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Economic Development and Planning: It's a Match!

Mitchell Silver, Raleigh City Planner and President of the APA, is on a mission to get planners to realize the importance of return on investment (ROI) in their projects. Raleigh is providing the testing ground for his arguments.
February 14, 2013, 7am PST | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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Jennifer Wig looks at the growing appreciation for ROI in the planning profession, and Mitchell Silver's attempts to spread the gospel to cities and planners across the country. In presentations to more than 100 cities, Silver has explained the importance of leveraging existing infrastructure and other investments to maximize economic development and tax revenues.  

“This is catching a lot of people by surprise, even though ROI has been there on a number of different projects or investments that people make in real estate,” he said. “People just haven’t applied it to making planning decisions and to me that is really changing the game of how people are beginning to perceive planning for the future.”

In Raleigh, where Silver is based, the city is confronted with the question of where (downtown or outside of the "Beltline") to locate the estimated 120,000 dwelling units and 170,000 jobs coming over the next 20 years.  

For Silver, the answer is easy. “[Downtown] just has a better return on investment because the infrastructure is built,” he said. “You don’t need the same level of schools and police facilities and community facilities to support that growth, so when you compare suburban development to downtown development, the ROIs are not even close in comparison. Downtown just is a better return on investment because the infrastructure is already in place.”

"Regardless of Raleigh’s growing pains, Silver is convinced economic development and planning go hand in hand," writes Wig. "Any city leader should be thinking about that, he said."

“For years planning was just about visioning, and now planning is about economic development, it’s more about job retention and job creation,” he said. “What I’ve found in my travels is that most planners don’t consider ROI when they’re analyzing projects. Most elected officials don’t consider ROI when they’re considering or approving projects. I think that’s beginning to change. As people look long term on how they’re going to maintain this infrastructure, there are smarter and better ways to invest taxpayers’ money to get a high return on investment but also minimize your maintenance costs down the line.”

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Published on Monday, February 11, 2013 in Raleigh Public Record
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