"Intervention" cried Heseltine and this was parroted by every economic development department, regional development agency and local authority. The echo of this word still bounces around the public sector - something must be done, invest in economic development...intervene, intervene, intervene.
It doesn't work:
...there is virtually no association between economic development incentives and any measure of economic performance. We found no statistically significant association between economic development incentives per capita and average wages or incomes; none between incentives and college grads or knowledge workers; and none between incentives and the state unemployment rate.
Is that clear enough for you? Oh for sure there are specific examples of lovely shiny things that have come from those incentives - an office block here (probably filled with public sector employees), an apartment complex there - but the strategy as a whole hasn't worked. Indeed, it could be even worse:
The only statistically significant association we find is between incentives and the poverty rate.
I'm not suggesting that regeneration actually makes places worse (although I could line up a convincing argument or three to support that contention) but that these incentives don't deal with the underlying reason for the place being poor and declining.
A couple of days ago the chancellor bunged a load more into the Regional Growth Fund - essentially an economic development fund - and a similar amount into market-facing basic research. I can tell you now that this will not do anything to address the problems of declining places. Nor will giving more powers and cash to so-called "local economic partnerships" (these are not local, not focused on economics and not partnerships but otherwise admirable bodies).
But folks, "something must be done" and this means the regeneration boondoggle will continue - Slough (home of Amazon in the UK) are appointing a new boss in this area at a salary of £126,000, for example. And the great regenerator who lands the job won't solve Slough's problems but will doubtless leave behind a masterplan or two, a collection of shiny schemes and a room filled with regeneration and economic development strategies.
Regeneration doesn't work.