The Latest in Economic Development – 3.16.12

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This week’s blog is focused primarily on workforce development and different strategies for job creation. We also explore the boom of US exports to China in the last 10 years and the increase in entrepreneurship among young people. Comment below or send to

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NLC recently released the results of its Local Economic Conditions Survey; the results were a mixed bag with some improvements, but also some findings that caused concern. The good news was that city officials expressed improvements in the retail sector, commercial property vacancies, and business permits/licenses. The bad news was the continuing drop in residential property values and increased demands for safety net services. Find media coverage of the survey here, here, and here.

Cities are not out of the woods yet, so local elected officials are looking for ways to support job growth. At the NLC Congressional City Conference held earlier this week, experts in the field stressed two workforce strategies for cities: “utilize all available funding opportunities and partner with local businesses to fill their needs.” And with funding opportunities scarce, “communication with area businesses and gathering information about their needs is crucial.” (

With a glut of unemployed workers accompanied by a shortage of qualified workers, how are colleges and universities responding to the skills gap?  President of Northern Virginia Community College Bob Templin says that “We’ve become much more focused, much more agile, and much more driven by what the data is telling us on where the jobs are.” He also mentions that their new strategy is much more “market oriented.” Whether it is through community colleges or prestigious universities, shorter certificate programs that teach specialized skills in high demand such as digital marketing or computer-aided manufacturing are proving successful in transferring workers into cutting edge industries. (New York Times)

The overall impact of globalization has meant different things to different people. Chad Stone explains that “what’s good for the average American is not necessarily good for every American. In fact, the gains from trade and technology tend to be quite diffuse.” This means that while we tend to think that globalization and technological advancement are overall good things, the negative effects are sprinkled amongst particular individuals or industries. What really matters – since globalization is likely not going to reverse itself – is how we respond to those workers displaced by foreign competition or new technologies; how we find “better ways to help workers adjust to permanent job losses.” (US News)

Despite tensions, “American exports to China have increased by 468 percent since 2001… and are up by nearly 50 percent since 2008.” Keith B. Richburg traverses the reasons for the surge. The most obvious reason is that the Chinese have more money to spend on American goods, everything from soybeans to airplanes. In a nod to rudimentary economics, increasing Chinese wealth has contributed to a change in tastes and preferences, with Chinese citizens demanding more luxury (and normal) goods imported from abroad. This has contributed to pleasant growth in recently downtrodden US industries like producers of tree nuts. Trade barriers still remain between China and the US, and a Chinese slowdown may put a damper on the export boom, but China still remains an attractive export market. (Washington Post)

Is entrepreneurship a young man’s (or woman’s) game? Not necessarily, but what explains the recent surge in startups run by 20-somethings? The economy certainly had something to do with it, as job opportunities for new graduates have dwindled and the draw of corporate America is less attractive than it once was. But it’s a combination of factors – including lower startup costs with the help of technology as well as a cultural shift – that have contributed to the entrepreneurial boom. ( via (Innovation Daily)

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