The impact of political and representational factors on economic development decision-making in American cities
One area of vital interest to urban policymakers, especially over the last decade, has been growth and development policy. Given the resources being expended by cities across the nation for programs designed to revitalize and enhance city economies, it is clear that economic development has moved much closer to becoming a core local government activity. While it may not yet parallel the more traditional services of public safety and sanitation in importance, most cities have some form of development program. Unfortunately, little is known about what factors influence economic development decisionmaking in today's environment. This research explores the types of economic development strategies adopted by cities and links those with the political and representational factors in the community. The central research question to be studied is how the political environment (institutions and organizational structures) and political representation (who wins public office) influence the types of development strategies pursued by local governments. The data used in this research was collected by the International City Management Association (ICMA) through a nation-wide mail survey of local economic development directors. All cities over 25,000 in population that responded to the survey comprise the sample for this dissertation. The research model examines economic development strategies as a function of government structure variables, political representation variables, and several demographic and socio-economic control variables. Does a city with a strong mayor adopt development policies that differ from those in cities with weak mayors? Does a city council dominated by business interests favor development policies that differ from those in cities with more diverse interests represented on the city council?; The results from this study fail to uncover any systematic or consistent pattern of effects of political representation or political structures on the economic development strategies chosen by cities. While business influence on the council and the use of district elections appear as important determinants in office development and small business development, respectively, these variables were not significant determinants for other economic development strategies. The implication from this research is that economic conditions are more important factors driving the choice of local economic development strategies.