Real estate developments and economic development respond to rather than shape the needs of society. Design and regulatory mandates will not induce successful plans or development unless they relate well to the needs and preferences of households and businesses. The needs and preferences of households and businesses will continue to be influenced by ongoing economic, technological, and other shifts.
Cuts in shipping costs and global information networks so ubiquitous that they spawned the so-called Arab Spring have internationalized market areas for many basic industries. Companies like Principal Financial and other financial service firms operating within Des Moines are already exporting their services around the globe. Pioneer Hi-Bred, a developer and supplier of plant genetics to farmers based in Johnston, serves customers across more than 90 countries. Globalization is a controversial subject but one implication is that very few goods producers can survive unless they are able to compete on a worldwide basis. This means firms will be footloose and will shift facilities to the most efficient and/or innovation encouraging workplaces.
The global availability of instant information and the pace of technological change also serve to make innovation a constant requisite of demand. The ability to communicate remotely via electronic interactions does not eliminate the need for face-to-face interaction because they complement or support each other in improving cooperation and trust. This will create increasing demand for mixed-use developments with housing near workplaces.
The social capital of a community – the political and legal infrastructure and culture of personal relationships within which business is done – is a key factor in economic development. In a world of freely moving physical and financial capital, it is only social capital that remains tied to specific locations.
Therefore, successful regions embrace building up the stock of human capital, and fostering the benefits that arise from clustering activities and connecting people. Successful regions and communities within them will provide safe environments, excellent roads and transportation networks and good schools, protect precious ecological resources and beautiful and truly historically significant parts of the urban fabric. Regions and communities within them, however, cannot successfully stem the forces of urban land change or force land use changes through design mandate unless they are market responsive and improve financial feasibility. Successful communities and regions should not erect barriers to new construction (especially higher-density) and growth where demand exists. Successful regions and places within them will above all foster the conditions that allow households, firms and cities to embrace change and reinvent themselves to respond to anticipated and unforeseen pressures and opportunities.