No matter where we look across our region, local debates at the moment tend to focus in many ways on investing for the future with a balance between development and our quality of life.
Of course, there are no clearly right answers as the future development process is highly complex even on a quiet day.
As we peer through the glass, and darkly, toward what the future may hold there are, however, excellent examples from which to draw potential conclusions.
In this week’s edition of Sound Strategy, let’s take a look briefly at two great international examples of a vision.
In Saudi Arabia, what’s called the “public investment fund” has launched an audacious vision for economic diversification known as “Neom” that makes bold moves across fourteen sectors all focused on creating a Saudi Arabia in 2030 that can balance a petroleum economy with a wide range of other economic engines.
In short, it’s a bold and publicly (by extension in the Kingdom) funded economic diversification investment over a decade and more. What makes it worthy of note is the duration of its vision. Neom is over the course of many years and is country-wide.
As our second example, let’s look at something called the “One Euro” program in Italy. In short, it’s an initiative to maintain housing investment and redevelopment amidst shifting age demographics.
At an overly simple level, aging homes are donated to the local government at tax value and then sold as affordable housing – for the ostensible price of €1 – to buyers who agree to several redevelopment stipulations including restoration, duration, and use.
Both of these examples highlight bold approaches to complex challenges and while on the surface they may be very different than our own issues below the surface are commonalities – duration, on the Saudi side, or use covenants on the Italian side.
They are both, without argument, excellent examples of planning, boldness, and a willingness to take risks.
Imagine, for example, a “One Dollar” regional housing project that seeks to maintain and restore our region’s wealth of historic homes in areas surrounding the Outer Banks.
Done well, it’s a win-win-win.
In addition, imagine an “Albemarle 2030” vision supported by a collaboration of elected officials and employers.
As we assess projects and initiatives, on a related note it’s also worth pausing in our planning to consider what we’ll call “third order” impacts, two of which are particularly relevant at the moment.
In Moyock, for example, the rapid and large-scale growth of the residential housing market has led by extension to now stunning levels of required infrastructure investment that often force the hand of local governments to raise taxes and issue debt.
As a second example of a “third order” impact, the wonderful financial support to the community of Ocracoke after Hurricane Dorian led, inadvertently, to an increase in the costs of housing that in some ways ended up making the very housing we sought to support unaffordable (and, of course, there are other issues at work there, not least of which is the pandemic real estate boom).
In other words, such public-to-private support ended up penalizing the very people we sought to help in some ways.
In short, we have great examples out there to consider as together we plan our own futures and in doing so we’re well advised to think beyond initial impacts to second and even third order outcomes.
In doing so, we plan extraordinarily well.
If, on the other hand, we teeter toward incremental changes with a near-term focus, we risk exchanging long-term quality for short-term expedience.
While a nuanced approach isn’t a great path to win an election, it does a lot of good for our communities.
WOBX Publisher Clark Twiddy is the author of Outer Banks Visionaries: Building North Carolina’s Oceanfront which is now available at local bookstores and online. This is his second book about the Outer Banks. “Sound Strategy”, a weekly commentary from Twiddy, features issues, ideas and information focused on our mission statement of “Covering the Business News of the Greater Outer Banks”.