The Latest in Economic Development

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This week’s blog discusses a Brookings event focused on skilled immigrants, the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City summit held last week, a book review by the Urbanophile’s Aaron Renn, and new trends in venture capital.

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Last week,  Brookings hosted a presentation and panel discussion on “Building and Unlocking Immigrant Skills.” The focus was on providing middle and highly-skilled immigrants (which make up 70% of all immigrants) resources to unlock their full potential in the United States. The panel highlighted some promising programs to do just that. Jose Ramon Fernandez-Pena explained the Welcome Back Initiative, which he founded; WBI assists medically trained professionals educated abroad to meet the requirements needed for positions in the US health care industry. Kevin Kelly talked about Upwardly Global (he is on the board), which bridges the gap between employers and skilled immigrants. And Bob Templin, president of Northern Virginia Community College, elucidated the need to make younger immigrants aware of opportunities in their communities to develop skills that they may have never thought about pursuing.

Also last week, the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City held its 2012 Inner City Economic Summit. According to ICIC: “During the 2012 Inner City Economic Summit, city, civic and business leaders will gather to share practices that are proving durable in this fiscal climate; an engaging agenda will extend on-the-ground efforts and identify adaptable solutions.” They have made videos of the presentations (which include talks from Michael Porter and Cory Booker) available on their website.

Over at the Urbanophile blog,  Aaron Renn gives a thoughtful review of The New Geography of Jobs by Enrico Moretti. The central premise of the book as Renn explains it is an idea that has been quite obvious to those observing economic trends of the last 30 years or so: “As radical productivity enhancements and global competition reduced employment and wages in traditional sectors like manufacturing, new knowledge based industries took their place. However, these knowledge industries require… highly educated workers with specialized skills. This leads to clustering of workers and jobs in select hubs, leaving many communities out in the cold.”

The recent investor obsession with social networking platforms is slowly shifting to companies that provide actual business solutions. Rough IPO debuts by companies like Facebook and Groupon have definitely contributed. The Wall Street Journal writes of Marcus Ryu, head of Guidewire Software, which makes software for insurance companies: “Some investment bankers told him he couldn’t hope to land a similar valuation to Groupon’s or Zynga’s – even though his firm… was increasing revenues by double digits to around $175 million a year and was profitable.” With the change in investor sentiment, now Ryu is “getting a dozen calls a week from investors.”