Metropolitan Business Plans: A New Approach to Economic Growth

In the aftermath of the Great Recession, America needs to move toward a more productive next economy that will be increasingly export-oriented, lower-carbon, and innovation-driven—as well as opportunity rich. At the same time, leading U.S. metropolitan areas—which drive the national economy—are mounting increasingly strategic, locally developed, and sophisticated initiatives to move in that direction themselves. And so the nation needs to take a new approach to economic development. Federal, state, and philanthropic actors all need to approach metros not as problems requiring programmatic handouts but as compelling investment opportunities for driving national prosperity. In keeping with that, the “metropolitan business planning” concept described in this brief proposes one approach for reorienting such interactions.

Metropolitan business planning adapts the discipline of private-sector business planning to the task of revitalizing regional development. Such planning provides a framework through which regional business, civic, and government leaders can rigorously analyze the market position of their region; identify strategies by which to capitalize on their unique assets; specify catalytic products, policies, and interventions; and establish detailed operational and financial plans. These plans can then, in turn, be used to restructure federal, state, and philanthropic engagement in ways that invert the current top-down, highly siloed, and often ineffective approach to cities and metropolitan areas while bringing new efficiency to development activity.

Along these lines, the brief introduces the concept of metropolitan business planning and describes how three very different regions—Northeast Ohio, Minneapolis Saint Paul, and Puget Sound—are currently piloting the process and thereby providing a testbed for the re-orientation of federal-state-metro relationships. Ultimately the hope is that the new approach may help the nation complement macroeconomic policy with a new “metro-economic” one.

Read the Metropolitan Business Plans framing paper » (PDF)

Read the Minneapolis Saint Paul business plan prospectus » (PDF)
For the region's full business plan and other background, visit Urban Land Institute Minnesota

Read the Northeast Ohio business plan prospectus » (PDF)
For the region's full business plan and other background, visit the Fund for Our Economic Future

Read the Puget Sound business plan prospectus » (PDF)
For the region's full business plan and other background, visit the Puget Sound Regional Council/Prosperity Partnership