Journal of Applied Research in Economic Development

An Introduction to A History of American State and Local Government: As Two Ships Pass in the Night


Dr. Ron W. Coan

Editor of the Journal of Applied Research in Economic Development

Senior Fellow, Council for Community and Economic Research

A New Way to Think About State and Local Economic Development

 As Two Ships:

A History of American State and Local Government: As Two Ships Pass in the Night

 Yogi Berra supposedly claimed "the future ain't what it used to be" --- well either is our past. Back to the roots of American economic development.

How we got to where we are today. 

Latest Articles

July 2015

Questioning Paradigms: Manchester England and the Plight of Legacy Cities

Manchester and other northern UK cities share many of the same problems as our Northeast and Midwest Great Lakes legacy cities–they have lost a great deal of their economic meaning because of changes in logistics and deindustrialization. At the moment their national government has launched a major effort to promote “northern cities” economic development. What can we learn from them?

June 2015

Questioning the Value of Economic Multiplier Estimates

What if anything do estimated economic multipliers really mean? What are some basic principles policymakers should use when thinking about the prospective impact of new projects in their communities? Click Questioning the Value of Economic Multiplier Estimates and see what Edward G. Keating, Irina Danescu, and Robert Murphy from the RAND Corporation have to say?

May 2015

Chambers of Commerce: First Wave Magicians of Main Street

Can you believe up to now no one has written a modern history of American chambers of commerce? Not until Chris Mead recently published his one-of-a-kind Magicians on Main Street. So let’s use Magicians of Main Street and investigate how well the conventional wisdom concerning the FIRST Wave of economic development holds up. If the First Wave doesn’t prove accurate–what does it say about the other two waves?

April 2015

Economic Developers: Ignore the Glitz! Focus on What Matters

The core idea behind this series of articles is to help local economic developers navigate and function effectively within their communities–sort of an on-the-job helpful advice. In this issue, we deepen our understanding of the Policy/Practitioner World nexus building upon two elements introduced in the first issue. To penetrate more deeply into the local situation, we will also introduce a new concept: “the policy cycle”. The thrust of our article/series is to move from the glitz–concentrate on making programs work–concentrate on developing programs that address community concerns. problems, and opportunities as they see and feel them.

March 2015

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.

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.