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How Can We Do Economic Development When We Are Gridlocked?

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 "THE VANISHING NEIGHBOR" by Marc Dunkelman

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February 2015

The Vanishing Neighbor

Marc J. Dunkelman, The Vanishing Neighbor: the Transformation of American Community Why should an economic developer read a political sociology book? Because economic growth or decline is not simply the result of good and bad economics! Politics, cultural values, and changes in our personal lifestyles and relationships surprisingly can affect our success at the local and state levels. Despite its strange sounding name, the Vanishing Neighbor explores how economic changes generate societal changes with political consequences that make it difficult to develop effective solutions to address economic and social problems in our communities. What happens if societal change causes economic stagnation, inequality, and political gridlock? That’s what Dunkelman is trying to help us think through. Why does a vanishing neighbor change how we do our jobs?

January 2015

No Interrupting Peter Thiel: Zero to One

If entrepreneurialism, venture capital, and tech start up are your thing–this is exactly the kind of info you need to help evaluate proposals, perform due diligence on applications, understand tech business plans, and in general, familiarize yourself with technology business formation. Otherwise, this book can be a great crib sheet to follow the TV hit “Silicon Valley”. It is alleged by some that Thiel is the inspiration for the show’s character, Peter Gregory. I recommend Zero to One because it challenges our conventional principles about young tech companies, and introduces the reader to a new way of thinking and offers economic developers new ideas on how to evaluate potentially successful tech start up. Or if you prefer, it does make HBO’s Silicon Valley more hilarious.

November 2014

Is Joel Kotkin Economic Development’s Martin Luther?

The book jacket describes Joel Kotkin’s the New Class Conflict as a “call to arms and a unique piece of analysis about the possible evolution of our society into an increasingly quasi-feudal order”. The image of Kotkin as Martin Luther posting his famous 95 Theses came to my mind Using metaphors gleaned from the medieval world, Kotkin, the iconoclastic but extraordinarily insightful master of Curmudgeons, describes a new ruling class he believes dominate much of contemporary America. What has this got to do with economic development? Plenty! Kotkin’s description/critique of this New Class and its devastating consequences to our society and economy delivers a powerful blow to several prominent economic development strategies. Anyone in economic development can’t ignore this book–no more than the Pope could ignore the Protestant Reformation.

October 2014

Quo Vadis–Whither Goest the “Margins of our Labor Force”???

Economic and workforce developers typically confront unemployment by providing basic or enhanced skills and repositioning the unemployed into “hot” occupations or growing industry sectors. Alan B. Krueger, Judd Cramer and David Cho, “Are the Long-Term Unemployed on the Margins of the Labor Market”, Brookings Papers, however, challenge this paradigm and wonder if the unemployed may be on the margins of the labor market–on the road to dropping out completely. Who is Alan Krueger–from 2011 to August 2013 he was President Obama’s White House Chair of the Council of Economic Advisors. So what does Krueger have to say?

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

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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 […]