My professional prologue…

After a career that bridged public finance, local economic development and commercial real development, I decided (after a short break to complete a Montana 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 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 have the full benefit of hindsight in reflecting on the local economic development policy options I developed and recommended to elected officials. I also have 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 Ph.D. 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, peer-reviewed articles in Economic Development Quarterly and the Journal of Policy History, and my recently published dissertation. My interest in the distribution of economic benefits served as the basis for another peer-reviewed article which was recently accepted by the Journal of Urban Affairs. This article uses a case study of a university’s mega-project to document transparency and outcomes in distributing economic benefits from new development.

I now delve deep into land value capture mechanisms as a means to address living wage deficits in hospitality sectors where local governments extract extraordinary taxes. I am using Montana’s tourism industry as the case for this study. I will present my published research and DIY posts here to help community organizers, planners and budget officers determine an equitable distribution of benefits from new development projects and hospitality taxes. Thank you for reading. Comments appreciated.

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. My research on Montana’s history and economic development appears in peer-reviewed journals, trade magazines and this website.


  • Ph.D., Public Policy and Administration, L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs, Virginia Commonwealth University, 2021.
  • M.P.A., Price School of Public Policy, University of Southern California, 1987.
  • B.S., College of Education, Oregon State University, 1982..

From the Archives (1994-1997):

A Legacy of Big Deals (local coverage of my exit from public service).

Landing a longshot deal to renovate and fill an empty military base.

The Conversion of Sacramento Army Depot into Packard Bell Industrial Park, Real Estate Review (Spring 1996) 56-57.

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