The Latest in Economic Development

This week’s blog explores manufacturing’s resurgence, making a place “creative,” and keeping and attracting foreign entrepreneurs and students. Comment below or send to mcfarland@nlc.org.

Get the last edition of “The Latest in Economic Development” here.

Chatter about manufacturing’s resurgence in the U.S. is being fueled by moves to “reshore” production facilities, growth in advanced manufacturing sectors and increases in goods exports.  “The top factors for bringing these jobs home cited by these executives surveyed by Boston Consulting Group: Higher labor costs in Asia (57 percent), ease of doing business (29 percent), and proximity to customers (28 percent),” notes The Global Post.  What will manufacturing’s comeback mean for local economies? The ripple effects of manufacturing are huge, especially when accounting for foreign investment: each job supports another five jobs, based on economic activity that is tied to suppliers and spending by employees of U.S. units of foreign companies and their suppliers, Reuters reports.

But as the Wall Street Journal details, there is reason to be skeptical of this good news: lagging wages in the U.S. are propping up the industry and have negative consequences for the economy.  “Sluggish wages are squeezing workers’ incomes and spending. That, in turn, hurts retailers who target middle-income earners and restrains the vigor of the economic recovery.”

“Musical” interlude, data debate, and big boxes going small.

Although most have abandoned the notion of becoming the next Silicon Valley, communities across the country are trying to figure out just the right mix of what spurs innovation and creativity. Rural towns like Greeley, Sherman and Valley County, NE think the answer lies not necessarily in hard assets, but in the soft ones. “It’s far harder to create communities of people driven by values like trust, fairness, dreaming big, and willingness to risk and fail.” Get those components right, reports the Daily Yonder, and younger entrepreneurs will stay.  Youth entrepreneurship must become a priority within a community’s economic development strategy, and according to the Center for Rural Entrepreneurship, includes interactive entrepreneurship education, supportive community environment, peer networking and pathways from education to opportunity.

Even places like Silicon Bayou (aka New Orleans) and Denver that are targeting high-tech are using strategies grounded in local assets, particularly their talent. They are leveraging existing industries and top universities and colleges and working to encourage collaboration among entrepreneurs, investors and government agencies, notes MSN Business on Main.

But what if your town has no people? That’s right…no people. Fast Company puts the spotlight on a new city in New Mexico named CITE (The Center for Innovation, Testing and Evaluation) being developed with the hopes of being one of the most innovative places in the world, with no plans for permanent residents. CITE is “a 15-square mile, fully functioning but empty town next door, unlike any other R&D facility in the world, that will be used to test everything about the future of smart cities, from autonomous cars to new wireless networks.”

Foreign students and entrepreneurs have also been lauded as key assets for growth. It’s no wonder that recent news (Fiscal Times) of an exodus of foreign students has prompted “a bipartisan group of senators to introduce legislation that would seek to make it easier for foreign students who hold post-graduate degrees in math, science or engineering from American colleges to remain in the U.S. after they finish their studies,” notes Wall Street Journal’s Washington Wire blogger Corey Boles.

While there is a high likelihood of U.S. legislation getting bogged down in an immigration debate, The Telegraph details Canada’s plans to move full force on attracting foreign entrepreneurs and building a “fast and flexible” economic immigration system. According to Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney, “We need to proactively target a new type of immigrant entrepreneur who has the potential to build innovative companies that can compete on a global scale and create jobs for Canadians.” See these NLC resources for more on local roles to support entrepreneurs and foreign students.

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