Big Ideas of (the First Half of) 2011

June 17, 2011

I promised in my last post that I would do one final entry on the Prosperity Blog before I leave the PSRC. And, since today is my last day, there’s no time like the present to make that happen. I also promised that this last post would be entirely self-indulgent and nostalgic, and I can think of no post that fits the bill more than the annual Prosperity Blog Year In Ideas feature – the yearly tradition in which I point out to you all how good my thoughts on economic development are, in Top Ten format.

Since it’s only halfway through the year (June 30 is less than two weeks away!), I’ll cut that Top Ten down to Top Five. And so, without further ado…and with no more ado ever again by me on this blog…here are the best practical proposals for improving our region’s business climate and competitiveness (and the most impractical, sky’s-the-limit ideas) I’ve had so far in 2011.

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Games: Not Just For Fun Anymore

May 3, 2011

Well, I suppose that games haven’t been exclusively fun for a while. The military engages in “war games,” which are only entertaining if starring Matthew Broderick. And I don’t suppose the two incarcerated people in “the prisoners dilemma” think that game theory is a laugh-a-minute riot (although this clip from the British game show Golden Balls based on that concept is highly amusing).

But generally, when we think of games – particularly video games – we think enjoyment. So what if I told you that video games aren’t all, um, “fun and games” anymore? Would you say, “Well, I’d have to see that for myself!”? If so, then you’re in luck, because the next Prosperity Partnership Industry Cluster Tour is coming up on June 3, and it’s focused on the interactive media cluster!

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Here’s the Governor’s Higher Education Funding Task Force Proposal. Now What?

January 6, 2011

There’s been a lot of press and a lot of reaction (both positive & negative) to the press conference this past Monday at which the Governor’s Higher Education Funding Task Force presented their recommendations. Your trusty Prosperity Blog has been following this story since the summer, and – while this blog is not for policy-advocacy, per se – I do think that it’s important to clarify a few things that initial reactions to the proposal are getting wrong:

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Why I Can’t Support STEM Education

December 28, 2010

Not because I don’t support it. But rather because I can’t figure out what organizations to donate to!

Here’s the deal: each year, in lieu of presents, my wife’s family does a “philanthropic secret santa.” That is, you pick one family member’s name out of a hat and then make a donation in their honor to a charity that you think they’d appreciate. It’s a great way to be generous around the holidays (and get out of finding a good present). For example, a couple years back, I picked my sister-in-law out of the hat; she works in public health with kids and she’s a jogger, so I donated to Girls on the Run. This year, I picked my wife’s cousin’s boyfriend, and I knew immediately what I wanted to donate to. His dad was a major aerospace engineer back in the day, so I thought it’d be great to donate to a nonprofit that helps underprivileged K-12 kids get excited about science and engineering. The problem was that I had a really hard time finding anything.

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It’s the Most Wonderful Time Of the Year (in Ideas): Big Ideas of 2010

December 15, 2010

I can’t wait for this Sunday. It’s literally my favorite day of the year. Why? Because the New York Times Magazine’s Year in Ideas issue is going to arrive at my doorstep! (I know, that’s a very nerdy reason for a day to be one’s favorite, but what can I say…I love ideas!) The NYT issue is apparently the 10th annual, but it also serves another important annual role: inspiring the creation of the Prosperity Blog’s 2nd annual “Big Ideas” post!

To quote from last year’s, we here at the Prosperity Blog have also had a good year of ideas, generating all sorts of practical proposals for improving our region’s business climate and competitiveness. But, of course, we have also had lots of impractical, sky’s-the-limit ideas that we hope someone is going to take and run with and make all our dreams come true. So, for all you good-idea-awaiting folks out there, here’s a summary…presented in Top Ten format:

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Making Science Cool Is Hard To Do

November 30, 2010

At the Prosperity Blog, we’re your one-stop source for random efforts to make science cool. A few weeks ago, we chronicled the use of cheerleaders to make science sexy. So, it’s no surprise that we’re on the case when someone is working to make science rawk (that’s how rock stars pronounce the word “rock”, as in “let’s rawk out!”).

Now, of course, in its own inimitable humor, the Prosperity Blog is poking gentle fun at these efforts because we think it’s probably going to take more than a few cheerleaders and members of the band Poison to actually get kids to want to earn STEM degrees (although technically, “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” is a botany lesson, and is specifically about stems). But it begs the question: how ARE we going to get kids interested in math and science?

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Women and High Demand Degrees, Part II

November 15, 2010

Getting more women into STEM fields is a topic the Prosperity Blog has covered in the past. And so, it’s just a matter of course that we’d want to do a follow-up post when related news comes to our attention. Right? I mean, that’s all I’m saying. There’s nothing wrong with consistency, and we’re merely a neutral third party connecting you with interesting content. I’d say that NOT linking to this article would be the more questionable call…don’t you think? Therefore, please feel free to peruse the first – and likely last – article we ever link to from a Gawker Media site: Pro Cheerleaders Become Science Cheerleaders.


The Case for State Investment in Higher Education

September 7, 2010

When you try to make “the economic development case for higher education,” it’s pretty easy. I’m not just talking about the huge economic impact of higher education institutions like the University of Washington. I’m talking about how important it is to the economy for people to get higher education. The Seattle Times put it pretty well yesterday: “More skills or less pay.”

The funny thing is that, while the above argument is easy to make, there’s a related one that’s not so easy: “the economic development case for state investment in higher education.” Read the rest of this entry »


Hey Kid, Go Be Entrepreneurial

August 3, 2010

One of the things that we hear a lot about in the economic development community is the importance of small business and entrepreneurship. A majority of jobs get created by small business, to say nothing about how many new products and innovations get launched that way as well. Here in Washington state, we’re great at entrepreneurship, with one of the highest rates of business starts per capita…except that we also have one of the highest rates of business failures per capita.

We’ve done a lot of research on that topic, and there are several reasons why those stats are somewhat misleading (for example, the high percentage of seasonal businesses…like farming…that get created and then close on purpose each year). And there’s issues with the B&O as a tax on businesses in the “valley of death” (pre-profitable, yet forced to pay a gross revenues tax). But it’s also true that successfully starting and running a business is hard, and there’s not actually a lot of resources out there to prepare you for it. Read the rest of this entry »


How Dare People Study Russian in College!

June 10, 2010

Since the beginning of the Great Recession,  I’ve noticed  a lot more handwringing about the costs of college and whether college is “worth it” anymore.  The big NYT piece a couple weeks ago highlighted a woman who has $100,000 in debt from her four-year degree at NYU, which she can’t pay because she doesn’t make enough money. But why doesn’t she make enough money? She got a liberal arts degree! Read the rest of this entry »


How to Increase Your Income 200 Times

April 22, 2010

This is not a post about a surefire real estate scheme, or about how to earn thousands of dollars for just minutes a day working from home.  It is however a post about a surefire income increasing scheme.  

Korean School

Studying english at a Korean elementary school

As I mentioned in a post earlier this week, since the 1960s Korea has increased its per capita income by 200x, from $100 to over $20,000. 

How did it happen? Korea has invested in – and values – education and research to an unbelievable degree. Part of this is cultural. Confucian ideals guide Korea to a significant degree. But there is a widespread understanding that education is they key to individual and collective prosperity.  Read the rest of this entry »


Women and High Demand Degrees

April 20, 2010

If you listen closely, you can hear a whole bunch of the communications and government relations staff here at the Puget Sound Regional Council dropping their coffee mugs in fear and saying, “Uh oh, what is Eric going to write about gender and workforce issues that he is going to mean comically but will come off as controversial and get us all fired?” But don’t worry, team, I’m not going to do anything other than point out a very revealing set of statistics about the education levels of women… Read the rest of this entry »


Stop Labelling Me!

March 16, 2010

No, this is not a post about someone who keeps using one of those old school label makers to affix label stickers to me. It’s additional musing on yesterday’s super-wonky post in which I mentioned that industry cluster labels can get in the way of understanding how core goods and services in the economy can be used cross-sector. The example I used was aerospace machine shops being used to make wind turbine replacement parts: how would we know that we’re a region that has the capacity to be the center of wind turbine replacement part manufacturing if we didn’t look at a mix of occupational and cluster data? Read the rest of this entry »


Higher Education News Intersections: Coincidence? Yes.

February 17, 2010

I was in the doctor’s office on Monday, and their magazines are woefully out of date.  For some reason, they rely on donated magazines for their waiting room, so everything was old.  I ended up reading a November 2009 Newsweek article by Senator Lamar Alexander on “Why College Shouldn’t Take Four Years“. So, imagine my surprise when, the next day, I saw that our state Senate had done exactly what Alexander recommended. Read the rest of this entry »


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