The Latest in Economic Development

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This week’s blog highlights the rapidly changing world of manufacturing, a new social-enterprise-focused class at the University of Virginia, a closer look at China’s trade surplus, and the opening of a Chinese Import-Export Bank in Baltimore. Comment below or send to

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The world of manufacturing is changing… rapidly. What are the implications of these fast-paced changes? The Economist is calling it the “third industrial revolution,” a paradigm shifting transformation into a manufacturing environment dominated by “clever software, novel materials, more dexterous robots, new processes (notably three-dimensional printing) and a whole range of web-based services.” Consumers will obviously benefit – who doesn’t like cheaper, more customized products? – and production will continue to be in-sourced back into home markets. For governments, they should “stick to the basics: better schools to build a skilled workforce, clear rules and a level playing field for enterprises of all kinds.” (The Economist) via (Daily Digest from Seattle’s Office of Economic Development)

An innovative new class at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business teaches students about social entrepreneurship and its impacts on low-income communities.  Focused on Charlottesville’s local economy, the class broke up into groups and visited “innovative social enterprises in Washington, Richmond, and Yonkers, NY, looking for lessons and models that could be applied” locally. The class is a good example of a university taking advantage of the intersection between higher education and local economic development, which can foster important partnerships and shared and mutually beneficial goals. (UVa Today)

China’s current-account surplus, long a thorn in the side of US policy makers, is declining. Eduardo Porter writes that “China’s vast takeover of world markets may be running out of steam.” The factors that led to China’s rise – cheap labor, impressive productivity, and rapid outsourcing from multinationals – have dampened in recent years. The recession also took its toll on international demand for the country’s exports. This has led China to embark on a path toward a more balanced economic environment. Porter explains, “(China’s) 12th five-year plan… is centered on the goal of raising family incomes, shifting to an economy more reliant on the production of services and building the kind of safety net that gives the Chinese people the confidence to spend some of their vast savings.” (New York Times)

While the US Export-Import bank has been a political firecracker lately, the Chinese opened its own Exim Bank in Baltimore’s World Trade Center. Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley has been aggressively pursuing international trade relationships and it seems as if these efforts are starting to pay off. Steve Kilar writes that the Chinese Exim Bank is seasoned in the art of construction financing and “O’Malley’s administration hopes the institution will help bankroll infrastructure and development projects in Maryland” as well as provide an avenue for Chinese companies to invest in the US. O’Malley has also courted Indian delegations touting Maryland’s “good transportation, friendly people and easy access to Washington and a major port.” (Baltimore Sun)