Recently, business retention was invoked as one reason to turn down zoning approval of a new business in a small community. Sure, there were two existing businesses in the same general retail category in the community already. But I couldn’t help but ask myself if City Council and Village Board members the best people to choose economic winners and losers. When does business retention become local protectionism, and is that a problem here?
“Companies that enjoy enduring success have core values and a core purpose that remain fixed while their business strategies and practices endlessly adapt to a changing world.” This quote is from Building Your Company’s Vision, by Collins and Porras, published in Harvard Business Review a few years ago. Let’s swap the word ‘community’ for ‘company’ and apply this to the ongoing work of community development.
“Communities that enjoy enduring success have core values and a core purpose that remain fixed with their development strategies and practices endlessly adapt to a changing world.” That seems to fit! But, easier said than done when communities have election cycles and ever-changing leadership.
“Inclusive Economic Development” is the buzz from IEDC these days. In fact, across the country, programs are being developed aimed specifically at promoting economic equity and opportunity for communities and populations that were previously unexplored by economic development traditionalists. Rooted in the mantra “a rising tide lifts all boats,” these practitioners focused on attracting jobs and investment to an area under the assumption that job availability was equated with economic prosperity. To be fair, these practices were rooted in a market that valued low-cost, low-skill labor, and resulted in millions of middle-class workers who were able to walk out of high school graduation and begin their 30-year careers.
It starts with a desire, a hope.
One person’s vision for the future of a community may be just that, but with leadership and the right plan, funding, and political support, it can become a reality and transform a community.
The report by the Erie County Industrial Development Agency, conducted by Redevelopment Resources and issued Thursday, found that the agency’s policy has encouraged more than 53 redevelopment projects in and around Buffalo since it went into effect in 2008.
Working in economic development in small towns and rural areas takes passion. It requires vision that sees beyond “what was” into “what is” to create the energy around “what could be” – through flexible planning, implementable tactics, extreme patience and tenacious passion for what makes each community interesting and meaningful.
Increasingly, the “Assets” key to an asset-based approach to economic and community development – the foundation of any plausible development strategy – are shifting. Often, traditional area jobs and industries have migrated out of an area, forcing a re-evaluation of what makes the community economically relevant.
Throughout modern history, the founding and continuation of communities has been predicated on compelling economic opportunities that drive individual investment of time, money, and labor to convert natural resources into monetary gain. Whether a community is founded for its access to trade routes via lakes and rivers or abundance of wildlife, timber or gold (to name a few), the founding of America has been a fascinating economic story.
I don’t debate that there’s going to be a robot revolution. My question is, will it be an American one?
— Matt Rendall, Otto CEO and co-founder, originally quoted in this article by Kevin J. Ryan, staff writer for Inc. Magazine.
Every so often, the Redevelopment Resources main blogspot is dedicated, in full or in part, to the rise and evolution of technology, and its effects on local economic and workforce development. Whether it’s encouraging learning to code for young and old alike, highlighting “Where Life Meets Art” in the age of robotics, or how machines are being leveraged to enhance learning, the affect that technology is having on the workforce (see the National Conversation on the future of American jobs) and the global economic landscape is inescapable.
Shifts such as these are difficult to navigate. Technology is changing and evolving at such a rate that it is generally impossible to the layperson to keep up — but it is the layperson that will ultimately be affected (and likely for the worse from their perspective). In such a climate, the temptation to hearken back to a more stable time, where manufacturing jobs in particular were abundant, and the middle class American dream was not only achievable – but achieved (as evidenced by the strong growth in the economy and rise in the middle class across the nation) is palpable.
That certain, indescribable something.
Every community across the US wants to have it. It is that seemingly magical essence that drives engagement and investment, and instills a sense of pride and responsibility in a community. Where does it come from? How does it permeate neighborhoods in such a way that even visitors – strangers to the area – are drawn to it, and find that they somehow want to become part of it?
Don’t teach your children to fish. Teach them to code. The landscape has shifted beneath our feet. Again. We were aware of it to the point that it affected our daily lives; which means that for most, it was an interesting factoid that came up in our twitter newsfeeds. Many still don’t know what even happened or why it matters.