Spatially Targeted Economic Development Strategies: Do They Work?

Helen F. Ladd, Duke University


Throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, U.S. policymakers have shown interest in geographically targeted urban economic development strategies, specifically in the form of enterprise zones. Originating in England, these zones captured the imagination of U.S. Federal Government policymakers in the early 1980s as a potentially powerful strategy for promoting economic development in pockets of urban distress. The English model involved deep tax breaks and regulatory relief to small geographic areas within a city. In 1980 conservative Republican congressman Jack Kemp (who became Secretary of Housing and Urban Development under President Bush) teamed up with Robert Garcia, a liberal Democrat from the South Bronx, to propose a Federal enterprise zone program. Although never passed by Congress, this Federal proposal, plus others in subsequent years, apparently played a catalytic role in spurring the development of such zones in States throughout the country.1 Despite the absence of a Federal program, 37 States and the District of Columbia had enacted enterprise zone programs by 1993. Congress finally passed a modified Federal program as part of the 1993 Budget Reconciliation Act.

Spatially Targeted Economic Development Strategies: Do They Work? (*.pdf, 64 KB)