Few issues are as universally accepted and militantly polarizing as how to go about creating jobs. When was the last statewide or national election where the credit for job creation or the blame for a lack thereof wasn’t a defining issue? Is there a chamber of commerce that doesn’t prioritize job creation? Name an economic developer whose own employment isn’t directly tied to job creation, attraction or retention.
But when it comes to actually creating new jobs – hiring each new employee, as opposed to facilitating the ability of someone else to hire a new employee, or even worse, taking credit for jobs someone else creates, the gloves come off. Does opportunity trickle up or down? Are jobs best attracted and retained or cultivated and grown? Should markets be freewheeling or regulated?
As counterintuitive as it may be, about the only thing Republicans, Democrats and Independents agree on with respect to creating new jobs is that local, state and federal governments, as well as the policies they pursue have the largest impact on when and how jobs are created. From tax payments to tax credits, through subsidies, rebates, preferences, holidays, grants or bonds, by doing either too much or too little, government policies play the dominate role.
That needs to change!
U.S. financial market assets approached $25 trillion by some estimates at the end of 2014. Charitable giving in the United States exceeded $358 billion dollars in 2014, while venture capital investment exceeded $48 billion and angel investment topped $1.6 billion. By comparison, the U.S. Economic Development Administration, whose sole mission is to support job creating infrastructure and activities, “invested” less than $250 million in FY 2014 projects.
Once you cut through all the partisan rhetoric and media hype, two things are clear. One, government policies and programs certainly influence economic development activity, but their impact is limited. And two, there are lots of people with lots more money than government programs that have proven their willingness year after year to invest in job creating activity irrespective of government.
That’s where the focus should be!
New and evolving research tools make it easy to identify the key investors, entrepreneurs and philanthropists in any region and any sector. Those same tools can be used to map the networks among investor and entrepreneurs, which can then be juxtaposed with startup activity and industry clusters. With a little creativity, all of this could lead to the objective measurement of the impact and effectiveness of public policies over time. Just think of the dashboarding that could be done.
So why not engage those investors, entrepreneurs and philanthropists – the actual Dealmakers within a region – on economic development and job creating opportunities? From naming buildings to investing in companies, from infrastructure to management, these are the people with vested interest in the growth, expansion and wellbeing of regions. These are the people with the proven vision, talent, resources and desire to develop economies, create jobs and generate wealth.
Let bureaucrats bicker and prospectors panhandle. It’s the Dealmakers who do.