Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Public Policy

First Advisor

David Terkla

Second Advisor

Donna Haig Friedman

Third Advisor

Douglas R. Snow


Across the U.S., and particularly in the Northeast, cities known as former "mill towns" have been largely unsuccessful in attempts to revive their economic vigor. States and cities invest millions each year in efforts to reinvigorate these cities through economic development policies. Debates about the effectiveness of such policies in generating economic growth outcomes are prevalent in the literature. This thesis takes a different focus by considering the alignment of economic development goals and actions among citizens and government professionals. I consider, compare, contrast, and draw lessons from three Massachusetts cities of similar government structure. Each of these cities has the potential to implement and benefit from the same federal and state policies, yet has its own unique experience with the economic development process and outcomes. The central analysis addresses four questions of alignment:

  1. What preferences have citizens revealed for their communities in the area of economic development?
  2. To what extent do the stated goals of economic development officials/offices align with revealed community wants?
  3. To what extent do economic development office policies/practices/programs align with community wants and/or stated goals?
  4. Where we observe misalignments of goals and actions, why do these occur; what policy factors motivate and shape the choice of actions by the economic development offices?

The primarily qualitative analysis draws on the disciplines of political science, public policy, and economics. The examination of these questions in each city-setting will illuminate the opportunities and obstacles that citizens and communities face in articulating their goals to economic development agents/offices. The findings provide an opportunity for citizens and economic development agents/offices to consider their communication pathways, their stated goals and objectives, and the alignment between economic development goals and actions.