Coordination between Municipalities and Local Non-Municipal Public Units (NMPUs) for Supporting Urban Economic Development: Theoretical Analysis and Empirical Evidence for the Example of Universities in Germany
In many European cities, policymakers are trying to change the local paths of economic development to head in new directions, e.g. by trying to become a location for Non-Municipal Public Units (NMPUs), like federal special agencies, state museums, military bases, universities or publicly funded research institutes. But as the competencies for such local NMPUs are allocated to higher levels of government, the municipal level has no direct formal institutional responsibilities for influencing their location. Once a NMPU has chosen a certain location, support from the municipality may, however, stabilize the NMPU. There are some categories of NMPUs that should have considerable interest in local conditions, as determined by the municipal level. This paper first theoretically categorizes NMPUs with regard to their importance for the urban economy, with regard to the importance of local conditions for the performance of NMPUs and with regard to their degree of fiscal autonomy. It is shown that universities are one example of NMPUs where the relevance of coordinating activities with the municipalities is fairly high. The benefits of universities for local economic development have often been discussed. From the point of view of universities, their capacity to attract human capital depends on factors which may be influenced by the municipalities. This means that there is a reciprocal relationship between municipalities and universities; coordination by cooperation between the partners could be useful for both – but in practice there is often a lack of cooperation. Information policy is one relevant field for coordination: the city should highlight publicly the advantages of local universities; the universities should highlight the advantages of their city. As information policy is a field for which empirical data is available, the empirical part of the paper presents results from an analysis based on the internet presentations of selected cities and universities. It is shown that in most cities the level of coordination in this field is so far quite low. One possible way to achieve a higher degree of coordination could be to introduce fiscal incentives for cities.