News & Blog


Crowd-sourcing the Future

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.

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Rural Economic Development: A Game of Inches

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.

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Change is inevitable. Growth is optional.

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.

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Bottling the Je Ne Sais Quoi of Communities

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?

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Building for the Future

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.

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Communities, Investment, Incentive, Initiative

Communities are organic beings. They grow or shrink; they can thrive or become ghosts. They can become physically diseased with blight and outdated infrastructure or face social plagues such as drug dependence, violence or systemic poverty. But like all other beings, they can also find healing by addressing their health problems head-on; strength by challenging their current capacity; and resilience by overcoming mounting adversity.

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Entrepreneurship – Do you have a strategy?

While traveling in Ireland recently, I was intrigued by an article in the Irish Times newspaper entitled, “Immigration policy must target entrepreneurship”. While one would first think this article is about Ireland targeting entrepreneurs through their immigration policy, a majority of the article referenced the environment for entrepreneurs in the United States. It stated that 52% of the start-ups in the Silicon Valley from 1995 to 2005 have been founded by immigrants. Also, 40% of Fortune 500 companies were founded by first-generation immigrants or their children.

Toward the end of the article was finally the point that Ireland should open the door to all of Europe and the rest of the world, inviting entrepreneurs from all over go there to start their businesses. While the United States is deciding what to do about immigration, other countries are poised to capitalize on our indecision and invite entrepreneurs in. Having an entrepreneurship strategy, and opening the door to skilled talent will boost economies wherever they land, according to entrepreneur turned academic, Vivek Wadhwa, who was interviewed for the article in the Irish Times.

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Focus on Distribution and Logistics Infrastructure

Consumers can order online and pick up at the store, visit the store and order at a kiosk, visit the store and order through mobile phone, visit the store or online and price compare and purchase at lower-priced store, and any other combination of options.

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In a boycott, everyone loses. In a Carrotmob, everyone wins.

Have you heard of this group, Carrotmob?  Information taken from their web site is summarized below:
In a Carrotmob campaign, a group of people offers to spend their money to support a business, and in return the business agrees to make an improvement that the people care about. The group is called Carrotmob because it uses the “carrot” instead of the “stick.” Traditionally, people who wanted to influence businesses would threaten or attack them. The Carrotmob movement believes people can have more influence on businesses by giving them a positive incentive to change: their money.
People want to “vote with their money” to advance their values and improve the world from New York to Paris to Bangkok. This group is building a website to make voting with one’s money easier, more effective, and more fun.  Carrotmob organizers around the world have already created a growing movement. Find out more at
This concept has interesting implications for the work we do as economic development practitioners.  In reading a lot about innovation lately, my belief has been confirmed that innovation is just as much about applying a new concept to the way we typically do something as it is developing a new gadget or coming up with a new product.  So here is an innovative way to get a business to change.
The Carrotmob concept could be applied effectively through a Mainstreet organization (or a group of passionate citizens) to create excitement around the businesses in a central business district.  Like anything truly worth the effort, it takes leadership, dedication and hard work. But publicity and excitement will be generated around the idea, and who couldn’t benefit from a little more of that?
When we apply this concept to government, it sounds really similar to lobbying, however, with the Carrotmob concept, people aren’t paying the business to change rather they are giving the business their patronage so the business will have the capacity to make a change.  It shows an investment of time and money on the part of a whole host of participants.
If we were to organize ourselves around an effort is there a way we could lobby for good?  Think of the impact if we were to energize our constituents passionately around a proactive, positive effort or topic rather than only at the threat of something being taken away.  It appears to me that more attention is turning to local efforts, grass roots groups organizing and being effective at producing results around a cause.  How can you impact your community today?


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