Donjek Project: Metro Business Plan Initiative’s Draft

Since January, 2010, the Minneapolis Saint Paul Metropolitan Business Plan Initiative has been researching and developing an analysis of current economic conditions in the metropolitan area. 

Stakeholders are invited to review and comment on the draft “baseline overview” of the Minneapolis Saint Paul metropolitan business plan included in this post. The baseline overview represents an inventory of the conditions of the Minneapolis Saint Paul metropolitan region, and is intended to be representative rather than comprehensive. More information about the plan and its development is available below.

Please submit your comments and critique by Friday, August 6 to:

Jon Commers
Project Manager 
Metropolitan Business Plan Initiative 
Ph. (651) 645-4644

Email: regionalbusinessplan@donjek.com

Comments and suggested changes will be incorporated into the baseline overview through consideration by the steering committee of its sponsors, outlined below.

Background 

In 2009, the Brookings Institution approached leaders in the Minneapolis Saint Paul region about a pilot initiative to apply a business planning approach to regional economic development. Partners including the Itasca Project, City of Minneapolis, Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED), Regional Council of Mayors, City of Saint Paul, Target Corporation, Urban Land Institute Minnesota, started an initiative to undertake business planning for the metro area’s regional economic development. Additional funders including the Minneapolis Foundation, Saint Paul Foundation and Wells Fargo Foundation have provided financial support to the project.

Objectives

The baseline overview has been developed around a vision for the region as a world class, international center of commerce with unsurpassed vibrant communities and natural beauty. A multitude of factors – economic, social, cultural, political – are involved in efforts to realize this vision. The end goals of the business plan, articulated both by the Brookings Institution and by the region’s involved partners, are:

  • First and foremost, to create a document that identifies and connects major themes at work in the region, providing the basis for stronger consensus about how our metropolitan area will thrive in the next century
  • Second, to use the findings of the metropolitan business plan to inform how federal agencies partner with metro regions across the country. Participating regions in the Brookings Institution pilot project include Cleveland/Northeast Ohio and Seattle/Tacoma, in addition to the Minneapolis Saint Paul metropolitan area.

Baseline Overview Content

The focus of this attached document is to inventory the following:

  • Strengths and weaknesses that have formed the region’s current economic conditions
  • Barriers that inhibit the region’s reaching its full potential as a prosperous, vibrant place
  • Opportunities that exist to use our strengths to overcome our challenges
  • Strategies (currently in use or not) which represent promising steps to move the region forward in areas of significance

The analysis is organized using six “levers of prosperity,” a narrative that emerged from the Blueprint for American Prosperity process undertaken by the Brookings Institution in recent years. Each lever represents a short chapter in the baseline overview, describing major themes and relevant strategies:

  • Regional concentrations of firms, talent and ideas and quality of life in the region (download)
  • Human capital – our people, their education and skills – and how to maximize individuals’ access to quality jobs and the productivity they bring to the workforce (download)
  • Innovation-enabling infrastructure which provides an environment where marketable ideas are valued, developed and commercialized (download)
  • Spatial efficiency, or how we design the physical layout of our future region to be a more efficient in its land use, transportation, and overall carbon footprint (download)
  • Effective public and civic culture that reinforces high levels of engagement, values transparency, and supports long-range decision making (download)
  • Information resources that provide a basis for identifying opportunities in the regional marketplace (
    download)

The full draft is available here; it outlines a market analysis and environmental scan on a global and national level, as well as the individual discussions outlined above. Please provide comments and critique on any of the sections, or on the baseline overview in its entirety.

Strong Towns Releases Vulnerable Cities Report

The Cents of Place, since its inception in 2007, has addressed issues of public finance on levels ranging from specific projects to macro-level economic and policy issues. On the latter, I have been immersed since January in two efforts. In the first, I am managing the Brookings Metropolitan Business Plan initiative for partners assembled in the Minneapolis Saint Paul region; I introduced this project here in January, and will be posting draft business plan content for your review and comment within the next few weeks.

In the second, I co-founded Strong Towns, an entrepreneurial nonprofit organization calling for big change in American land use, last fall with Chuck Marohn and Ben Oleson of the Community Growth Institute. We’ve been producing research, building relationships and growing networks on Facebook and Twitter over the last six months. Our message – that current land use patterns are financially unsustainable and are eroding our ability to invest in our people and places – has been attracting attention of late. See us on the newswire at Planetizen and at the Switchboard at NRDC blog, and join us in developing these ideas by following us at Facebook and Twitter.

MN-most-vulnerable  Today, we have released a report titled “Minnesota’s Most Vulnerable Cities,” which addresses the following question: If federal and state aids disappeared tomorrow, and citizens wished to maintain existing services, how large a property tax increase would be required? How sensitive are our cities to the risk (and very likely eventuality) that state and federal aids fall?

View the report here. Make comments, throw darts, suggest solutions – help us develop tools to build Strong Towns.

Donjek Project: Management of Brookings’ Twin Cities Metropolitan Business Plan Initiative

Early this year, Donjek was retained by an innovative coalition of partners to provide project management for the Twin Cities Metropolitan Business Plan Initiative. Working in conjunction with the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C., the project involves a dynamic core group from the Twin Cities region:

The focus of this process is to integrate several years of knowledge gathering and consensus building on regional development issues, and assemble an improved approach to spur and support innovation and entrepreneurialism in the Twin Cities region. There are numerous complementary efforts underway, and momentum in the public and private sectors has been building for several years. I am grateful for the opportunity to work with these national and regional partners, and to advocate for a prosperous future in this region.

The prosperity of metropolitan areas has been a core interest of mine since the early 1990s. In this space, I have written repeatedly about the need to think and act deliberately about investing in metropolitan areas at a level sufficient to make the most of their tremendous economic, social and cultural powers:

  • In this April 2008 post, I remarked on the important findings of the Retooling for Growth effort by the American Assembly, which dovetailed with an ongoing effort called the Blueprint for American Prosperity.
  • In a July 2009 post, I expressed a hope that the geographic location of stimulus projects would reflect the modern reality of the U.S. economy, and focus primarily on metropolitan areas and their core cities.
  • Most recently, I announced my involvement in Strong Towns, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization established to make American places viable through improved land use. Since our launch in November, we have been successful in building relationships to spread a message about making investments in our infrastructure and people in part by reducing our subsidization of a costly, inefficient approach to land use.

The Initiative kicks off in Washington, D.C. today, where I and three members of the Twin Cities' steering committee are attending a workshop with representatives from the Brookings Institution and the two other metro areas selected to participate in the program: Seattle and Cleveland. I look forward to providing updates after our trip to Washington, and over the course of undertaking this exciting work this year.