Making progress in local economic development
There is a perspective that local economic development suffers from too little theory (Rowe 2009a). This claim is based partly on the judgement that much of the practical effort to promote local economic development is not well informed and consequently not particularly effective (Rowe 2005: 230). Others would agree that local economic development agencies frequently achieve little with their programmes, perhaps only ‘tinkering on the margins of massive market forces’ (Isserman 1994: 94). As a consequence, generating job announcements can be given more priority than delivering positions that are actually fi lled (Beer et al. 2003: 163). For Rowe (2009b), a theory of local economic development could contribute to the improvement of practice in a number of ways. It might help unify local development activity that is currently rendered somewhat incoherent by the variety of disciplinary fi elds that practitioners are drawn from: economics, geography, resource management and urban planning being potential prior areas of study. A core theory of local economic development might help career entrants immerse themselves into the system of knowledge that informs practice (Gunder 2004). A theoretical reference point might guide development professionals as they adjust to changes in the nature of economic activity and the targets of local economic policy. To the extent that it gave professionals a clearer understanding of their role, it might help relieve the pressure to which they are exposed, including the frequent need to justify their role to funding providers. There may also be an argument that a theoretically informed profession would better manage the need to compete with other professionals over investment projects. It might give something akin to a code of conduct and reduce the risk of excessive competition between local economic development offi cials affi liated to different agencies.