Happy New Year from Civic Economics

Matt and Dan, the partners in Civic Economics, wish our friends and colleagues a very Happy New Year and a prosperous 2014.


For our part, we are catching our breath after a extraordinary fall of work.  Here's what we've been up to over the last several months:


Plainville, Massachusetts: Civic Economics was part of a team led by Cummings Associates of Boston that provided the Town of Plainville with extensive analysis and guidance as the community considered whether to support a local horse track in pursuing one of the limited electronic gaming licenses to be awarded in the coming months.  After extensive community discussion and even a change in ownership of the track, the people of Plainville voted to endorse the project.  A licensing decision is expected in the spring of 2014.


Binghamton, New York: Civic Economics is part of a team led by our friends at Interface Studio, a young firm with a tremendous and well-deserved reputation. The project team is preparing a comprehensive plan for the City of Binghamton, and Civic Economics is providing analysis and strategic planning services aimed at building stronger commercial districts both in the downtown and in established neighborhoods of the city.  


Florida: Civic Economics is working with Cummings Associates of Boston on an analysis of the economic impact of the horse racing industry in Florida.  The study will be released in early 2014, and we think the results will surprise many.  Horse racing has been a strong part of the Florida economy for decades, creating opportunities in the cities and deep into the countryside.


Maryland: Finally, in our most ambitious engagement to date, Civic Economics led a team of six consulting firms from across the nation in providing analysis and guidance to the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency and an appointed Location Commission in evaluating competing proposals for a gaming development in Prince George's County.  More on that to come. 


With these projects wrapping up and new ones about to begin, Civic Eocnomics looks forward to another great year of helping communities achieve sustainable prosperity. 

Civic Economics in Print, February 2014 Update

Civic Economics is proud that our work influences public policy, and the growing bibliography of book-length works citing our research is proof.  We're sure we've missed a few, but the 37 listed here cover a lot of ground. 

Civic Economics in Print, February 14
A bibliography of 37 book-length works citing Civic Economics research
CE in Print 1402.pdf
Adobe Acrobat document [1.0 MB]

INDEPENDENT BC Released in Vancouver

Civic Economics was retained in 2012 by the Canadian Union of Public Employees - British Columbia to produce a comprehensive study entitled Independent BC. Matt and Dan presented our findings and released the study at the Local Economy Summit in Vancouver at the Westin Bayshore February 13-14, 2013. 

INDEPENDENT BC: SMALL BUSINESS AND THE BRITISH COLUMBIA ECONOMY, is the first Canadian study in a long line of studies we call "the Civic Economics of Retail." In Independent BC, we quantify the current and historical market shares of independent business, calculate the comparative economic impacts of BC independents and major North American chain competitors, and forecast the economic impact on the BC economy of a 10% shift toward indies. 


We are pleased to release the study document and presentation below.

Independent BC
Independent BC for Screen.pdf
Adobe Acrobat document [1.9 MB]
Civic Economics BC Peesentation
BC Findings Show PDF.pdf
Adobe Acrobat document [3.8 MB]

Celebrating Ten Years of Creativity - Opportunity - Prosperity

When we started Civic Economics ten years ago, we could never have imagined the adventures ahead of us. Looking back, it’s hard to believe the range of projects, places, and people we’ve worked with. If we collected state spoons from the places where we work, we’d have 30 of them today.


We’ve garnered our share of awards and citations; we’ve testified in the tiniest town councils and the biggest city and state legislatures; and we’ve collected enough stories to fill a book. But most importantly, we’ve met the needs of our clients when they have entrusted us with their thorniest challenges. Our thanks go out to all of them, from Brownsville, Texas to Brownsville, Pennsylvania, El Paso to Vancouver, and in our hometowns of Austin and Chicago.


We look forward to the next ten years of working for sustainable prosperity wherever your needs take us.

Recent and Ongoing Projects

As the weather turns to fall, the partners of Civic Economics can look back at a productive summer and look ahead to a busy winter.

We are beginning work on two interesting projects in the Northeast.

In Binghamton, New York, home of Matt’s alma mater Binghamton University, we will work with a strong team led by Interface Studio of Philadelphia to develop a new comprehensive plan for a diverse and historic city. Civic Economics will provide a detailed analysis of the evolution of the city’s commercial districts over the last 20 years and provide guidance in developing vibrant and valuable options for residents and visitors in the future.

In Springfield, Massachusetts, we will work with Cummings & Associates of Boston to forecast the economic and fiscal impacts of a number of competing proposals for comprehensive gaming developments. Over the years, we have had the opportunity to provide impartial analysis of 17 casino proposals, and look forward to adding to that knowledge base.

In Canada, we are in the process of studying trends and impacts associated with independent small businesses in British Columbia. Many thanks to our partners at the Canadian Union of Public Employees-BC for their commitment to small business (and for providing us the opportunity to work in and travel to one of the world's most beautiful regions).

And in a nationwide effort with our friends at the American Booksellers Association, we are wrapping up a national study of the impact of independent businesses built from surveys in ten American communities. Participating communities are both large and small and from coast to coast, providing the first truly national sample of small businesses across many lines of goods.  Look for study releases in the coming weeks.

In recent months, we have completed a number of interesting projects.

In Austin, we studied the housing market through two very different lenses. First, we analyzed the distribution and impact of property tax exemptions for historical residential properties. Aided by our analysis, which provided more detail and accuracy than in-house studies, the Austin City Council, Austin Independent School District, and Travis County all chose to maintain the status quo.  In addition, HousingWorks retained Civic Economics to study the economic impact of $50 million in affordable housing bond expenditures since 2006 (see below).

We also had the opportunity to revisit prior projects to update our findings.  In Phoenix, we updated the 2006 study Procurement Matters: The Economic Impact of Local Suppliers (available in the Library).  The update reinforced our earlier findings, which have had a real influence on procurement policies in Arizona and elsewhere. In the Dallas-Fort Worth area, we analyzed revised design and financing plans for a proposed public-private partnership to build an entertainment complex. The Irving City Council ultimately declined to provide over $100 million in public subsidies to the project, which would have competed with a number of existing, privately-financed business in the area. Our partners at Thompson & Knight are to be congratulated for winning this battle in the courts and in the Legislature, as well.

Affordable Housing Bonds Generate Substantial Returns in Austin

Civic Economics was retained by HousingWorks, an Austin nonprofit supporting the develoment and preservation of affordable housing in the city, to analyze the economic impacts of $55 million in funding approved by voters in 2006.


Developers matched those funds with another $177 million, supporting the development and rehabilitation of 3,055 housing units, of which 2,242 are designated as deeply affordable. These projects produced $384 million in construction impacts and an ongoing annual operating impact of $42 million. Austin voters will consider a new round of bonds for affordable housing on the November 2012 ballot.  


Take a look at the useful and beautiful infographics built from the study, created by Grafico Design for HousingWorks.


Civic Economics has been asked by HousingWorks to update the study to reflect additional impacts since its completion.  That update, which we will be providing pro bono as a service to our home community of Austin, will be available in the spring of 2013.

The Civic Economics of Retail

In ten years, we've covered a lot of ground at Civic Economics. We've looked at electric deregulation, affordable and historic housing, gambling and liquor sales, and a range of economic development issues. But we always come back to independent, locally-owned retail and its important role in communities and regional economies. We're pleased to share a long-overdue summary of a series of studies on the subject. We hope it is useful.

The Civic Economics of Retail
Ten years of studies into the value of independent business to communities and regional economies.
The Civic Economics of Retail.pdf
Adobe Acrobat document [1.0 MB]

On the Dais

The Partners of Civic Economics are always in demand for speaking engagements, addressing a wide range of economic development themes for a wide range of audiences.


Matt Cunningham appeared at two national conferences this spring: The American Independent Business Alliance 2012 Conference: Building Community Prosperity from Within, took place in Louisville, Kentucky. The Business Alliance for Local Living Economies 2012 Conference: Real Prosperity Starts Here, took place in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Incidentally, both of these great cities are Civic Economics clients.


Dan Houston presented the keynote address at the 3rd Annual Neighborhood Business Conference at the University of Utah on May 10.  The event was organized by the Salt Lake City Office of Economic Development.  Dan's presentation slides are available for download here.


Dan Houston also appeared at City Forum, sponsored by the University of Texas School of Architecture, on February 24 to discuss the state and direction of the planning profession.  

On the Road

From the beginning, Civic Economics has been committed to maintaining a diverse national practice.  We think it keeps our thinking fresh and exposes us to the best (and worst) practices across regions. It also makes for a lot of travel time. 

The map below shows our work-related trips in a recent six month period, including multiple trips to several destinations.