Smart growth economic development strategies have emerged as a successful way for postindustrial cities to anticipate and overcome challenges.

Historically, many smaller legacy cities were heavily dependent on one or two industries and lacked a diversified economy. As a result, when those industries left or went out of business, the cities that depended on them so heavily fell into hard times.

Traditional smaller legacy city economic development plans aim to land one or two major employers to the area to recover the lost jobs. Yet this type of planning has not proven success for most smaller legacy cities.

Many cities are beginning to realize that it is unlikely that one employer will  move back into the community and single-handedly revive the depressed economy. Instead, communities are beginning to focus on place-based economic development by building upon existing assets, taking incremental actions to strengthen communities, and building long-term value to attract a range of investments.

This type of planning is known as “smart growth.” The EPA developed this tool as part of a Smart Growth Implementation Assistance project to help local practitioners hoping to implement a smart growth strategy in their community. The toolkit provides readers with the key components of a smart growth strategy as well as steps to think about what a smart growth strategy could look like in their community.

Header Photo: Shane Wynn