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Planning for economic development dates back many decades. Early efforts tended to focus on transportation and were generally initiated by the commercial elite of the city.

Beginning in the 1960s the federal government began to subsidize local economic planning and development efforts with a view to combating structural unemployment. This policy continues to the present time, though it peaked in the Carter presidency and has become progressively less significant under both Republican and Democratic presidents.

Virtually all states strive to foster their own economic growth through a variety of programs involving marketing, subsidization, and the use of capital expenditures. Many thousands of municipalities also promote their own economic development using marketing and subsidization. Very often, the community will use its capital budget and its land-use policies to ensure the availability of an adequate number of suitable sites.

Steps in a simple systematic approach to planning for economic development include the following:

  • • Needs assessment
  • • Market evaluation
  • • Assessment of the consequences of development policy
  • • Plan formulation
  • • Plan review and updating.
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