Economic Development Data & Resources

Unveiling the Economic Development Myth

Myths Wrapped in Analogy Shielded by an Illusion
I’d like to point out a few articles that floated to my attention this week.  The first of which is… well mine and it shapes the way I’m seeing the others.

In Harvesting more than Metaphors, I shared a concept that AMI and our EDA University Center is tackling. We appreciate start-up and entrepreneurial efforts  and like the green thumbs practicing economic gardening we see a real need to help existing businesses. However we see, through our research and experience, opportunity when communities learn to leverage their existing businesses.  In the article I extended the economic gardening metaphor just a bit to consider not only the garden but also micro-climates. Every gardener like every planner knows, you shouldn’t grow tomatoes in a desert and there’s no reason to plant cactus in a wetland. We suggest the major companies in a region are fundamental to creating the business climate in a region. The major companies need not coddling nor reaping but challenging and engaging.

One of the insights we borrowed for this idea came from the research of the brothers Heath. Chip and Dan pointed out in an article clear back in 2007, Made-to-Stick, March 2007 , it is about the mythology around the entrepreneurial start-up. They point out how the great start-up idols Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak did not emerge from cool concrete and rusted hedge trimmers in a silicone valley garage but rather from the nurturing hands of  then powerhouse Atari and perennial tech giant HP.

In other words, companies aren’t born in garages. Companies are born in companies.

It seems that a certain part of the economic development community is banking on this myth. Supported by a narrow look of data that points out how a majority of job growth is created by start ups and new ventures.

We contend that an environment can be created that encourages this form of sympathetic

Speaking of borrowing from the Heath brothers, this week in the New Yorker Malcom Gladwell tilted at another myth this time the Creation Myth. This article points to the complementary relationship between ‘old hat’ and start-up the example Mr. Gladwell points us to the computer mouse. The peripheral, while born at Xerox was nurtured (and commercialized) at Apple. He advocates, or accepts as inevitable the fact that businesses have certain competences in terms of the stages of an innovation’s development. Identifying and helping others identify where on the innovation spectrum a company thrives is one of the critical parts of our business profiling concept.

The last new article came in the form a radio broadcast from This American Life. The episode titled “How To Create a Job” wrestles openly with the value of economic development in making jobs. Measuring and maximizing impact is an issue that confound nearly every mission driven organization. Having the issue laundered in the open on national radio could be valuable for the greater population to hear. The calculus of input, effort and output needs careful consideration.

 
 

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