Why I write about community wealth….

After a career that bridged public finance, local economic development and commercial real development, I decided (after a short break to pursue a history project) to pursue a Ph.D. in Public Policy and Administration. My goals were to reflect upon my past actions as a local economic development practitioner and determine how I could add to the local economic development literature. Prior to entering the Ph.D. program my interest centered on the relationship between real estate valuation and development taxes imposed by local governments. I prepared a descriptive study on this topic (as an independent scholar) for a conference sponsored by the American Real Estate and Urban Economic Association in 2008.  When I entered VCU’s Ph.D. program in 2016, I broadened my interests to explore the high tax-low wage retail and tourism businesses that are often pursued by local economic development professionals (including myself).

My public finance and local economic development careers ended over two decades ago, so I had the full benefit of hindsight in reflecting on the local economic development policy options I developed and recommended to elected officials. I also had the benefit of observing the changing dynamics in real estate financing, retail markets and local wage policies over this same time span. So, it is from this foundation, that I developed a series of papers in my PhD classes that explored the priorities of local economic development programs and, specifically, the promotion and development of the tourism sector. This led to one conference paper, a number of blog posts, a published article in Economic Development Quarterly, a draft article for which I’m seeking a home, and my recently published dissertation. One theme that has emerged from all of these writings is a concept I’m labeling “community wealth.”

I’m defining community wealth as the monetary value derived from incomes of residents, the value of pubic infrastructure, and the portion of commercial real estate value which is directly associated with public investment. I find that this concept can be the center of an anti-racist planning model that can, through interdisciplinary teamwork, forge a unified front among residents of all colors and ideologies to advance the fortunes of local businesses and raise the income of the community’s working poor. In this blog I will present my research in a series of articles to develop and substantiate this argument, and in the end, develop a fresh anti-racist approach to local economic development.

s/Bill Farley


Bio: My first few careers focused on economic and community development and included leadership positions in both the public and private sectors – including eight years in the City Manager’s Office in Sacramento, eight years as a small-business owner, and nine years with Fortune 1000 companies. During this time I negotiated over $2.0 billion in public-private partnerships and real estate investments. My roles have included leading the City of Sacramento Economic Development Division, heading the strategic planning and site selection group at  Southern California Edison’s Corporate Real Estate Department, and serving as a Vice President of Granite Construction’s real estate subsidiary. I have taught graduate courses in public policy, program evaluation and public finance at USC’s Price School of Public Policy.


  • Ph.D., Public Policy and Administration, L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs, Virginia Commonwealth University.
  • M.P.A., Price School of Public Policy, University of Southern California.
  • B.S., College of Education, Oregon State University.

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