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A new paradigm for development

The future of the Delta rests with its people and their communities, not with the federal government or state governments. But those of us at the Delta Regional Authority have a role to play in making sure communities achieve their potential. Understanding what makes communities flourish will be a key as we attempt to improve life in the 252 counties and parishes the DRA serves.

As we worked on an update of our strategic development plan for the region, we quickly determined that the old term “quality of life” had become dated. “Quality of life” simply emphasizes the values of a community’s existing population. We believe the concept of “quality of place” better accentuates those attributes that will attract fresh talent.

Much has been written about the importance of “quality of life” to the site-selection process. Communities nationwide have attempted to position themselves by touting their advantages in this regard — good schools, safe streets, pleasant weather. Those factors are indeed important. But the concept of “quality of life” assumes that everyone thrives in the same environment. It assumes that all people are attracted to the same amenities. It assumes that the current residents’ view of what makes a community a good place to live is shared by all.

By contrast, the concept of “quality of place” considers what’s attractive to a range of residents, both old and new. “Quality of place” recognizes the benefits of change and diversity. It recognizes that one person’s “good place to raise a family” might translate into “there’s nothing to do in this town” for another person. “Quality of place” is about providing options.

The underlying demographics of the American workforce are undergoing a seismic shift. As the baby boomer generation enters retirement age in significant numbers, employers will have to work harder to attract and retain talented workers. Many will respond by locating some of their operations offshore while downsizing other operations through technology and innovation.

For Delta communities that already are struggling to retain people and businesses, adopting the “quality of place” philosophy will be crucial to their long-term economic competitiveness. Communities must invest in amenities that will make them more attractive to new residents if they’re to survive. The DRA is committed to helping communities plan for and implement different strategies. Rather than simply awarding infrastructure grants, we will:

Support downtown revitalization efforts. Provide planning grants for revitalization projects. Work to improve the quality, safety and affordability of the housing stock. Support the construction and expansion of medical facilities. Protect the region’s environmental assets. Support the development and marketing of entertainment, recreational and cultural assets and expand the application of green technologies.

Communities that are unwilling to embrace the emerging economic sectors will be at a competitive disadvantage. For the Delta, with its traditional agricultural and resource-based economy, diversification and innovation are crucial. Those of us at the DRA are committed to playing a role in transforming our region’s economic base.

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