Celebrating Fifteen Years of Civic Economics

Anniversary MapWe’ve been so busy in 2017, we totally forgot something huge.  Fifteen years ago in July, we left a conventional economic development consulting firm to establish Civic Economics, putting hard data and planning sensibilities to work on a wide range community and economic development challenges.  It’s been quite a ride so far, and we’re grateful to our clients and friends for bringing us so far.  So, from Matt and Dan, thanks!


Civic Economics on the Road: Unite in the Queen City

13227483_1335651469794715_940900916353978509_oAmazon and Empty Storefronts, released in January by Civic Economics and our friends at the American Booksellers Association, has made waves across the world of bricks and mortar retail. The 1700+ members of CBA, the Christian Retail Association, have invited Matt Cunningham to join them at Unite 2016, the International Christian Retail Show in Cincinnati.

Matt will be leading sessions on Monday, June 27 and Tuesday, June 28. The sessions will focus on the rise of Amazon and the New Localism as it relates to Christian retailers.

In case you missed it, learn more about Amazon and Empty Storefronts and the Civic Economics of Retail.

Photo: Kevin D. Hartnell via Wikimedia Commons



Cover ImageCivic Economics has produced a long string of studies on the economics of local retail and service businesses.  Thanks to years of collaboration with business organizations around the nation, the importance of independent, locally-owned business has become Retail Studies Composedconventional wisdom around the world.

On January 24 in Denver, Civic Economics and longtime partner the American Booksellers Association released Amazon and Empty Storefronts, which we believe will be a highly influential addition to the series.

In Empty Storefronts, we estimated the fiscal and land use impacts of Amazon for the nation and each state.  Though too many states still do not collect sales taxes on Amazon transactions, great progress has been made in the name of tax fairness.  Less well understood is the displacement of retail activity from traditional storefronts, pulling retail space and jobs out of American communities.  Perhaps most pressingly, this displacement produces an almost invisible property tax revenue loss impacting every community and school district in the nation.

At the study site, you’ll find a Complete Report and an Executive Summary available for download, as well as state summary sheets for each state and the District of Columbia.


In 2014, Amazon sold $44.1 billion worth of retail goods nationwide, all while avoiding $625 million in state and local sales taxes.

These sales are the equivalent of 31,000 retail storefronts or 107 million square feet of commercial space, which might have paid $420 million in property taxes.

A total of more than $1 billion in revenue is lost to state and local governments, $8.48 for every household in America.

Amazon also operated 65 million square feet of distribution space, employing roughly 30,000 full-time workers and 104,000 part-time and seasonal workers.

Even counting all the jobs in Amazon distribution centers, Amazon sales produced a net loss of 135,973 retail jobs nationwide.



Hacking Our City in the ATX

HOC - Group PictureAs Austin braced for the annual creativity crush of South By Southwest, a group of planners gathered to explore the challenges facing the city in the first annual Hack Our City.  Dan Houston was fortunate to join the group, which included a few locals and visitors from as far away as Seattle, Atlanta, and Arlington, VA.

With continuing and rapid economic growth, Austin has struggled to preserve affordability and mobility.  Hack Our City explored these closely related challenges in interdisciplinary teams. We may not have found the magic bullet, but the exercise left us locals with a host of great ideas and examples from around the country.

Thanks to SXSW Interactive and the Capital Factory for hosting us.  And look for opportunities to participate in Hack Our City next year.

Civic Economics in the Comics

Civic Economics in the Comics

Okay, we admit it: our reports may be a bit dry. They are informative, accessible, clear, organized, and those are good things, but we’re not designers and we have hard numbers to get across. So we’re always pleased when the client brings in a design professional to help communicate our findings.

This recent graphic for the Florida horsemen is our new favorite. Civic Economics and Cummings Associates of Boston studied the economic impact trends for horse racing in Florida, and were surprised ourselves at how positive the findings are. Did you know that Florida horse racing is bigger than Spring Training baseball? Or that Florida is actually growing as a hub for the racing industry nationwide? Neither did we. And now horsemen around the nation will, too, from this creative, concise summary of the findings.

Thanks to Remi Belloq of Kentucky’s Bluegrass Community and Technical College for this outstanding cartoon for an upcoming horsemen’s publication.

Learn more about the College’s North American Racing Academy here: