Place-Based Initiatives Would Win Big With Build Back Better Act

The Build Back Better legislation could bring much-needed support to place-based economic development programs.

2 minute read

December 19, 2021, 11:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


Green Healthy Community

©2014 by F. Kaid Benfield, used with permission / Placemakers

A brief from the Brookings Institution authored by Mark Muro, Robert Maxim, Anthony F. Pipa, Yang You, and Colleen Dougherty paints an optimistic picture for place-based programs, which could receive increased federal funding thanks to the Build Back Better Act.

Some of the pending place-oriented programs would boost the nation’s regional innovation capacity by investing hundreds of millions of dollars in regional tech hubs, manufacturing institutes, and regional industry clusters. Others would provide block grants so distressed labor markets can expand employment opportunities. And still others would channel multiyear investments into communities to help with energy and industrial transitions, community revitalization, and rural partnerships.

Although these programs haven't received much media attention, the authors note, the more than 30 place-based programs in the bill "represent a genuine breakthrough for the growing recognition that smart investments aimed at strengthening the economies of particular regions or localities can enhance overall welfare and prosperity."

This stands in contrast with prior policy that assumed market forces would eventually lessen the differences between places, even as the economic health of regions and individual towns and neighborhoods grew further apart. Now, research from Brookings and others is showing the potential of place-based economic development that considers local conditions and needs.

While place-based initiatives come with their own set of challenges, the proposed policies in the Build Back Better Act could provide a new framework for approaching economic development and reducing regional inequality.

As of December 15, the Build Back Better Act appears unlikely to be approved by the end of the year, though the White House put out a statement reaffirming support for the legislation from within the Democratic party's more obstinate elements.

Tuesday, November 23, 2021 in The Brookings Institution

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