Date of Conferral





Public Policy and Administration


Linda L. Day


As the U.S. economy changed from industry to information, small cities suffered a decline in quality of life and an increase in poverty. The existing research has focused on demographics and descriptive attributes of micropolitan cities, but not on efforts to overcome these challenges. The purpose of this study was to explore and understand how a micropolitan city used economic and community development policies to rebuild its economy and improve quality of life. Using Holland's conceptualization of complex adaptive systems, research questions focused on triggers for policy creation and its use to create social change by improving the local economy and reducing the effects of poverty. Data for this qualitative case study were collected through open-ended questions in semi structured interviews with policymakers (elected officials), policy implementers (city employees), and policy influencers (community leaders). Interviews were supplemented with document review and photographic observation. The data were analyzed using descriptive coding, categorical aggregation, and direct interpretation to identify overarching themes of acceptance, resilience, building on strengths, and the interwoven nature of policy. The findings indicate that economic and community development policies can lead to positive changes such as the rehabilitation of blighted areas, growth of new and existing businesses, and influence state policy, illustrating the attributes of complex adaptive systems. The positive social change implications of this study include recommendations to city administrators to develop economic and community development policy based on their unique circumstances, to build partnerships, promote community change, and build a positive mindset to benefit their city and citizens.