A Crucial Difference
Most of the planning discussed in this book does not involve intermunicipal competition. If town A improves its park system, that effort will not make the park system in town B worse. In fact, it may stimulate town B to improve its park system. But if town A through infrastructure improvements, tax abatements, or other inducements causes Universal Valve and Faucet to locate there instead of in town B, its gain is town B's loss. In that sense of intense head-to-head competition and sometimes zero-sum outcomes, local economic development efforts represent a unique area of public policy and planning.7
The Relationship Between Planners and Economic Developers
Planners and economic developers necessarily have considerable interaction, as both are concerned with public investment in infrastructure, land-use controls, environmental regulations, and anything else that affects the what and where of industrial and commercial development. Sometimes the relationship between the community's planners and its economic developers will be a happy one, but sometimes it will not. To the planner, bringing in new firms and encouraging the expansion of firms already in the community will be one of a number of goals. To the economic developer, these may be, in practice, the only goals. Thus the planners' we want development but it has to fit into the master plan perspective can conflict with the developers' do whatever it takes to bring them in position. When a potential investor wants to do what the economic developers think is the right thing but in what the planners think is the wrong place, the scene is set for disagreement. The issue can go either way, depending on the priorities of the municipality's political establishment.
That planners and economic developers have many professional links is hard to deny. At one time the author and a colleague surveyed a large number of directors of economic development agencies. One question was, "If economic development was not your first profession, what was your previous profession?" The most common single answer was urban planner.