Investment Advice from the Prosperity Blog

December 31, 2008

That is to say, never take investment advice from the Prosperity Blog…you’ll end up daytrading WaMu stock.  However, I thought this story was worth noting, not only because it’s great that biotech companies with strong links to our region did well financially.  The interesting part is why they did well: because biotech companies are, by their very nature, a long term investment.  Everyone knows that it takes years and years and plenty of patience to coax a new drug through the R&D process and the federal approval process, so they’re looking beyond the current downturn.  It’s a great reminder for economic development in our region, to remember to focus on the long term as we work to grow and sustain those industries (like biotech) in which we have or hope to develop a competitive advantage.

For example, it’s a hard time for clean tech startups to get venture funding or credit and low oil prices are a disincentive for alternative energy investment, but we believe that this is the industry of the future so we have to find ways to continue to develop it.  As Bob Drewel recently said at the Prosperity Partnership luncheon, “Now is not the time to take a step back on the investments that are going to ensure our future. Now is the time to double down!”

Alaska in the 3rd D

September 22, 2008

As the last speaker on the last panel of the last day of the Alaska State Chamber’s Conference, the diehards among us were listening to Bill Popp, Pres./CEO of the Anchorage Economic Development Corporation; explain his new online tool for professionals looking at their marketplace.

Popp, in trying to help those Alaskans among his audience understand the density of their marketplace to provide workforce or a consumer base, said, “(y)ou could take the entire population of Alaska and place it in Tacoma-Pierce County, and have some beds left over. Or, you could take Alaska’s population and fit it in 10 blocks in Beijing.”

That got me to thinking of the dynamics of Alaska. Most recognize the “D” of distance. We in Washington cope with it as international traders and as suppliers for Alaska. Many Washingtonians and Alaskans are making their fortunes in distance. Another “D” is diversity. Alaska has diversity with its attendant community benefits and social challenges. Alaska’s diversity profile doesn’t look like the U.S.’s, but the U.S.’s doesn’t look like any other countries’ either.

But an even greater “D” is depth. Alaska is one of those places where the bell curve of normal distribution is inverted. It has more than the normal ratio of people there who are the very best at what they do. And, at the other flange of the bell you find that grouping of very individualistic people, most appreciatively exemplified by Dick Proenneke.

This is not an unusual phenomenon. The Last Frontier is much like all the frontiers of America have been throughout its history. And, especially in much of the West, but also in smaller states that have remained on the American frontier, you find the same situation. Few states have the fortune to have so much of its leadership play on the national stage, as Alaska’s Gov. Palin is now. One exception that proves the rule may be Washington‘s Sen. Magnuson and Sen. Jackson, where circumstance and talent coalesce. (The only like comparison that comes to mind is Massachusetts’ Sen. Ted Kennedy and Sen. Kerry. Help me out with other examples.)

A politico recently told me the best elective job in the nation was as Senator of Vermont. That’s a state that has retained its frontier mentality over the centuries. Just recall Sen. Jeffords for an example. The rationale was that it’s a small state, in the same time zone and close to D.C. but far enough away that it takes a constituent’s sacrifice to come there and has a smaller workload that is shared with another.

At a long ago camping trip, when someone left a bit of Dutch Oven Peach Cobbler available for breakfast, a fellow camper helped me understand that state. He said, everyone in the world thinks of a Yankee as someone from the USA. But here, we think Yankees are people from north of the Mason-Dixon Line. In that quarter of the country, a Yankee is someone from New England. And, in New England, a Yankee is someone from Vermont. But in Vermont, a Yankee is only someone who eats pie for breakfast.

For Dutch Oven Peach Cobbler, this PNWer is willing to be called a Yankee.