ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT QUARTERLY / November 2001
such as a downtown development authority and tax abatements, are the primary means of eco- nomic development. Local development officials are likely to wait for businesses to come to them rather than proactively seeking or developing new investment.
These cases suggest that a consensual political atmosphere can support an innovative and active program of economic development, whereas an uncertain environment and distrust may limit eco- nomic development efforts to the passive and known. Yes, regime matters, but local history and other unique forces and dynamics can shape and replace the basic regime composition.
The Growth Machine
The kind of business involved in the governing regime may be just as important as the existence of a growth regime.
Local economic development policies and processes will vary depending on the extent of com- munity input, especially business input, into the decision-making process. Businesses are an important part of most local economic development regimes, particularly because the preponder- ance of conventional wisdom has suggested that development regimes (composed of local officials and business and land-based interests) are most common (Logan & Molotch, 1987). Yes, but . . . different dynamics and policies depend on the nature of businesses involved in a given regime. In short, all business or growth machine regimes are not the same. Businesses can vary along several critical lines: local versus nonlocal ownership, local versus nonlocal roots, branch plants versus headquarter sites, commercial versus industrial, large versus small, single-industry versus multi- industry bases. The kind of business involved in the governing regime may be just as important as the existence of a growth regime.
Some examples from the case studies show how differences in the composition of businesses in the community can lead to different policy processes and outcomes. For example, Cadillac and Coshocton have an economic base reflecting local industries or local industries that have recently changed to external ownership but with a strong local presence. On the other hand, the economic base in Fairborn is primarily state or federal governments; the major employers are Wright State University and Wright Patterson Air Force base. The largest employers in Romulus revolve around the transportation industry (Romulus is home to Detroit Metropolitan airport) or are automotive- related (e.g., Northwest Airlines, General Motors, Federal Express, and Borg Warner).
These different business systems play out in different roles for business in the decision-making process and produce different policy choices. Business has a strong formal role in economic devel- opment in Coshocton and Cadillac. Although the former is a strong mayor system and the latter a city manager system (see arguments above), businesses are an important component of the govern- ing regime. In Coshocton, this is manifest in delegation of economic development functions to an external, private corporation, which, although receiving public funds, provides no formal role for local government officials. Although structurally, economic development is conducted in-house in Cadillac, there are many formal and informal avenues for business input, and private and public/ private business organizations have central roles in both policy making and implementation. It is not surprising, then, that both communities evidence a strong ethic of business volunteerism and have a great deal of business participation in economic development; local business leaders and groups have primary responsibility for many aspects of economic development. Indeed, in Coshocton, almost no public money has been used to date for development initiatives. This culture of business volunteerism and a general lack of political conflict in both cities—“Conflict is not appropriate here,” indicated officials in Cadillac—appear to interact to create a system involving numerous public/private bodies. Policies in both communities tend to be very active, often focus- ing on downtown development.
In Romulus and Allen Park, where large, multinational corporations tend to dominate the employment base, there is much less formal and/or direct business involvement in either decision making or policy implementation. Although both cities are attuned to corporate needs and desires, policy responses tend to take the form of traditional tax abatements and provision of infrastructure. This is completely logical because these established firms tend not to need or demand the more cre- ative financing and start-up support required by smaller, often local, concerns.