Selected Projects for Civic Economics
Civic Economics maintains a national practice in economic analysis and strategic planning. This expansive approach exposes us to best and worst practices, regional variations, and economic trends from coast to coast. Even if we’ve never worked in your state or community, we’ve been nearby. There is a good chance we’ve followed developments there and studied your regional economy.Civic Economics is proud of our diverse client base, including repeat business. Let us put this varied experience to work for you.
We have also provided details on a few Featured Projects of particular interest.
American Express OPEN Independent Retail Index
Civic Economics and American Express OPEN produced this longitudinal study of the trends impacting small business as part of Small Business Saturday 2011. This groundbreaking study mapped 20 years of trends impacting independent businesses and how those independents, in turn, impact their communities. Learn more about the OPEN Index at OPENForum.com, or download the full report in the Library. Supplemental reports covering 15 major American cities are available on request.
Indie City Index 2011
The American Booksellers Association commissioned this study quantifying the market shares of independent retailers in every American metropolitan area. The study was released in January 2011 and has brought attention to the vitality of independents in communities large and small and from the top of the rankings to the bottom. The Index even provided the basis for the Washington Post's list of the best cities in America for starting a small business.
American Booksellers Association Community Impact Survey
Building on our longstanding partnership with the ABA, Civic Economics is conducting surveys in several American communities to provide localized version of the Andersonville Study of Retail Economics. Participating commnunities include Bainbridge Island, Washington; Chicago, Illinois; Las Vegas, New Mexico; Louisville, Kentucky; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Pleasanton, California; Raleigh, North Carolina; and Salt Lake City, Utah.
Appalachian Mississippi, Ohio, and Pennsylvania
Technical Assistance to Distressed Communities
In the first major strategic planning initiative conducted by Civic Economics, the firm was retained by the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) to provide a variety of services to distressed communities throughout the region. While the initial contract called for work in only two communities in Ohio and Pennsylvania, our early successes and community engagement prompted an expansion of our contract to include two additional communities in Mississippi. All four initiatives, described separately below, were completed in March of 2004.
Economic Impact of General Obligation Bonds for Affordable Housing
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, producing $384 million in construction impacts and an annual operating impact of $42 million. Civic Economics is revisiting and updating the study in 2013 on a pro bono basis.
Impact of Property Tax Exemptions for Historical Residences
Civic Economics was retained by a stakeholder organization to analyze the economic and fiscal benefits of partial property tax exemptions for historical residential properties by both the City of Austin and the Austin Independent School District. The firm prepared a detailed analysis of current and proposed exemption schemes, providing public officials with the only accurate count of impacted properties and the geographic distribution of costs and benefits.
Austin Unchained Impact Analysis
Civic Economics provided the Austin Independent Business Alliance with research, analysis, and community education services in connection with the Austin Unchained event in November 2003. Our analysis revealed that a fully successful event would generate a local economic impact of as much as $14 Million. Building on our work, the AIBA and several of its business members received positive earned media in a wide variety of media, including newspapers, radio, and television. In addition, the analysis generated industry-specific coverage in targeted publications such as Billboard, Publishers Weekly, and Bookselling This Week.
Public Utility Commission Expert Testimony
Matt Cunningham and Civic Economics were retained by an ad hoc association of large commercial users of electricity to evaluate the regional impact of a requested rate surcharge of $2.4 Billion over 15 years and testify before the Texas Public Utility Commission regarding the findings. The proposed surcharge fell differently on each class of ratepayers across a 44 county area of South Texas, requiring a complex analysis of impacts on households by income, businesses by size and type, and industrial adaptation to the charge. Civic Economics completed the study in within five weeks of retention and Mr. Cunningham provided written and oral testimony before the Commission. The final PUC decision mandated substantial surcharge reductions.
Economic Impact of Local Merchants and Chain Retailers
In partnership with the Austin Independent Business Alliance and Liveable City, Civic Economics conceived and executed this innovative and influential study quantifying the economic importance of locally owned merchants. The analysis demonstrated that locally owned merchants generate more than three times the local economic activity of their competitor chain stores on equal revenue. Countless media sources, civic organizations, and government bodies throughout North America have cited “the study that started a movement.” In addition, the study earned extensive positive media for our business clients, leading directly to increased sales and policy influence.
British Columbia, Canada
Small Business and the British Columbia Economy
Civic Economics was retained by the Canadian Union of Public Employees to develop a Canadian adaptation of our American retail studies using British Columbia independent businesses and Canada's dominant retail chains. Independent BC: Small Business and the British Columbia Economy was released in Vancouver in February 2013.
Technical Assistance for Distressed Communities
Civic Economics worked with the citizens of this Monongahela Valley city in a strategic planning effort of broad scope. Leadership development, organizational capacity, and community engagement led to the acquisition of an anchor building in the historic downtown area and its development into a business incubator, youth entrepreneurship center, and community meeting hall. Implementation of the plan has been fully funded with the direct involvement of the Governor. Our work was funded under contract to the Appalachian Regional Commission.
Brownsville, Texas and Matamoros, Tamaulipas
Economic Analysis of Cameron County Enterprises
Civic Economics provided the Cross Border Institute for Regional Development and IC2 Institute of the University of Texas with an analysis of the economic forces at work in the bi-national Brownsville/Matamoros region. Utilizing our proprietary industry cluster model, Civic Economics analyzed location quotients and shift-share components across industries, then provided extensive analysis of the Health Services, Manufacturing, and Transportation & Logistics sectors. In addition, we provided a detailed study of household and income migration using a massive and little used database of Internal Revenue Service data.
Andersonville Chamber of Commerce Retail Study
Civic Economics and the Andersonville Chamber of Commerce released the Andersonville Study of Retail Economics at two packed events on October 20, 2004. The Andersonville Study evaluated the economic impact of ten locally owned firms doing business on Chicago’s Clark Street in Andersonville, and gauged the impact on the community if those firms were replaced by competitor chains. The extensive data collected allowed our analysis to further evaluate economic impact per square foot and by sector (retail, restaurant, or service provision). Visit AndersonvilleStudy.com to learn more.
Wicker Park/Bucktown Strategic Plan
Civic Economics was part of a consultant team, led by Interface Studio of Philadelphia, which prepared a comprehensive plan for the booming Wicker Park-Bucktown area of the city. Under contract to the WP-B Special Service Area, Civic Economics analyzed the evolving commercial mix of the area and prepared strategies for balanced retail, dining, entertainment, and service development in each of five commercial districts. The project was completed and released in September 2008. Since that time, the project team has earned a national award from the American Planning Association and a state award from the Illinois Congress for New Urbanism.
Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning
Civic Economics is part of a team led by Sam Schwartz Engineering that has been selected to provide ongoing services to CMAP and affiliated agencies in the coming years.
Devils Lake, North Dakota
Large Format Retail Ordinance
Civic Economics was retained by a coalition of businesses in Devils Lake, North Dakota to assist in drafting an ordinance for the regulation of retail development in the community. During the process, the initiative was suspended as the primary business supporter of the study changed ownership.
El Paso, Texas
Policy Analysis Related to Power Center Incentives
Civic Economics was retained by a coalition of area developers and property managers to review policy considerations surrounding 100% sales and property tax rebates for a proposed power center on the city’s east side. Civic Economics presented its findings, in opposition to the incentives, to the County Commission. On the first try, the incentives were rejected by a 3-1 vote; after county elections, the new commission approved the project by one vote.
Grand Rapids, Michigan
SmartZone Infrastructure and Built Environment Needs Assessment
The Grand Rapids SmartZone, anchored by the Van Andel Research Institute and Grand Valley State University, retained JJR and Civic Economics to plan for continued growth in the riverfront district called Monroe North. Civic Economics conducted interviews with public officials and select technology-driven firms, both startups and established firms developing new markets, in order to identify the essential infrastructure and land use needs of these businesses.
Grand Rapids, Michigan
The Grand Rapids Retail Study
With funds provided by the Steelcase Foundation, Grand Rapids’ Local First retained Civic Economics to prepare a comprehensive analysis of the economics of retail and service provision in Grand Rapids and Kent County, Michigan. The study was released to wide media coverage on September 23, 2008.
Big Box Retail Impact Study
The City of Gunnison, Colorado faced uncertainty and acrimonious debate as major changes in the local retail market became a near term possibility in this small mountain community. The City selected Civic Economics to analyze the economic and fiscal impacts of big box retail with a particular emphasis on supercenters with both grocery and general merchandise product lines. Working with a twelve person steering committee and city staff, the firm conducted a retail preferences survey with nearly 1200 responses, modeled the local economy, and evaluated prospective impacts on employment, wages, and public revenue.
The firm was retained to update the study in 2008 to reflect changes in local and regional retail dynamics and assist in the evaluation of pending annexation applications.
Highland Heights, Kentucky, and Unnamed Midwestern State
General Cable Corporation
General Cable faced a problem: expansion of a Midwestern manufacturing plant was stalled by uncertainty about state incentives. The company, which has been at the forefront of communications technology since 1844, turned to Civic Economics for guidance. With a 48-hour turnaround, we prepared an analysis of state incentive programs and their applicability to company plans. Armed with accurate information, the company and local officials quickly got the project back on track, promising new investment and jobs in a distressed community.
Retail Community and Economic Impact Study
In recent years, a number of communities have passed ordinances requiring developers of large retail projects to fund community impact studies of the sort pioneered by Civic Economics. The first to contract for such a study was Homer, Alaska on the Kenai Peninsula, where the westernmost road in North America meets the sea. Civic Economics modeled the Homer retail market and forecast economic and fiscal impacts related to the development of a “superstore” retailer proposed for the community. The study was completed in a period of only 10 weeks.
Market Implications of an Urban Wal-Mart Supercenter
Civic Economics was retained by Responsible Urban Development for Houston to analyze the likely market implications of a proposed supercenter to be built with public incentives in the historic Houston Heights district. We found that the store would serve an already overstored portion of the city while doing little to address the "food desert" phenomenon cited by developers and public officials. As of this writing, the outcome remains uncertain.
Public Indebtedness and Private Development
Civic Economics was retained by a citizens organization to analyze the business prospects and impact of issuing $200 million in municipal bonds to finance the development of an entertainment center in Las Colinas. We found attendance and revenue figures substantially overstated the ability of the facility to repay bond debt. Irving City Council denied the requested bond issuance and ordered developers to consider alternative designs and financing structures. Dan Housto testified before the Texas House Ways and Means Committee regarding our findings.
Extended Lottery Act Gaming Application Evaluations
The Kansas Racing and Gaming Commission retained a team of consultants, including Civic Economics, to evaluate applications for the development and management of four land-based casinos in the state. The team evaluated a total of 13 proposals from some of the leading firms in the gaming industry. Civic Economics built upon gravity models to forecast the net impacts each would bring to the Kansas economy. The firm also evaluated the potential cannibalization challenges each proposal presented to existing local and regional businesses. Our work was used to guide the final decisions of an ad hoc board tasked with selection among the applicants. The work was completed and final decisions rendered in September 2008. The firm provided these services again in a subsequent rounds of applications in 2009 and 2010.
Master Plan for the College Hill Corridor and Mercer Village
Civic Economics was part of a team led by Interface Studio of Philadelphia to prepare a master plan for the urban heart of Macon, near the campus and Mercer University. Civic Economics analyzed retail and commercial patterns in the area and created a strategy for revitalization and diversification. The master plan was completed in the summer of 2009, and the College Hill Corridor Commission subsequently received a $5 Million grant for implementation activities.
Retail Legislation Implementation Guidebook for Communities
A coalition of Maine organizations retained Civic Economics to prepare a guidebook for communities implementing the state’s innovative Informed Growth Act. The IGA, which goes into effect in September of 2007, requires, independent, developer-funded comprehensive impact studies for all new retail establishments over 75,000 square feet. The guidebook will provide communities with an overview of the legislation and provide a model for the required impact studies. The guidebook is now available for download at www.informedgrowthact.com.
Gaming Resort Comparative Economic Impacts
Civic Economics and Cummings and Associates of Boston have been retained by a gaming development and management company to develop comparative impact analyses for projects proposed in Western Massachusetts. Study documents will be provided to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission as they become available.
Target Industry Refinement Study
In association with TIP Strategies, Civic Economics provided the Midland Development Corporation with an update and refinement of target industries. This study was designed to build upon the success of the Midland Assessment and Action Plan (MAAP), led by Dan Houston when employed with his previous firm. As a result of the MAAP, Midlanders approved a .25% sales tax devoted to economic development and created the Midland Development Corporation, which has made great strides in implementing and further refining the MAAP strategic plan.
Market Assessment for the Near North Side Area Plan
Civic Economics was been retained to work with Walk Studio and Conservation Design Forum, both of Chicago, to provide commercial and housing market analysis services as a component of the Near North Side Area Plan in Milwaukee. The plan, one of 13 underway in the city at the time, provided detailed neighborhood analysis and strategies as part of a citywide comprehensive plan completed inJanuary 2010.
Technical Assistance for Distressed Communities
Civic Economics worked with the citizens of this Appalachian Ohio college town to strengthen town-gown relationships and execute a project with wide community support. With strong support from the State and local foundations, Nelsonville is in the process of restoring its historic City Hall as a visitor center and museum of industry. Our work was funded under contract to the Appalachian Regional Commission.
New Orleans, Louisiana
Thinking Outside the Box: The Magazine Street Study
Civic Economics was retained by the Urban Conservancy, with funding from the Blue Moon Fund, to conduct an analysis of the economic impacts of various forms of commercial development. Using the four miles of Magazine Street as a laboratory, the firm analyzed cash flows associated with traditional urban commercial corridor development compared to a hypothetical big box supercenter. Magazine Street merchants earn substantially greater sales per square foot and return more than twice as much of that revenue to the local economy through wages, profits, procurement, and charitable giving. More importantly, the traditional corridor model creates over four times the economic impact per square foot even before parking is taken into consideration. The full study is available for download at www.UCNO.org.
Technical Assistance for Distressed Communities
Civic Economics worked with the citizens of this small community to heal race and class relations by organizing and guiding a local leadership team in the revitalization of the historic campus of Okolona College. The initiative required the cooperation of multiple organizations and individuals in this often divided community. In addition, we called on regional support and expertise from colleges and universities, elected officials, and professional service providers. Our work was funded under contract to the Appalachian Regional Commission.
Opelousas, St. Landry Parish, Louisiana
Economic and Fiscal Impact Analysis of a Regional Distribution Center
The St. Landry Economic Industrial Development District retained Civic Economics to analyze and forecast the economic and fiscal impacts of a regional Wal-Mart distribution center. Our analysis demonstrated that this single facility directly and indirectly generates 8.5% of all wage employment in the Parish, and 12% of all wages.
Civic Economics conducted an updated impact analysis in the summer of 2008.
San Francisco, California
Retail Diversity and Impact Study
Civic Economics was retained by the San Francisco Locally Owned Merchants Association and the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association to create a detailed analysis of retail sales, market shares, and business distribution across five retail sectors. The study provided to provide the first comprehensive, regional picture of the changing retail environment for both independents and chains. The study further quantified the economic impacts of retailers in each sector. The San Francisco Retail Diversity and Impact Study was released in May 2007.
Santa Cruz, California
Municipal Minimum Wage Increase Analysis
Civic Economics was retained by the Santa Cruz Locally Owned Business Alliance to analyze the economic impact of a proposed increase in the minimum wage paid to employees within the City of Santa Cruz. The study, completed in May of 2006, quantified the cost to local employers of the proposed wage increase and explored the full range of adaptations businesses would likely pursue in accommodating the changing labor cost environment. The citizens of Santa Cruz voted overwhelmingly to reject the proposal in November of 2006.
St. Albans, Vermont
Economic and Fiscal Impact Analysis of a Wal-Mart Supercenter
Civic Economics has been retained by the Vermont Natural Resources Council to project the fiscal and economic impacts of a proposed supercenter in the Town of St. Albans, Vermont. The analysis is to be conducted in the context of ongoing litigation under the terms of the state’s Act 250, which governs land use and development. Civic Economics will provide written testimony before the Environmental Court in the spring of 2009. A decision from the Court is pending as of January 2010.
Technical Assistance for Distressed Communities
Civic Economics worked with this dynamic community to lay the groundwork for the development of an arena and community building capable of hosting the large events already drawn to Sturgis. We provided the community with a detailed implementation plan, including building specifications, cost estimates, and a comprehensive funding plan. Our work was funded under contract to the Appalachian Regional Commission.
Public Procurement Impact Analysis
Civic Economics was retained by Local First Arizona and a large, locally-owned distributor of goods and services to analyze the economic impact of recent state procurement decisions that replaced local suppliers with non-local suppliers. As with related studies of retail economics, the findings were striking. Locally-based suppliers produce local economic impacts three times greater than non-local competitors as a function of revenue. The firm has been retained to prepare an update to this study in 2012.
Casino Economic Impact Study
The Greater Cedar Valley Alliance, the regional economic development organization for Waterloo and Cedar Falls, retained the team of Civic Economics and Wells Gaming to evaluate the prospective impact of competing casino proposals for the region. Wells Gaming began by evaluating the complete proposals of three proposed casino developments and forecasting activity to be generated by each. Civic Economics then modeled the Waterloo-Cedar Falls regional economy and evaluated the economic and fiscal impact of each proposal. Armed with this comprehensive evaluation of the choices facing the community, the Cedar Valley Alliance was able to endorse two of the three proposals for approval by the Iowa Racing Commission.
Regional Retail and Alcoholic Beverage Market Analysis
Civic Economics has been retained by the City of Weatherford and the Weatherford Economic Development Authority to analyze regional retail economics and analyze how the introduction of legalized beer and wine sales might impact municipal finances and shopping opportunities for local residents. The study will be used to guide municipal land use determinations in this fast growing region west of Fort Worth. It will also be released to the public in advance of a referendum on alcoholic beverage sales. Market analysis was completed in the fall of 2008; marketing and strategic planning have been postponed until fall of 2009 due to rapid changes in the retail marketplace.