The Latest in Economic Development

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This week’s The Latest in Economic Development explores worker skills mismatch, a new H-1B visa report, a variety of activities in city economic development, and some upcoming economic development events. Have things to add, contact me at

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Lately there’s been a lot of chatter about the paradox of lots of vacant jobs and also lots of unemployed people, causing some to point to a “skills mismatch”.  But recent research by The Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago found limited evidence of such a mismatch. If one does exist, according to the Chicago Fed, it’s for middle skill workers.  “…Occupations that require a moderate amount of skill have not experienced the employment gains, despite the fact that the data from online ads suggest that their skills are in the greatest demand.” Further, Chicago Magazine’s commentary on this research discusses “jobless recoveries” which suffer from the loss of middle skilled jobs that never return.  And Inc. adds another couple of reasons to the mix, including risk averse companies and picky employers and workers.

Highlighting the U.S.’s thirst for high-skilled talent, Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program released a new report on H-1B visas, which “allows employers to hire foreigners to work in specialty occupations on a temporary basis.”  The report states that almost two-thirds of the requests for H-1B visas are for occupations in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), with requests for H-1B visas coming from various sectors depending on the metropolitan region. “Demand in corporate metro areas (such as Columbus, IN and Seattle, WA) comes predominately from private employers…while in research metros (such as Durham, NC and Ann Arbor, MI) the demand is driven by universities and other research institutions.” Brookings calls on the federal government to “adjust the cap for H-1B visa applicants based on local employer skills needs and regional economic indicators.” And to “channel H-1B visa fees to skills training in areas that are currently being filled by H-1B workers at the metropolitan level.”

In other economic development news….. the mayors of San Diego and Phoenix, both areas with large defense industries, express their concerns about looming federal budget cuts (Christian Science Monitor via Governing). The mayor of Denver is working to increase small businesses’ access to capital and simplify regulations and permitting by bringing them online (Denver Business Journal). Kansas City’s microlending programs grows to almost 1.5 million (Kansas City Star). And the city of Saint Paul gets props for supporting small business (Star Tribune).

Last but not least, there are a couple of upcoming economic development opportunities. On July 26th, NLC (shameless plug) will host a webinar on the innovative and ambitious Evergreen Cooperatives, which have been getting a lot of positive buzz lately (see recent Atlantic Cities article). Register here.

The folks at ICIC and CEOs for Cities have put out a call for case studies on “what’s working” in cities in the areas of sector-led workforce development, city and anchor economic development collaborations, and efforts to create jobs and build businesses in food clusters. Selected case studies will have the chance to present at their 2012 Inner City Economic Summit. More information here.