I am currently a research professor in City and Regional Planning at UNC-Chapel Hill. In August 2023, I became professor and director of the Master’s of Urban and Regional Planning program at the University of Minnesota, Humphrey School of Public Affairs. My work focuses on the institutional arrangements that lead to more inclusive forms of urban and regional economic development and specifically, the role that practitioners can play in aligning growth and equity goals. 

I conduct research in three related areas of economic development.  First, I focus on emergent labor market institutions that shape employer behavior and open up opportunities for displaced and disadvantaged workers to transfer existing and newly acquired skills to more secure and technologically sophisticated work environments—a topic central to my book Putting Skill to Work: How to Create Good Jobs in Uncertain Times (MIT Press 2021). Second, I examine the link between innovation and local knowledge, especially the institutional factors that enhance the knowledge contribution of actors traditionally viewed as peripheral to processes of innovation, industrial upgrading and urban resilience. Finally, I focus on how institutional actors responsible for promoting and financing state and local economic development collaborate in innovative ways to encourage more inclusionary business practices and outcomes. Combined, my work seeks to understand the conditions under which more inclusionary forms of economic development take shape and draws lessons for scaling institutional action and coordination.

I have received funding support from the National Science Foundation, Kauffman Foundation, Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, the North Carolina Biotechnology Center, Institute for Emerging Issues, the NC Policy Collaboratory and UNC-Chapel Hill’s Institute for Arts and Humanities, Global Research Institute, Center for Urban and Regional Studies, Institute for the Study of the Americas and the College of Arts and Science.

I received my Ph.D. in Economic Development and Planning from MIT. I have consulted on projects for the International Labour Organization, Inter-American Development Bank, Bank of the Northeast Brazil, Ontario Ministry of Economic Development and Trade, the Chicagoland Workforce Funder Alliance, the Kenan Institute for Private Enterprise, the Council for Entrepreneurial Development and the North Carolina Department of Commerce and Board of Science and Technology.

nlowe (at) unc.edu  or  nlowe (at) umn.edu