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Funding for Regional Growth

By Pete Carlson, Brookings, The Avenue

Mounting evidence suggests that it takes a sustained, comprehensive effort over many years to make lasting improvements in a regional economy. Yet, most of the innovative economic development work in the United States is grant funded, typically in small chunks, for a limited duration, restricted to particular programs, and often focused on short-term results.

That is a key finding of a study of 10 regions participating in the Brookings-Rockefeller Project on State and Metropolitan Innovation, an effort designed to advance a new model of economic development that achieves better results for more people and communities.

In those 10 regions, the disconnect between short-term, programmatic funding and the need for long-term, systemic change is creating a predicament for regional partnerships, forcing them to cobble together enough short-term grants to keep their innovative efforts going long enough to make a lasting difference. Their heavy reliance on grant funding is also making it difficult to retain core staff, who are critical to holding the pieces together and keeping the work moving in the right direction.

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