Coverage of Tacoma’s management change blurs an important distinction: between leading economic development on the one hand and creating a favorable climate for it on the other.
The two are related but different. It’s like ensuring the right conditions to grow corn and going into the corn business. Neither one is intrinsically right. But we’re better off if everyone’s clear on the goal.
Traditionally cities control business conditions: tax and license requirements, the speed of issuing permits, whether roads can handle freight and employees.
Sometimes cities also get in the game. The University Place Town Centre is an example. And Tacoma government has a history of deal-making that remade downtown.
Either side of the line – ensuring favorable conditions, or making things happen – is defensible. But measuring progress requires we know our goal.