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It’s not hard to make this point stick with local councils and urban planners – that local jobs, those that are inherently local form the backbone of a community’s economic future.

How Your Community Can Thrive-Even in Tough Times | Project for Public Spaces (PPS)

According to Soji Adelaja, Director of the Land Policy Institute (LPI) at Michigan State University, keeping and attracting people is the most important strategy in this new economic landscape. Services, which are inherently local and include everything from doctors’ visits to construction projects, now account for a larger share of the economy than goods. A Land Policy Institute study shows that half of total economic losses stemming from drops in population are caused by a loss of service jobs and income. That means when people move they take a piece of the economy with them.

But it is interesting how few people actually realise that you need to have a strategy to maintain or grow these positions, they won’t just appear by themselves. This is particularly true in the suburbs or in bedroom communities where the majority of people commute to another centre for employment – how tied to other communities policies is the employment prospects of your areas residents? Putting it another way, is there a way we can form a local resiliance factor to the employment profiles of our communities. Can we rank communities for the intangible resiliance in employment within the community – those jobs that rely on dollars spent in the community need to be supported by jobs that are resiliant in themselves.

In the past, a vital local economy was based on attracting large companies by offering inexpensive locations and a cheap labor force.  The qualities of a particular place mattered little, and people migrated to where the jobs were. Moreover, much of that economic growth was based on cheap oil, which encouraged people’s work, homes and shopping destinations to be spread far apart.  That’s all changed, and now communities with lively destinations that are easily reached by walking and transit gain distinct advantages.

The role of communities is changing, relocalization is happening whether we like it or not.

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Published by Mike Thomas

Mike Thomas P.Eng. ENV SP, is the author of UrbanWorkbench.com and Director of Engineering at the City of Revelstoke in the Interior of British Columbia, Canada.