Changing landscape for development strategy: Part 5 Compete outside the box

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(Understanding the changing landscape for real estate development strategy is a natural topic for Mike Saint, who founded The Saint Consulting Group in 1983 and has led its growth to become the world’s largest political land use consultancy. The Saint Report continues a series on this changing landscape)

By P. Michael Saint, The Saint Consulting Group

The competitive landscape is changing. Increasing government laws and regulations make it possible for some firms to win while their competitors lose, by expanding the competition beyond the traditional boxes. See Wharton Business School Professor Richard Shell’s outstanding book, Make the Rules or Your Rivals Will.

These days competition is not limited to price, product, service and marketing. The playing field has expanded. In many industries, the field now includes using governmental zoning, planning and environmental rules and regulations (not to mention intellectual property laws and other regulations) to give one firm an advantage over  competitors.

In the old days, people welcomed all new development. New stores meant new jobs, new taxes and new progress for a community. City Hall’s response to a proposed real estate development was often, “when do you want the mayor at your ground breaking ceremony?”

But over the years, anti-growth, anti-sprawl, and pro-smart growth movements have spread across the country. Citizens have become advocates for protecting the environment and historic sites and stopping new construction that will add to increasing traffic jams.

These trends have opened the door to incumbent firms to influence local zoning and planning decisions in a way that protects their multi-million-dollar investments from competing entrants.

By helping neighbors and environmentalists encourage local officials to keep out new development (and Saint Index® polls show 74% of Americans want nothing new to be built in their communities), they protect their own capital investments and protect their own gross margins.

Mike Saint is chairman and CEO of The Saint Consulting Group, email

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