Heather Hunt

Former KIEDA

Heather Hunt

The effectiveness of business incentives is hotly debated in North Carolina. Carefully designed and implemented incentive policies have the potential to generate long-lasting investments and community benefits such as good jobs, targeted growth and other important local goals. Given the dollars, potential pitfalls and opportunities at stake, how do practitioners and local governments develop strong and smart policies?

Recent master’s degree graduate in City and Regional Planning, and Kenan Institute Economic Development Analyst Heather Hunt, J.D. ’02, focused on two ways to help local governments overcome obstacles to developing incentive policies, including lack of capacity, political pressures, fear of discouraging new business, skepticism and lack of familiarity with the idea. First, she worked directly with local officials in Warren County to develop a targeted and nuanced incentive policy for the county as part of the NC Strategic Economic Growth initiative. Second, she conducted broader research on local hiring as a condition of receiving an incentive grant, and clarified local hiring’s legality under the state and federal constitution.

Local hiring has been shown to deliver significant and social benefits, including but not limited to reducing local unemployment. Hunt’s research may encourage local officials to adopt local hiring, as well as other measures that provide broad economic benefits, as part of their incentive policies.
“She is helping to solve a persistent problem facing local economic development practitioners in the state—how to transform business incentives into a tool for community economic development and not simply as another corporate giveaway,” said adviser Nichola Lowe, Ph.D.

Read more about Heather’s work in Endeavor Magazine: http://endeavors.unc.edu/grow_your_own_way