Saturday, June 26, 2010

Indiana Universities Win Award for Creating Economic Development Plan

Indiana University and Purdue recently won an award from the Center for Community and Economic Research for their joint economic development efforts in Indiana.

The two universities econ dev joint venture received the prize for their research effort, entitled "Crossing the Next Regional Frontier: Information and Analytics Linking Regional Competitiveness to Investment in a Knowledge-Based Economy". While their ideas might impress academics, I don't think they'll impress prospective employers.

Now Indiana as a whole is generally strong in terms of economic matters, and I don't think one misguided effort will change that much. However, the "knowledge-based economy", which existed in the 90s and 2000s, could be called that because it was defined by the fact that knowledge was a scarce resource over that period. While it still might be in certain industries, it is now being overshadowed by the even more scarce resource of face-to-face contact, which has developed because it's so cheap to communicate remotely. Compared to ultra-cheap communications, it's so timely and expensive now to meet face-to-face, which is why all the fastest job growing job sectors, from nursing to teaching to social work, depend on face-to-face contact. When knowledge was the dominant scarce resource 12 years ago, the fastest job growing sectors were electrical engineering, computer programming, and other technical positions. That's all changed. Yet many econ dev professionals don't seem to get this, and you don't need to look any further than basic Department of Labor data to see it.

People, especially those developing local economies, really need to get that techie-finance economy of 1995-2009 is gone. Spending $400,000 for every biotech job created makes little sense, especially when you can spend nothing and develop your own small businesses.

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