The Latest in Economic Development – 2.23.12

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This week’s blog entry explores the economics behind Major League Baseball’s spring training, looks deeper into “Smart Growth” strategies, provides small business hiring poll results, and explains Richard Florida’s take on Obama’s manufacturing focus.  Comment below or send to

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As Major League Baseball returns to its sunny spring training destinations in Arizona and Florida, what are the economic impacts of hosting the world’s best baseball players? Even as the fiscal conditions of Sun Belt cities have been strained in recent years, the competition to attract professional baseball teams for a limited time each spring is fierce.  The upfront costs to host spring training are steep – Lee County, Florida sold “up to $81 million in bonds to fund a new baseball stadium where the Boston Red Sox would play 18 exhibition games in the spring per year.” This was in 2010, when the county was reeling from the burst of the housing bubble. The return on investment from spending public money on baseball gets mixed opinions, depending on who is asked. Community leaders tout the investment as a “proven economic driver,” while economists are more skeptical. (

“Smart Growth” has been all the rage lately; what gives?  Roger Showley of the San Diego Union-Tribune interviewed Geoffrey Anderson, president of Smart Growth America, and Bill Fulton, vice president for policy and programs, to get a handle on the movement. Anderson explains that one of the challenges to implementing Smart Growth policies is convincing the public to support it given the admittedly mixed success of past development strategies. Fulton adds that the way forward is to show people successes, mentioning San Diego, where the New Partners for Smart Growth conference was recently held. (San Diego Union-Tribune)

A recent Gallup poll showed that 85% of small businesses surveyed said that they are not hiring. Why not? Put simply, they are not convinced that the economy is strong enough, and their revenues are not providing enough cash to justify taking on more employees. In addition, nearly half report that the challenges of government regulations and healthcare costs are “exacerbating an already uncertain and difficult decision.” And although small business hiring continues to struggle, this is the best it has been since January 2008. See the results here: (Gallup)

President Obama recently announced a renewed policy focus targeted at improving and enlarging the manufacturing sector in the US.  The administration posits that if the manufacturing sector improves, that would mean not just more, but better paying jobs. But is that entirely true? Richard Florida points out that production job wages are less than stellar, and highly paid manufacturing jobs require knowledge-based skill sets to operate advanced machinery and perform complex analyses.  This set-up further confirms the widening gap between high skill, high wage jobs and low skill labor, and has implications for workforce development strategies for the future. (Atlantic Cities)

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