Until quite recently, most of the discussions about smart growth and sustainability have been about ideas like walkability, transit-oriented development, and combatting sprawl. These efforts are all laudable. But it’s tough to worry about these topics if your local economy is in the tank–sadly, the predicament that faces many communities today. Thus, when we talk about sustainability, we also need to talk about economic sustainability–how to create competitive, resilient, and innovative local economies that can weather today’s economic turbulence.
My home town of Arlington County, Virginia, has done a pretty good job on this front—our proximity to Washington DC helps, but the County has also done some smart things to support and stimulate the local economy. On February 29th, the Arlington Economic Development Commission (Note: I’m a member) and George Mason University are hosting what should be an interesting half-day conference to discuss lessons from Arlington, but, more importantly, to look more deeply at the kinds of policies and structures needed to support regional economic sustainability. The conference, Beyond Smart Growth: New Thoughts on Economic Sustainability for Communities, will be held at George Mason’s Arlington Campus and registration fees are a reasonable–and economically sustainable–rate of only $25. Hope you can join us. You can find all the needed details here.