Local Culture, Politics, and Economic Development

Economic development is much, much more than mere economics and economic development strategies!

Huntington_town_meeting

Don’t agree? How about conducting a public hearing, making a presentation at a legislative budget hearing, reading a newspaper report on your last Board meeting, and stumbling upon some irate idiot at the grocery store or the Saturday night social event. Economic developers live in, and work for, communities full of people, not economic regions populated by statistics and methodologies. Communities have a history, cultural values and beliefs, governments and politicians, conflicting interest and demographic groups–and every so often some bozo from the State or Federal government wanders in to help put “order” in your life. Economics is important to economic development, but doing, working and living economic development is a lot more than just economics.

And that is why we have the theme Local Culture, Politics, and Economic Development.

Articles in 'Local Culture, Politics, and Economic Development'

What the Heck is Going On with Local Economic Development?

I’m amazed how little is written about what goes on at the state and local levels.

Most of us work in a community or at the state level and our daily professional lives are a lot more complicated than simply “creating jobs/clusters”, “preparing knowledge-based workers” or “developing disruptive entrepreneurs”. OK–there is the usual flood of blogs describing new policy issues, incredibly brilliant programs, and cutting-edge economic development strategies. But there is precious little about what it is like to work in sub-state economic development. There is seldom anyone who writes about how things get done locally and how a local economic developer can function effectively. That is what this issue is about.

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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?

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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.

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Speaking as a Unit of Human Capital

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.

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Bloomberg: The Neo-Liberal Economic Developer?

I’ve been reading stuff lately about the goings on in New York City. The new De Blasio administration is proclaimed by many to be the wave of the future? For me it’s too early to tell. Only fair to give the poor soul at least a full year before we see what his new approach shakes down to be. […]

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

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.

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Detroit: Why Bankruptcy? Why Bankruptcy Now?

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 […]

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Silicon Valley and Route 128: The Camelots of Economic Development

Silicon Valley and the Route 128 Massachusetts Miracle are a bit of reality and myth tossed together like a Caesar salad. In recent years, the Silicon Valley, in particular, has become a Camelot of sorts for economic developers–a place where the mythical king of technology, innovation and creativity ruled over the dominion of the knowledge-based economy. These magical geographies have personified the holy grail of economic development. What are the realities behind these legends? What lessons can we learn?

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Political Culture: the Mistoffelees of Economic Development

Economic Development is a frustrating profession! Everything an economic developer reads these days offers the great magic strategy or solution to the revitalization of your community. No economic developer is likely to admit it, but they have tried most of these strategies and, while some work better than others, none really works as advertised. Why? Because there is a secret known only to a few economic developers. What is that secret? One size-fits all-magic bullet-strategies don’t work because each community is in its own way different. Why is each community different? Because of something called political and social culture. What is political and social culture? Read on and get introduced to the Mr. Mistoffelees of Economic Development.

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Business Climate and the Second War Between the States

In October 2011 the Curmudgeon wrote a review entitled “Business Climate in the New Normal”. This is both a MAJOR rewrite and a SIGNIFICANT update. Business Climate and the Second War Between the States (Or Do We Mean the Political Parties) Everyone in economic development has heard about state business climate and the ratings and rankings that are published by virtually every Think […]

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