For this week’s Present Value post, we interviewed Gina Lavery, Senior Vice President and Principal of Econsult Solutions and the new head of ESI Center for the Future of Cities. In this conversation, she talks about the opportunities cities have related to transportation, technology advances, and more! Get to know Gina and more about ESI Center for the Future of Cities through the Q&A below.
As lead principal for ESI’s Economic Development practice, how has your experience prepared you to lead ESI Center for the Future of Cities?
GL: As a leader in ESI’s economic development practice, I have seen first hand the consistent need for cities, neighborhoods, community-serving organizations, and major economic development projects to address problems in their communities with interdisciplinary and holistic solutions. For example, when we’re working with a local government on their economic development plan, we aren’t simply listing the standard economic development incentives or approaches that used to comprise a plan; in today’s economy we are developing forward-looking strategies with an eye to how technology and future economic shifts will influence a place’s competitiveness. That means we as a firm need to be aware of the economic issues and policy climate as we always have, but we also need to be in a position to understand and provide insights into how the latest urban economic research and technological developments will affect how places grow and thrive.
What are some priorities you are most excited to explore in the coming months?
GL: I’m excited for our team to build on the research and thought leadership we have already done around electric vehicle policy. The interplay of innovations in transportation bumping up against longstanding questions of equity and gentrification in our cities is exactly the type of problem-solving I want ESI Center for the Future of Cities to continue to explore. Another priority for the summer will be the exploration of the “smart” technology being used to enhance urban resilience in cities. That research will be undertaken in large part by our Center for the Future of Cities Fellows, who will be developing metrics for an index of mid-sized cities addressing resilience in their communities.
What are some of the biggest opportunities for cities planning for economic competitiveness?
GL: Figuring out how to leverage smart technology is a huge opportunity for cities to explore. I don’t mean simply jumping on the smart cities/tech adoption bandwagon, but rather identifying the tools that improve quality of life for residents and visitors. What we have seen since coming out of the pandemic is increased fluidity in where people want to live and work. For places to compete for residents and workers they need to improve the suite of services and amenities that they offer. The right smart technology can help cities enhance their value proposition by improving services, enhancing public spaces, and just generally improving the attractiveness of their communities.
How can others get involved?
GL: I would love to hear from other smart city practitioners, urban planners, and policy experts on the issues they see affecting our communities in the years to come. ESI’s Center for the Future of Cities is our opportunity to examine big, hard to define topics and figure out what we think they mean for our communities. Some other topics we hope to explore in 2023 include the implementation of broadband access in communities across the U.S. and how the internet of things is influencing the built environment. I encourage anyone interested in joining us in our research or in learning more about our research agenda to connect with us on social media or by contacting me directly at [email protected]
Gina Lavery is Senior Vice President and Principal of Econsult Solutions, Inc. (ESI). Ms. Lavery has led a range of projects for ESI, primarily focused on urban planning, real estate, transportation, higher education, and public policy—particularly where these areas intersect with economic development.
Mike Daly is the Business Development Manager at Econsult Solutions, Inc. (ESI), where he supports the marketing and business development team. In addition to assisting with proposals, he is responsible for enhancing ESI’s brand and work through traditional and social media, content development for the web, and managing the ESI blog, Present Value.