The Next Five Years of Our Economy

So, when the Prosperity Partnership first formed and developed the Regional Economic Strategy, it was always meant as a five year plan. Or rather, not a five year plan in the control/command economy sense, but a five year strategy. We wanted to see what short-term, tangible things we could do to move the needle on increasing economic prosperity and job creation.

Great Recession aside, there have been some good successes, and we’re coming up on 2010 faster than I’d like to admit. I’ve been thinking for a while now about what’s next, and I’d love to get all those great economic development minds out there thinking about it. I’ve got three thoughts:

1) The Double Down Strategy: Almost everything in the Strategy is as true as it was five years ago, and in some ways more important (in that we need more than ever to invest in what we have to sustain and grow it). Let’s forget about the Regional Economic Strategy as a five year plan and just make it a non-time specific guide for our region’s economic development efforts.

2) The Reboot Strategy: Some things have changed, and I’m not just talking about the collapse of the banking and housing industries. I’m also talking about the rise of some industry clusters like interactive media, global health and fashion (seriously, look it up), not to mention the fact that we still haven’t developed a regional economic strategy for the specialty foods industry. So, we could either add to the list of seven clusters we focus on now, replace some or develop different levels of cluster focus and support depending on how much a given industry needs attention.

3) The Long Range Strategy: Maybe five years isn’t the best time horizon anymore, particularly because these next five years are going to be colored by “recovery” so much. Maybe we need to sync the Regional Economic Strategy with the PSRC’s other planning documents – Vision 2040 and Transportation 2040 – and go to a 30 year planning horizon. What are our goals and vision for the economy in 2040, and then what’s our 30 year strategy to get there.

As much as I like #3, it’s dangerous for two reasons. First, it’s a lot easier to be less accountable with a 30 year planning horizon. One of the great things about the Prosperity Partnership is that it’s been all about “what are you going to accomplish now,” and then either you do or you don’t.

Second, though, the economy changes. If you’d done a thirty year plan in 1990, you probably would have missed a majority of the industry clusters that we focus on (IT certainly, clean tech definitely, maybe even life sciences). Who knows how the market will change in the next thirty? You’d have to design something that was a little more flexible, but it’s definitely doable.

Thoughts, inspirations, Chairman Mao jokes?

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