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Cities are refocusing economic development efforts, NLC report

June 21, 2018

Economic development was the most prevalent policy issue across mayoral speeches in 2018, according to State of the Cities 2018 from the National League of Cities (NLC). This is the fifth straight year that economic development issues were are the forefront of mayoral speeches with NLC reporting 58 percent of  state of cities speeches including “significant coverage of economic development issues.” However, this year marked a shift from mayors focusing their speeches on job creation and business attraction strategies in previous years to primarily focusing on driving downtown development, supporting innovation, and enhancing local art scenes. For those mayors that did discuss job creation, the speeches focused primarily on developing more inclusive strategies that create equitable access to economic opportunities for all members of their respective communities.

In addition to their focus on economic development, mayors also covered other topics of importance to developing a 21st century workforce, creating economic opportunity for all, and creating connected communities. They include:

  • Plans to increase the geographic reach of wireless connectivity;
  • Efforts to deliver free wireless access in public locations;
  • “College Promise” programs to increase educational attainment, especially for children from low-income families and other underrepresented groups in higher education (e.g. minorities and first generation college students);
  • Mentorship and other training programs for students pursing vocational and technical careers; and,
  • Smart City strategies that can help increase efficiency and equitability for urban environments.

The report was developed based upon 160 mayoral speeches between January 1 and April 18, 2018. The report also provides data on speeches by region (Northeast, Midwest, South, and West) and by four population sizes (less than 50,000; 50-99,999; 100-299,999; and, 300,000 or more).


metros, economic development