My Research Agenda

Economic Development Research

The majority of my research has focused on understanding how the governance of state and local economic development programs affects their willingness and ability to improve the economic well being of their constituents and communities.

My publications include:

When Do States Pursue Targeted Economic Development Policies? The Adoption and Expansion of State Enterprise Zone Programs

Objective. The objective of this article is twofold. First, why did states adopt enterprise zones, which allow designated economically distressed areas to provide significant financial incentives to attract firms? Second, why did some states significantly increase the number of zones within the state and transform what began as a spatially targeted program aimed at helping poor places into a state-wide incentive program aimed at improving the state's competitive position? We also demonstrate the value of examining how changes in a state's policy environment can undermine a policy innovation, namely, the adoption of place-based economic development policies.

Results. States with larger urban populations and neighboring states with enterprise zone programs are more likely to adopt enterprise zone programs. States are more likely to increase the number of enterprise zones when they have larger urban populations, more neighboring states with enterprise zone programs, professional legislatures, more centrist elected officials, and as the program ages.

Conclusions. Although the adoption of enterprise zones signaled states' commitment to improve conditions in the most distressed areas of the states, that commitment gradually wanes in the face of internal political demands and external competition for investment and jobs. By extending our analysis to examine what happens after the adoption of enterprise zones, we develop a more pessimistic assessment of states' capacity to pursue spatially targeted economic development policies to help economically distressed areas.

Social Science Quarterly, Vol. 88, No. 1. (March 2007), pp. 86-103.

Do Nebraska and Maine Have the Right Idea? The Political and Partisan Implications of the District System.

After the 2000 presidential election, twenty-one states considered legislation to award their presidential electors using the district system, wherein one elector is awarded to the popular vote winner of each congressional district and the two state electors are awarded to the popular vote winner statewide. Historically, the district system is viewed as the politically feasible alternative to direct elections because it removes the distortions of the winner-take-all system and can be enacted by state law rather than constitutional amendment. However, the ultimate desirability of the district system lies in how it would change the conduct of presidential campaigns, not the counting of electoral college votes. Under the district system, presidential campaigns would shift their priorities from battleground states to battleground districts. The complexity and uncertainty in targeting these districts would force candidates to contest a larger and more geographically diverse percentage of the population than the current system. Moreover, the changes in presidential campaigns would increase the likelihood of presidential coattails and the prospects for unified government by increasing the competitiveness of congressional elections in swing presidential districts. Finally, the district system has a conservative bias because the swing battleground districts favor Republican presidential candidates and have fewer minority residents and recipients of public assistance than the nation as a whole.

Presidential Studies Quarterly, Volume 35 - Issue 1 - March 2005

The Political Economy of Gubernatorial Smokestack Chasing: Bad Policy and Bad Politics? (download paper here)

Why do states persist in offering large financial incentives to induce firms to relocate to or expand in the state, a practice commonly derided as "smokestack chasing?" The conventional wisdom is that while these incentives have little effect on firms' business decisions in the long term, they are a good political strategy for governors seeking to improve economic conditions and political support in the short term. I test these hypotheses by examining the economic and electoral impact of industrial recruitment policies in Wisconsin, Virginia, Michigan, North Carolina, Maryland, Indiana, and Kentucky. I find, first, that these policies pay immediate dividends for governors by increasing county-level job growth and per capita income prior to the next election. Second, governors recruit firms strategically to relocate to counties that opposed them in the previous election. But, third, this industrial recruitment does not increase electoral support for the governor. In fact, the more success a governor has in recruiting firms or jobs to a county, the fewer votes he or she receives in it in the next election.

State Politics and Policy Quarterly, Volume 3• Number 3 Summer 2003

A Framework for Cluster-Based Economic Development Policies

Clusters are at the forefront of economic development theory and practice. Instead of Focusing on individual companies, clusters encourage practitioners and scholars to think about regional economies in terms of groupings of related firms and supporting infrastructure. Government, corporate, and other decision makers require a new analytical framework for understanding how clusters enable them to positively affect a large number of firms at a relatively low cost. This paper examines how state and local policy makers in New York identify the members and boundaries of a cluster and promote the regional technological dynamism associated with Silicon Valley. Next, the paper identifies three sets of specific recommendations for how policy-makers can use the cluster concept: to understand a regional
economy and the sources of its competitiveness; to promote greater collaboration among regional firms; and to maximize the impact of government services to private industry. Finally, it concludes with a pilot proposal to identify successful examples of cluster policies at the regional level which other policy makers around the state can emulate as well as identify new opportunities for public action.
Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute: Albany, NY

Current Research Projects

Racing to the Bottom at Different Speeds? The Impact of Intra-State Competition On Abatement Generosity in Ohio with Mark Cassell

Scholars often assert that intra-state competition increases the ability of firms to extract tax abatements by playing local governments off of one another. We test this proposition using data on the more than 5,000 tax abatement agreements signed in Ohio between 1983 and 2004 under its enterprise zone program. We articulate a political economic model of tax abatement generosity that models the interplay between the individual decisions of local governments and firms and the systemic political and economic forces shaping their decisions. Wfind that as intra-state competition increases, local governments offer larger abatements to firms. Rural governments, and urban poor governments to a lesser degree, significantly increased their generosity as intra-state competition increased.

The Political Economy of Trophy Industrial Recruitment Projects, with Petria Fleming and Ben Kaufman (both Class of 2006) which was funded with an APSA Small Research Grant Program. Abstract Why do states persist in offering large financial incentives to firms to induce them to invest in the state, a practice commonly derided as “smoke-stack chasing”? The conventional wisdom is that while incentives may be a poor long term economic development strategy, they are a good political strategy for governors seeking to improve economic conditions and political support in the short term. Using the annual list of top economic development deals compiled by Site Selection magazine, we examine the political impact of these “trophy” industrial recruitment projects on county level election returns in gubernatorial elections from 1986-2004. Our results demonstrate that trophy hunting is an excellent short term political strategy that dramatically increases the number of votes a governor receives in the subsequent election.

Yes in My Backyard! Why Do Rural Communities Use Prison Based Economic Development Strategies?, with Dave Thayer, Class of 2004, in which we try to understand why rural officials say “Yes in my backyard” when the State Department of Corrections announces its intent to build a new prison. We tested our model by surveying 1,632 rural New York officials about their perceptions of these questions. Our results suggested the following. First, officials in prison counties perceived economic conditions were worse than those in non-prison counties. Second, prison and non-prison county officials were, on most issues, equally optimistic about the viability of existing policy alternatives. Third, officials in prison counties believed prisons were much better at bringing natives back to the community and thought they did not detract from their quality of life than their non-prison counterparts.

Who Benefits When Enterprise Zones Are Zoned-Out? The Case of the Ohio Enterprise Zone Program with Mark Cassell. In this paper, we examine three issues. First, if enterprise zones are no longer targeted at economically distressed areas, which areas are designated as enterprise zones? Second, which enterprise zones generate the most new jobs and private investment? Third, we evaluate the performance of zones using developmental, efficiency, and equity criteria to answer the question, where should Ohio designate its enterprise zones? It builds on an earlier study done by Mark Cassell.

An Integrated Model of State Chief Justices’ Governance Agenda with Beau Breslin As head of the state judicial system, state chief justices engage in substantial policy making outside of the adjudicative process. Through a content analysis of State of the Judiciary addresses, we develop a five part typology to identify the chief justices’ policy priorities for the state judicial system. Drawing upon behavioral, strategic, and neo-institutional theories of judicial behavior, we apply an integrated model to explain chief justices’ governance agenda for their state judiciaries. We find chief justices are more likely to pursue traditional judicial governance goals of efficiently processing cases if they are appointed, conservative, selected by their peers, or there is an ideological gap between the chief justice and the rest of the court. Chief justices are more likely to pursue a more activist role of enhancing access to the legal system and in adopting proactive approach to family issues if they are elected and liberal.

Skidmore Students

You will note that Skidmore students have played a significant role in much of my research.

My enterprise zone research was inspired, in part, by a question asked in my state and local economic development class about whether states can do anything to help create jobs in poor areas.

The Political Economy of Trophy Industrial Recruitment Projects, with Petria Fleming and Ben Kaufman (both Class of 2006) was presented at the Northeast Political Science Association Conference in November 2005 and was a summer collaborative research project.

The Project on the use of Prisons as a Rural Economic Development Strategy in New York was another summer collaborative research project with Dave Thayer, Class of 04. The idea for the paper came from a research paper he wrote for my GO 331, State and Local Economic Development Policy. Dave presented our findings at the Northeast Political Science Association Conference in November 2003.


The electoral college paper was written as part of a summer collaborative research project with Greg Thall, Class of 02. Greg presented our findings at the Northeast Political Science Association Conference in November 2001.


· The industrial recruitment paper, The Political Economy of Smokestack Chasing:Bad Policy and Bad Politics?, was made possible in part because of the data collection efforts of Rachel Burrows, Katey Jessen, Erica Baggett, and Ken Hardy, Class of 01.

· The paper on female state chief justices arose from a question Emily Siegal, Class of 2004, asked Judith Kaye, the chief justice of the New York Court of Appeals, in my state politics class.

Contact Info

Government Department | Skidmore College | Saratoga Springs, NY 12866
phone (518)-580-5251
bturner@skidmore.edu