Support systems and incentives for current and potential manufacturers will be paramount. The Greater Reading Economic Partnership has reported that in the last ten years, prospective manufacturer interest has doubled and now accounts for over 70% of their business lead generation. Current initiatives that support this strategy are the Reading Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s flagship
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program that targets outreach, coaching, mentoring, training and consulting for small- and medium-sized manufacturers, and the “Career in Two Years” campaign that encourages the growth of a competent, local workforce that can supply the labor needs for modern industry. An economic development strategy must identify and leverage our other regional assets, such as Go Greater Reading's initiative for a destination market analysis that will help to identify some of the key market niches played by the greater Reading area, such as the region's comparable affordability and access to nature and outdoor recreational activity.
In addition to these traditional approaches, we need to support complementary initiatives that encourage social innovators to experiment with ways to solve structural economic problems like the widening wealth gap, vulnerability to macroeconomic forces, environmental degradation, and social inequality. A robust economic development strategy will include initiatives that build community wealth, strengthen social capital, and impact the most vulnerable parts of our local population. Production cooperatives will be a key ingredient here, and will require specific technical assistance as they emerge into new market niches. Localizing supply chains produce a multiplier effect in the regional economy. A basic economic leakage analysis has identified manufacturing as a critical area for improving local economic resiliency. What products are being imported which could be produced here and captured by local entrepreneurial activity? Despite the lower household incomes in Reading, the highest density of household purchasing power actually exists inside the City, as demonstrated on page 43 of the LEC report, which may inform potential market expansion. We will need to get creative about what economic activity means. In its most basic form, economics is the study of how society provisions its resources to its citizens. Economic development, therefore, goes beyond simply increasing the number of monetary exchanges and maximizing dollar values. It means that our strategies for promoting economic development need to focus on how we are meeting the needs of our population, and how we ensure that key constituencies are playing a productive role in the provisioning of those needs.
As targeted economic interventions are developed as part of a revitalization strategy, we will need to ask several important questions. What policies and changes are necessary to structure enabling conditions for multiple economic development approaches? Who benefits from the current allocation system and who will benefit from the proposed interventions? How do we match unmet needs in our local community with underutilized assets? How do we ensure that the economic system we are building promotes equality of opportunity for all members of our community?
The LEC report highlights some significant challenges that Reading faces with respect to educational attainment, unemployment levels, and economic sectoral shrinkage. At ReDesign Reading, we take the information presented in the LEC report as a challenge - a challenge to be creative. We need to support all of the elements of our economy, and make sure that all of the members of our community are included in the next phase of our economic life. We are excited about all of the opportunities present in the greater Reading area to reinvent our local economy. As we take an asset-based approach to community economic development and focus on identifying underutilized resources to release locked capital and wealth in our community, we encourage all of those reading this report to be an active part of co-creating our regional economic future. Brian Kelly
1. Mallach, Alan.
In Philadelphia's Shadow: Small Cities in the Third Federal Reserve District.
Philadelphia. Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, 2012.
2. Mistry, Nisha & Byron, Joan.
The Federal Role in Supporting Urban Manufacturing
. Washington, D.C. The Brookings Institution, 2011.