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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“The Goal of Business isn’t to Create Jobs.”

May 6, 2011

Yesterday was the kick-off meeting of the Regional Economic Strategy Technical Advisory Group…or, as I like to call them, the RESTAG (you already know from things like B-MOW and REDEW that I’m terrible at acronyms). For those of you who have been reading about our preparations to start developing a new Regional Economic Strategy, you’ll be happy to hear that we’ve moved from talking about doing it to actually starting!

And start, we did. With about 50 people packing the PSRC Boardroom, we introduced our consultants – TIP Strategies of Austin, TX – and got people thinking about the major issues that are going to frame our thinking about the strategy: things like the increasing divergence in economic opportunity between people with and without college education, the impacts of our aging workforce and trends (both positive and negative) with regard to manufacturing.

But what stood out the most from the TIP Strategies presentation wasn’t any of those, but rather a point so simple yet fundamental that it was almost revolutionary to hear. And, with full attribution to them, I wanted to share it with all of you: “the goal of business isn’t to create jobs.”

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Economic Development Through Tax Incentives

April 8, 2011

Often, us in the Washington state economic development world mention the challenges that we have in not being able to engage in traditional economic development incentives. Because of our state constitution, we can’t do a lot of the direct financial offerings to companies that other states do, as it violates our “lending of credit” provision.

But this article in the trusty New York Times points out that using incentives to lure companies across state borders can be a tough way to do economic development“:

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DIY Economic Development – The Tourism Industry Way

March 8, 2011

We live in an interesting time for the public sector. Local and state governments are struggling to allocate scarce tax dollars to a variety of important programs and needs, and often short term issues (public safety, social services) are winning out over long-term investments like higher education and economic development. Whether you think that’s the right way or the wrong way to approach it, that’s what’s happening, and so it’s interesting to see how economic development organizations are dealing with the new reality.

And one of the most interesting reactions that we’re seeing is “Fine, if you won’t help me, I’ll do it myself.” Like the tourism industry is proposing to do.

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Three Interesting Economic Development Findings in the GAO’s “Government Duplication” Report

March 2, 2011

It’s time for everyone’s favorite game show, “Pretend that the federal budget problems can be solved by eliminating waste!” And by “everyone’s favorite,” I’m referring to the “60 percent saying the federal budget’s problems can be ameliorated by eliminating waste, fraud and abuse.” Which is right up there for me with “government should be run more like a business” on the list of things that people who don’t understand government like to say.

IMHO.

Which is not to say that there aren’t opportunities for streamlining and improving government, like the ones pointed out in this new GAO report, poignantly named “Opportunities to Reduce Potential Duplication in Government Programs, Save Tax Dollars, and Enhance Revenue.” Among the many parts of the federal government examined, there’s a section about how “Efficiency and Effectiveness of Fragmented Economic Development Programs Are Unclear” (starting on page 42). Here are three interesting things about that section:

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The Worst Best News

February 28, 2011

So, I was at an event on Thursday where it was announced that a new company was moving to our region that would be employing 400 new software developers and engineers. Great rejoicing occurred, especially since this was only hours after the big tanker contract announcement. And look, 400 new jobs is a lot of jobs, especially high demand jobs that will have multipliers throughout the economy.

But I might be the only person in the room who heard this news and got worried. How the heck are we going to find 400 software developers in this region?

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Celebrating Taxes and Economic Development

October 15, 2009

OK, I’m going to continue my modest proposal/rant from yesterday about getting everyone on board if we want to truly achieve our vision for a prosperous metropolitan region. I was at the Leadership Tomorrow Economy Day today, where the 80 young leaders spend a day learning about our region’s economy, and it was fascinating to listen in on the conversation. Read the rest of this entry »