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Economic Development in the Bay Area

Scenarios for Creating a Regional Capacity

Regional agency planning functions in the Bay Area span the areas of transportation, land use, and the environment; however, there is no entity or official capacity that takes economic development into account for the entire region. The Bay Area Council’s A Roadmap for Economic Resilience, published in 2015, identified this gap and called for the region to consider a new economic development capacity.

Since that time, regional leaders have taken important steps to consolidate the planning functions within the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) and the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG). This transition provides for a key opportunity to re-think the role and oversight of a regional agency. Additionally, MTC/ ABAG is planning for an Economic Development District (EDD) designation through the U.S. Economic Development Agency. This process has facilitated a regional conversation around economic development goals and strategy, and it will culminate in a regionally-agreed-upon Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy.

While creating an EDD makes jurisdictions eligible for more buckets of federal funding, it needs a governance structure and clearly defined mission to operationalize economic development through specific actions. An effective economic development capacity can bridge the gap between the goals of regional agencies, better link public sector solutions to private sector needs, and attract more jobs and sustain economic growth across the region.
This document will highlight the structure and governance of existing economic development capacities in other geographies. We can use ideas from these examples to begin to answer the following questions about the Bay Area:

  • Can an EDD structure alone serve as an effective economic development capacity or should it be one aspect of regional economic development activities?
  • Should a division within the merged transportation and planning agency be explicitly devoted to economic development or should these capacities be spread throughout departments?
  • Should the region have a complementary non-profit organization that works closely with the regional agencies?