I have worked in some areas where developers or investors were so rare that if one came throught the door, the first thing you did was lock it behind him!
In circumstances like that it always seemed to me to be pointless to put your major efforts into making cheap land available, or build new units. These approaches had their place, but since all you were going to attract was branch outlets you were highly vulnerable to changes in the global economy or to the fallout from mergers and takeovers.
I always believed the main effort should go into 'growing our own' economy, by supporting new locally generated businesses. After all when you go back to its origins that is how Siicon Valley began, with support for graduates from Stanford University to stay in the area. Having been talking in these terms for 20 years, I was intrigued to come across this item from the USA about 'economic gardening'.
Pioneered by Chris Gibbons at the City of Littleton, Colorado (pop. 45,000), this programme has apparently added 12,000 jobs to the local economy since it started in 1987 – without grants or any form of financial incentives. The links in the item above don't work but you can find more here:
There are UK equivalents. BizFizz
"provides free, confidential and professional advice to local entrepreneurs. It works by employing a coach who provides tailored one-to-one support to individuals who want to start or grow their business and establishing a Local Panel of people whose background, expertise and local know-how bring a second tier of support to BizFizz clients. The panel can include community activists, head teachers, faith group leaders, councillors, and local business people."
It has funding for specific locations, but the organisers are very willing to help spread the approach elsewhere.
Also in the same vein is Local Alchemy (also sponsored by the New Economics Foundation)
"The local alchemy approach is built on the belief that disadvantaged neighbourhoods are home to individuals who have the dreams, passion and potential to create and grow their own businesses. This approach encourages these individuals to realise their business dreams in a supported environment at the heart of their community. This in turn develops a sense of self-reliance and can-do in the community, building local confidence and self-esteem. "
I'm sure I've mentioned Plugging the Leaks from the NEF in a previous post but its worth another plug (sorry!)