intERDiSCiPLinARy tEAM CoMPEtition

Using improved land-use data to strengthen rural and urban economies
Mark Partridge, Agricultural, Environmental, and Development Economics Casey W. Hoy, Entomology David S. Kraybill, Agricultural, Environmental, and Development Economics Linda M. Lobao, Human and Community Resource Development Douglas Southgate, Agricultural, Environmental, and Development Economics

The struggling U.S. economy has highlighted the importance of generating economic opportunities and enhancing Ohioans’ quality of life. Economic development was a key issue in the 2010 statewide elections, and the 2011 legislative session emphasized job-creating policies, including reconfiguring how the State of Ohio conducts economic development policy. The ability of Ohio’s towns and cities to recover will depend on the extent to which they implement “best practices” in economic development. The research team saw the need for high-quality empirical research to evaluate which best practices can rejuvenate Ohio’s towns and cities. The key for Ohio communities will be to entice financial resources and entrepreneurs by ensuring them higher returns than elsewhere. Furthermore, providing higher quality of life will attract and retain skilled workers. Properly managing and preserving the state’s environmental and agricultural resources is also an integral part of implementing best practices at the state and local levels. This collaborative project brought together a team of scientists from economics, environmental science, and sociology to address how Ohio communities can maintain their competitive edge. The project strove to provide the first detailed assessment of regional interactions across county governments in the United States. In addition, it was the first to document land-use practices nationwide, including all counties, ranging from remote and rural to highly urbanized. The team also systematically researched policies that can facilitate intergovernmental cooperation across a wide swath of activities in economic development, public services, and land use.

This project made significant strides in its efforts. It developed a sophisticated database of land-use measures using Geographical Information Systems (GIS), a system designed to capture, store, manipulate, analyze, manage, and present all types of geographical data. GIS was used along with other spatial analytical methodologies to construct maps of these land-use measures. The project successfully collected a wide and deep range of data on employment, income, industry, county-level taxes and expenditures, and demographics. Using this data, the team created a national, cross-time database that merges nationwide county-level government survey data and formed a GIS layer of land-use pattern statistics that characterize farm and landscape diversity and layer soil spatial patterns. The project provided a better understanding of how local governments compete with each other and how better cooperation can improve economic development outcomes. Moving forward, the research team will use this collection of data to understand which communities continued to grow during the recession and why, and what types of local government policies can help to ensure their continued success.

Mark Partridge

The key for Ohio communities will be to entice financial resources and entrepreneurs by ensuring them higher returns than elsewhere. SEEDS: The OARDC Research Enhancement Competitive Grants Program