an unexpected ally in smart growth: business
The following material is excerpted with written permission from How Smart Growth Can Stop Sprawl, a briefing guide for funders by David Bollier. (Washington, D.C.:Essential Books), 1998.

In recent years, the business community has shown growing leadership in the fight against sprawl. Perhaps the most dramatic instance of this was the 1995 report, Beyond Sprawl: New Patterns of Growth to Fit the New California, sponsored by Bank of America in cooperation with the Greenbelt Alliance, the California Resources Agency and the Low Income Housing Fund.

"As we approach the 21st Century, it is clear that sprawl has created enormous costs that California can no longer afford," the report declared. "Ironically, unchecked sprawl has shifted from an engine of California's growth to a force that now threatens to inhibit growth and degrade the quality of our life." The report noted how sprawl has hurt California's competitiveness by making the state a less attractive place to establish or expand a business. Coming from the state s largest bank, these positions created quite a splash when they were announced. 

In other regions of the country, the business community is starting to realize the economic costs of sprawl: "Seattle's Gridlock Could Put Growth in Neutral," ran a Wall Street Journal headline in February 1998.

In Phoenix, a summit was held with 600 business leaders in February 1997 to assess the city's quality of life. While half of the leaders thought the area's growth was "just about right," one-third said they had considered leaving the region because of deterioration of the quality of life. 

In York, Pennsylvania, a business coalition is pressing the state to give incentives to ex-urbs and rural areas to curb sprawl, and developers are saying they want to see a public consensus on future development. 

In the San Jose area, a group of high-tech leaders have formed Joint Venture Silicon Valley to try to develop a long-term path to sustainable development in their region.

Progressive-minded business leaders understand that a region's long-term economic vitality requires healthy downtowns; that developed land must be used more efficiently; that quality of life affects a region s competitiveness; and that a legal and procedural framework for smart growth is needed so that businesses can make predictable investment and development plans.

In forging new smart growth coalitions, progressive-minded businesses may be one of the most powerful allies to be cultivated. And why not? No one is immune from the economic or quality-of-life consequences of sprawl.