Regions matter because they are the real places where people live and work and where many critical issues facing our nation will be played out. The Federal Government should recognize the importance of regions to our future competitiveness and work with all levels of government and the private and civic sectors to develop a new Federal-regional partnership.
Recommendation #1: Promote performance-based regional compacts. Regions should be encouraged by Federal agencies to develop regional compacts that integrate housing, workforce, transportation and land-use strategies based on regional growth priorities. Following a "reverse RFP" approach, regions would request Federal agencies' participation in supporting the regional compacts. The Federal government should challenge regional leaders from government, business and nonprofit organizations to come together and develop regional strategies that will work for them. Regional compacts would include performance-based regional partnerships [which] could be linked to Federal government reforms based on the Government Performance and Results Act.
Recommendation #2: Support regional decision-making tools and strategies. As strategic investors and partners with regions, the Federal government should support the regional information and tools needed to improve regional performance. These include making Federal information more user-friendly to regional leaders and citizens and developing visualization, GIS and modeling, and community process tools. As part of the performance-based regional compact, Federal agencies should work with regional groups to ensure that the best information and decision tools are used to help create effective regional strategies. The critical issue is regional capacity to develop and guide the implementation of effective strategies.
Recommendation #3: Prepare Federal employees to foster regional cooperation. Building Federal capacity to work with regions is critical. This could include training Federal employees to support regional initiatives and problem solving. It could also include empowering Federal employees to grant waivers on Federal planning and program regulations to promote development of regional compacts, and defining regions with the flexibility to include the geography of real regions. Greater discretion in administering Federal programs might attract more talented individuals to public service.
Recommendation #4: Cooperate with the Alliance's Committee on Regions. The Alliance for Regional Stewardship, a national network of regional leaders, is creating a Committee of the Regions to be a focal point for regional thinking on the Federal-regional partnership and the development of new approaches to regional governance. This Committee composed of public, private and civic leaders from regions would be supported by the National Academy of Public Administration as an ongoing mechanism for organizing regional leaders for the Federal-regional dialogue.