Federal government says to mayors: Let’s work together for revitalization

The government’s landlord would like to double as your local government’s partner in growth.

The General Services Administration last week launched an Economic Catalyst Initiative “to better align the agency’s building, leasing, and relocation plans with the economic development goals of local communities,” GSA announced.

Fresh from a three-city tour presenting the initiative to mayors, GSA Administrator Denise Turner Roth told reporters the approach would “leverage our footprint around the country, support the economic vision of communities while also providing value for our own agencies.

The initiative is modeled on Roth’s experience as city manager in Greensboro, NC, a decade ago, when she helped bring together investors and businesses seeking to replace departed textile industry employers with high-tech job creators. Back then, when planners pondered the community’s future development, she noticed the federal grants from Commerce, the Housing and Urban Development Department, and the Transportation Department, Roth said. “I thought of the possibility that GSA could have a role as well in placing our agency customers” while factoring in “where cities are trying to take their economies.

Asked how the approach differs from that of her recent predecessors, Roth said “the bright spots” from GSA’s work in the National Capital Region—the siting of agencies in formerly struggling neighborhoods north of Washington, DC’s Massachusetts Ave. and along its Southwest waterfront—can be repeated strategically around the country.

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