That is where all of the decisions are made. The first time the public hears of them they are already well on the way to being implemented.

I have likened ALF to Tammany Hall, and just as publicly projects that were funded in NYC in the 1800s - mid 1900s that had a stated purpose, economic development being one stated purpose, Boss Tweed was the primary beneficiary of every dollar spent.

ALF spreads the take around, but the primary beneficiaries of money Tacoma has spent on economic development are ALF insiders.

We are currently spending $45M on Hillside Terrace to “develop hosing” for people of limited financial means. The housing units come at a cost of $271K plus change per copy.

At EVERY STEP along the decision making ladder there are ALF Senior Fellows who stand to profit on this process. The end beneficiaries of this largess are not those on a waiting list too get into a home, there will only be 140 families who so benefit. The lucky 140 will make out like fat rats, but with $45M to invest in publicly subsidized housing one would expect that four times as many families would benefit.

The bottom line is there is little, if anything to benefit Tacoma’s residents be they those waiting for homes or common everyday taxpaying residents whose federal, State and local taxes are footing the bill for Hillside Terrace.

You can say the same for every single dime that has been spent in Tacoma under the rubric of an “economic development” project or program.   

September 14, 2013 at 6:58 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Tacoma nana

We get it. You were not accepted into American Leadership when you applied. Holy cow, I guess I should say Discovercard rules the planet, since then turned down my application too.
Adjust your hat, the tin foil is showing.

September 17, 2013 at 8:17 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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JDHasty

We get it. You were not accepted into American Leadership when you applied. Holy cow, I guess I should say Discovercard rules the planet, since then turned down my application too.
Adjust your hat, the tin foil is showing.

I guess we can all rest easy now that Tammany nana has spoken

September 18, 2013 at 1:28 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Published Author RR AndersonRegistered

Spaceworks Tacoma a tiny program under the umbrella of economic development is radical.

September 14, 2013 at 8:49 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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Jesse

I often imagine a Tacoma where the mall never existed, Weyerhauser and Russell live downtown, “urban renewal” was more about restoration than destruction, and streetcar was never taken out and is still the preferred mode of transit.  What would Tacoma be today?

So today, these types of things need to be attracted back to the core.  How?  I think it’s done one area at a time.  It’s done with beautiful infrastructure, easy transit, safe streets, sustainable employment, and an interesting lifestyle and personality offered within each area.  It’s the “powers the be” and the public asking and being proactive in asking those to move back that left.  It’s about having a vision, goals with timelines, and having a leadership mentality instead of a management mentality at all levels of government and business.  It involves going after what you want in a city and being relentless until that happens instead of waiting for what you want.  It’s about being creative and having “doers” with vision in charge instead of allowing the loudest voices to rule.  It’s about a beautiful environment that people are willing to pay for.  It’s about sustainable employment and lifestyle.  It’s about making Tacoma interesting enough to attract the necessary interest to make things happen and make people want to move here. 

If the city wants a Microsoft outpost here, ask them to come.  Ask them what they need to make it happen.  Make it happen. 

Ask the owners of the mall what it would take to get some shopping downtown.  Ask them what they would need to make that happen.  Do it.

There are so many obvious problems with Tacoma.  But, it seems nobody seems to really go after them with full gusto.  They manage their day and the city.  They don’t lead.  Leadership requires vision, action, goals, and creativity.  It requires you to amplify yourself and your vision through others and build teams that can’t fail.

September 14, 2013 at 5:47 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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JDHasty

Oh please! I have lived through “Visualize Tacoma” and if your rah rah is for anything it is for that brand of pie in the sky promise.

Just EXACTLY what would Microsoft gain by having an “outpost” 50 miles from their campus in Redmond? Microsoft is in business to make money, not to set up “outposts.” And an “outpost” 50 miles from their global headquarters, that would have been like The Hudson’s Bay Co setting up an outpost in the suburbs of London to conduct trade with the native population there, instead of in Vancouver WA.

September 15, 2013 at 7:09 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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JesseRegistered

Big problems require big solutions and until there are some leaders willing to at least shoot for greatness, none of these issues will be solved.  The regressive conservative mantra of a utilitarian only form of government certainly won’t solve anything either.

Microsoft is just an example of a business the city could have recruited during the “most wired city” campaign and infrastructure improvements.  They could have had as little as a few employees here to hundreds - a lot of businesses and departments reside under the Microsoft umbrella.  The economic development department failed miserably with recruiting these businesses here after such a large investment by the city to make the infrastructure upgrades. 

Yes, a business like Microsoft could gain from outposts a few miles away from their global headquarters.  In fact, they have business in Bellevue and Seattle - which are even closer than Tacoma.  What do you suppose Tacoma would do for Microsoft to get them here?  Probably more than Seattle or Bellevue at this point.  Would that be within their interest?  Probably so.  But again, Microsoft is just an example.

Perhaps Hudsons Bay Company could have moved some employees to a London suburb for tax or cost of operations reasons.  Perhaps instead of just an outpost in Vancouver, WA. they could have one in Victoria, BC. as well… wait, they did.

September 15, 2013 at 1:40 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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JDHasty

HBC had trading posts where it was to their economic advantage to have them. Microsoft has a HUGE investment in Redmond, evidently there is no economic advantage to them to be had by setting up operations in Tacoma.

Here is one example of just exactly Tacoma’s economic development efforts have failed: I have sat in front of Tacoma economic development staff who ridiculed a small business that went out of business during the time the City had the road in front on that business closed for an extended length of time and could not tell the business owners when the project would be completed and convenient access to the business reopened. I sat there and listened to this pompous ass brag that “we lost only one business” and then refer to that business as “marginally capitalized” and “likely to fail anyway.”

September 16, 2013 at 10:54 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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thackerspeedRegistered

I sometimes read about some Tacoma city councilman or another using abstract language under the heading “Economic Justice.” That kind of idealistic rhetoric is useless. Who is the final judge that will determine the outcome of any matter of economic justice? If everyone were equal, then everyone would be unequal. Humans can never be perfected. Tacoma can never be perfected.

I think what Callaghan is getting at is the distinction between a profit motive and a purpose motive.

I don’t have any reason to believe that certain Tacoma city councilmen think and act according to an objective point of reference, an absolute standard, outside of and above their apparent materialistic ideology. It’s almost meaningless to talk about a purpose motive amongst people who conduct their lives as if we were all living in a measurable, material, purposeless world.

Not every thing that can be measured has value. Not every thing that has value can be measured.

September 15, 2013 at 8:31 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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Tom Llewellyn

Hope, opportunity, arts—all that stuff comes more naturally with a little money. Money means businesses. The best business culture is a diverse one, with white collar jobs, blue collar jobs, service jobs, jobs for men, for women, for profs, engineers, and teenagers. For doers, maker, managers, dreamers.

We have a lot of the infrastructure for that—a port, colleges, affordable housing, a remarkably appealing setting, with beaches, mountains, golf courses, skiing, etc.

It seems what we’re primarily missing is the connecting of the dots. How do our schools, port, and industries work together to build the modern version of a sustainable timber industry? How do we create ed programs around importing, exporting, and trade? How do local businesses make more of an orchestrated tourism push, by promoting each other? How do we tie into Mt. Rainier, Almond Roca, LeMay, glass arts, print arts, or all the other cool stuff we have going for us? How do we work to benefit each other, while we benefit ourselves, instead of simply competing for a small piece of a tiny pie? How do we align behind a small number of mutually beneficial goals?

September 16, 2013 at 2:50 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Published Author RR AndersonRegistered

THE ANSWER DEAR FRIENDS, IS SIMPLE: MORE ACCESS TO GUNS AND A PAYWALL

September 16, 2013 at 6:37 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Tom Llewellyn

RR, maybe you’re gonna be the one that saves me.
After all, you’re my paywall.

September 16, 2013 at 8:19 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Published Author RR AndersonRegistered

At least we can still comment anonymously on exit133! 

see also: http://comics.feedtacoma.com/tacomic/tacomic-tacomic-look-feather-signs/

September 16, 2013 at 10:04 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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JDHasty

I read some of the comments and the thought that keeps coming back to me is: We are talking about a City government that is so immature, incompetent and irresponsible that they cannot even manage to provide a service as mundane as weekly garbage collection…yet there are people out there that think this government has what it takes to develop and implement an economic strategy that is not based on something as far fetched as thinking that prosperity is just one more museum, Urban Waters nonsense, $300,000/Unit subsidized housing or another dozen blocks of million dollar rain gardens scheme away. It did not work for Detroit, Camden, Gary or Stamford Connecticut - which is the most hellish hellhole I have ever seen. 

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

September 17, 2013 at 4:39 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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Published Author RR AndersonRegistered

look at me i’m registered!

September 17, 2013 at 7:51 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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