Build where the jobs are needed and returns highest. The Allentown re-industrialization plan.

Allentown city officials unveiled the second phase of a long term plan to bring industrial and manufacturing companies back to the region at a public meeting Thursday. The plan is being crafted by Camoin & Bergmann Associates.

This is important on multiple levels: Smart growth is creating new jobs where people need them the most and where the infrastructure already exists.  When we do this we get the highest ROI on investments. When that happens we keep taxes lower.

With a documented (albeit slow) return of manufacturing jobs to the US, Allentown must position itself to compete. We can help accomplish this by removing the costly array of state, local and federal programs built into the development process that encourage growth in costly locations where taxpayers inevitably directly and indirectly subsidize sprawl.

From the WFMZ link – “Bergman Associates’ planner Dan Sundell says ‘You get a lot of tax incentives and assistance by building [in Allentown],” he said. “It’s a big advantage over open land outside of the city.” – This is true, but the problem remains that we now also massively subsidize greenfield sprawl. And by doing this, the taxpayer return on investment is alarmingly low. 

My preference of course is to remove all development subsidies especially ones that culminate at the federal level. If we would do this and allow the market to work then cities would naturally benefit because of their inherent strengths some of which I mention above. (location, efficiency, services ect.) But a nice first step forward would be to simply reduce sprawl subsidies which currently provide more incentive to build on a virgin greenfield by artificially making it cheaper to do so. Developers have the right to build where they see fit, but they do not have the right to subsidies.

Read More: – Subsidies & Sprawl

The kinds of jobs targeted by the Allentown plan is also important.They are on average better paying family sustaining jobs. By locating them IN the city core they are nearby where folks need them the most. Recently much of the thrust of economic development in Lehigh Valley has been lower paying and in many cases seasonal (on average) and massively subsidized retail commercial and distribution warehouses built on former green fields.

I’ll be following this with interest. Let’s get the good paying jobs where t
he people who need them the most live. Let’s position our city cores to compete. Let’s build in the most efficient pattern so we can best capture the benefits of growth while reducing the negative burden.

Also, remember the inherent side benefits. By targeting these particular sectors at these locations we also reduce the public burden for massively subsidized public transportation. This issue is compounded by the need to serve wildly inefficient locations.

The icing on the cake? When we encourage growth in smart growth patterns by taking away the artificial subsidies for sprawl we also reduce the pressure to pave more and more farmland. When we preserve farmland we keep taxes low. Here is how.

Win. Win. Win.

Multiple links:

WFMZ – Little Lehigh Corridor plan targets Allentown reindustrialization

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