Latest Articles

August 2014

Are Economic Developers Still Held Hostage to the Mobility of Capital?

Economic development’s most deep-seated axiom is that capital is mobile, people can exit, and business can move to greener pastures. How do we get our collective hands around the sad fact nothing is tied down, and our job description/paycheck require us to wave some magic wand and make the problem go away? Paul Peterson’s classic City Limits (1881), questions whether a city can overcome the mobility of capital. Let’s update Peterson and see how things have changed.

July 2014

Speaking as a Unit of Human Capital

1916 Ad Urging Human Capital to Go to Get an Education

This inequality debate is nothing but potential trouble for economic developers? An economic developer can potentially produce inequality no matter what he or she does. The first step in dealing with inequality is to understand what causes it. For one answer we turn to Brink Lindsey, Human Capitalism: How Economic Growth Has Made Us Smarter–And More Unequal. Lindsey presently with the Cato Institute was a former Senior Research Fellow at Kauffman. His argument turns knowledge-based economics, a popular economic development approach, on its head–suggesting it inadvertently plays a major role in causing inequality.

June 2014

May 2014

March 2014

You Think Working Where You Work is Bad? Try Working Here

One of these two guys looks like the Curmudgeon

Communities, even in the same state, want different things from economic development. They choose similar policies and programs sometimes, but “operate” their economic development programs in rather distinctive ways. And so, political culture enters into the day-to-day of economic development.

February 2014

Part II: How to Stop Digging the Legacy City Hole Deeper


A few weeks ago we published Part I of  our commentary on the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy report, Regenerating America’s Legacy Cities by Alan Mallach and Lavea Brachman. To refresh the reader, the Lincoln Institute report defines and identifies eighteen “legacy cities” as central cities with a minimum population of 50,000 (2010)  who have suffered more than a twenty […]

January 2014

First Step in Revitalizing Legacy Cities: Stop Digging the Hole Deeper (Part I)


It’s no secret in economic development that some American cities are in deep, deep trouble. They are deep into a hole that at times seems bottomless. Detroit made the headlines in recent months, but we all know that many Great Lakes big cities and several older manufacturing centers have very serious issues. The Curmudgeon spent […]

November 2013

The Road Less Traveled: For Economic Developers who have the Courage to be Different

Which Way

As an economic developer you’re not supposed to do it–pick winners, that is! Can’t really be done, we’re told–just like timing the stock market. This advice is a truism and like all truisms, it’s true up to a point. No doubt it is correct that one cannot consistently pick winners and avoid losers.  There’s one problem […]

October 2013

Detroit: Why Bankruptcy? Why Bankruptcy Now?

The Renaissance Center

Like it or not, the Detroit bankruptcy filing is a page turner. What insights and lessons might an economic developer glean from it? That is our task in this issue. Since July 18th when the City of Detroit filed for the nation’s largest ever (in terms of debt) municipal bankruptcy, the Curmudgeon has been buried under an avalanche of different ideas explaining […]

September 2013

How Can I Create My Favorite State Ranking?


This article examines some of the methodological underpinnings of state economic rankings and what this means for interpreting rankings. State rankings typically are comprised of multiple measures and indicators, and the creators of these indexes face a difficult decision concerning which measures and indicators to include or exclude when making an overall ranking. This issue is compounded when rankings employ different weights to different components of measures and indicators, valuing one measure or indicator over another. We construct a hypothetical state ranking of entrepreneurship and innovation to demonstrate issues with selecting state economic rankings are both pervasive and popular.