Latest in Economic Development

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This week’s Latest in Economic Development highlights challenges with worker training, New York’s economic diversity, New Orleans’s mini tech boom, and trends in economic attraction.  Have things to add, contact me at mcconnell@nlc.org.

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

Public universities are not sufficiently preparing students to enter the workforce, according  to a new report by the Institute for a Competitive Workforce, an affiliate of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Margaret Spellings, former secretary of education and head of the Institute,  suggests that improvements should include expanding access to online courses, associates degrees, and other forms of alternative education. (Tennessean via Governing).

U.S. companies are increasingly looking to Germany’s worker training model writes Vanessa Fuhrmans in the Wall Street Journal.“In Germany, nearly two-thirds of the country’s workforce are trained through partnerships among companies, technical schools and trade guilds.” In the U.S., such partnerships are rare and companies worry about investing in individuals only to have the leave for a competitor. But more U.S. companies and government officials are examining the viability of the German model after exposure to examples here in the U.S. like the apprentice programs at Volkswagen’s Chattanooga, Tenn. plant or Siemens in Charlotte, NC.

Anything new in economic attraction? Asks NLC’s Christiana McFarland. Business attraction has always been viewed as an essential part of economic development and while the strategies may have not changed, the environment in which they play out has.  The internet is more important, especially the need to provide timely, accurate, and easily accessible information online. And fiscal pressures are increasing the calls for accountability and transparency, shrinking economic development funds, and at the same time, raising the demand for immediate, visible results.

New Orleans has been experiencing a “Mini Tech Boom” with a 19 percent growth in tech jobs since 2005 (compared to 3 percent nation-wide).  State tax-credits directed at digital media and software firms are being credited with catalyzing the growth. The tech growth is a only a fraction of Louisiana’s overall economic growth, which is mostly due to its traditional industries (oil, gas, and tourism) and New Orleans still has crime and infrastructure challenges that it will likely need to overcome. But at the same time, the city has experienced growth in its educated workforce population and is increasingly viewed as a legitimate location for tech companies (via Southern Compass).

New York needs economic diversity, writes Edward Glaser in City Journal as he warns that the city has become too dependent on the financial industry. And while the city shouldn’t try to hold Wall Street back, it shouldn’t put all its eggs in the volatile finance basket. Glaser gives kudos to the city’s efforts already underway including the planned applied science campus on Roosevelt Island as well as the city’s new Business Acceleration Team, but writes there are still challenges facing start-ups.