ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT QUARTERLY / November 2001
as reflecting influence. Typically, large surveys have measured input by asking questions about avenues or opportunities for input. This obviously does not address whether such avenues are used, how frequently, and with what intensity and, more important, how successfully they are used. From the case studies, it becomes clear that many local officials would like to enhance business and citi- zen input and interactions with the city. Kettering, Gloucester, and Fairborn employ active strate- gies to increase citizen and business input, but levels remain low, particularly in the first two cities. Avenues for input exist, but it cannot be assumed that they are used. The converse is also true: Sim- ply because there are few formal mechanisms for business or citizen input in Allen Park and Romulus, for example, it should not be construed that input and influence are unimportant. Busi- nesses in the former are becoming increasingly involved in local decision making, serving as watchdogs. In the latter, the mayor regularly travels the city making contact with many business owners and citizens who are more than happy to share their opinions. Furthermore, in many of the cities—Romulus, Fairborn, Cadillac, and Allen Park—citizens make good use of public hearings and planning commission meetings to air their concerns. Again, yes, avenues for citizen and busi- ness input matter, but it is almost necessary to study communities in depth to really measure influ- ence in a qualitative sense.
Shooting at Everything That Flies
. . . there is shooting, and then there is creativity and flexibility, and the two can be distinguished.
The conventional wisdom suggests that cities employing a broad array of economic develop- ment techniques or most policies allowed by state law are “shooting at everything that flies” and lack rational focus in their economic development efforts. Yes, but . . . there is shooting, and then there is creativity and flexibility, and the two can be distinguished. If policies are dominated by pro- fessional staff and have a base of external, possibly state-level support, shooting may represent a coherent or at least planned strategy. These points were driven home in analysis of survey and case study data.
Through factor analysis of survey data, an index was created that explicitly attempts to measure shooting behaviors. It was constructed from responses to four questions: The city offers all eco- nomic development incentives legally allowed, any project increasing the number of jobs in the community is good, incentives offered by other cities strongly influence local activities, and the city tries to implement policies that are successfully used by other cities in the region. Interpreting this index points to an important lesson about the conventional wisdom. In previous research (Reese, 1997), a similar index was interpreted as demonstrating that a city was shooting at anything that flies. Using all available policies implied that a city was trying everything possible in a scattershot manner, in the hope that something—anything—would lead to revitalization. Adopting policies employed elsewhere was the silver bullet, with little consideration for local contingencies. This interpretation seemed to match the conventional wisdom presented initially by Rubin (1988). However, further analysis of survey data coupled with the case studies suggests that reconsidera- tion, and indeed reconceptualization of the index and corresponding behaviors, are in order.
For example, regression analysis of the survey data indicates that some cities that initially appeared to be shooting—that is, high use of traditional financial incentives, such as tax abate- ments—were also more likely to embrace demand-side policies such as underwriting training pro- grams, funding research and development, and operating business incubators. Furthermore, such cities were also likely to offer small business loans, start-up loans, community development loans, and employment tax credits. Such an economic development program certainly appears to be less a random and unfocused effort to try everything than an entrepreneurial and innovative approach to growing the local economy.
Cadillac represents a perfect case in point. Cadillac employs a broad array of economic develop- ment techniques, including comprehensive business visitation, attraction of workers, one-stop development shopping, brownfield redevelopment, parking linkage programs, public/private funds for downtown and industry development, a very strong downtown development authority, and innovative land and property management programs. To fund these efforts, they use a creative variety of federal, state, and private funds. In short, for some cities, it may well be the case that using a number of different policies is shooting. In Cadillac, the same behaviors actually represent