I am excited to begin a project this year on bringing jobs to a county in Northern New England, my home stomping ground. I have worked on economic development projects for years as a futurist, from the state of South Dakota to the Prince of Monaco. This year, in 2012, something is different: many people accept that the old methods no longer work.
The old methods functioned for just about everyone in the industrialized world for decades. Here's the recipe for those who have forgotten:
- Build real estate out beyond traditional downtowns
- Make sure developments are centered around the automobile, not trains, buses or waterways
- Expand two main activities - big box retail and sterile office complexes
- Ship existing manufacturing elsewhere
- Invite large companies to come in and occupy office complexes
- Build existing suburbs into bigger suburbs with bigger homes
- Offer tax breaks and cheap infrastructure for all of the above
This actually "worked" pretty well for the last few decades, except for the fact that now we have empty office parks, terrible urban design, empty state tax coffers, and suburbs filled with Baby Boomers in McMansions who are hoping to unload their house at a profit before the whole market collapses. Oh, and there's 10% unemployment. So, in terms of "developing" an economy, it was a groteque disaster, unsustainable and hideous to boot.
Since the crash of 2008, I was dismayed to see a large percentage of economic development groups attempt to repeat the above recipe in vain, like an old medicine man waving his arms in the old Rain Dance, just praying for it to work one last time. (Check out an episode of This American Life on the overly chipper cult of economic development councils pretending that nothing is wrong.) The good news is that everyone appears tired of flapping their arms and looking silly. People appear to be ready for the next phase - actually thinking about the future of job creation.
Some principles are evident in this next phase: There is no such thing as best practices anymore. What works for Texas may be terrible for Tennessee, and may not even resemble what Greece gets up to. There likely won't be a centrally-controlled glut of credit coming from Wall Street/Washington/London/Frankfurt to float all boats from Boca Raton to Belgium to Athens and back- so people are going to have to use actual ingenuity and local resources. Things will take on a local diversity we haven't seen in fifty years or more.
I am excited for this new, post-bubble phase of economic development, which I think will be healthier, more interesting and more humane for communities everywhere. And that's reason to get up in the morning.
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This is my last posting for the next few days. I will be taking my office apart so that we can move to our new apartment downtown next Tuesday. I will be unplugged and disconnected except by tablet. Expect me to be back in the saddle before the end of next week probably in time to provide you with some more headlines. In the interim these are the stories I share with you this week:
Today, literally thousands of alternative transportation vehicles are coming out of the woodwork and they nearly all have the same problem – no place to drive them. Most are banned from biking and hiking trails, and they are neither licensed, nor licensable, for use on the streets. I’d like to discuss some new possible solutions and why Colorado is poised to take the lead in the alternative transportation marketplace.
In a recent conference promoting not only their latest gizmos but their company's animating vision as well, Google executives declared they were working toward a future in which technology "disappears," "fades into the background," becomes more "intuitive and anticipatory." Commenting on this apparently "bizarre mission for a tech company," Bianca Bosker warns that their genial and enthusiastic promotional language masks Google's aspiration to omnipresence via invisibility, an effort to render us dependent and uncritical of their prevalence through its marketing as easy, intuitive, companionable.
Occasionally during meetings one of my staff – an avid birder – will elbow me and I’ll look up and glimpse a bald eagle. Each time, I am in awe. I live in Washington State, which is home to a plethora of eagles, where pods of Orca ply the waters near the San Juan Islands, and where roads are sometimes blocked by herds of elk.
In this month's Report on Business Magazine, a supplement that comes with The Globe and Mail, one of Canada's national newspapers, Stanford University's Mark Jacobson provides a best case scenario
According to The Hollywood Reporter, celebrity tech CEO Peter Thiel is upset that movies like The Matrix and Avatar make technological innovation seem "destructive and dysfunctional."
A team of researchers are asking the public to help them locate and count all the sources of CO2 coming from power plants on the planet.
Initial results from a selective breeding program at the National Institute of Agricultural Botany based in Cambridge in the UK, indicate the successful creation of a new super wheat.