Archive for the ‘Indiana Economic Development’ Category

Preparing Next Gen Economic Development Leadership

August 10, 2016

Purdue Northwest Graduates Northern Indiana’s first class of ED Civic Leaders

Picture1In 2006, I was asked to help establish an economic development educational program to be offered as an elective in the Purdue Northwest Masters of Business Administration degree program and teach its capstone class.

While consuming several years to gain academic approvals, the three classes, The Competitive Advantage of a Region, Economic and Social Analysis, and The Process of Economic Development were formulated into a free-standing certificate allowing both full-time MBA and non-credit student enrollment.

This certificate program fulfills an identified need in Northern Indiana – an educational opportunity for a wide-range of community leaders to gain knowledge about the role of economic development in their community.

The Process of Economic Development capstone class activity gives the student a “real life” experience analyzing a preselected community for the location of a new business including a formal presentation of community assets before a panel of representative decision makers of the business made up of the Mayor and several economic development practitioners.

Northern Indiana is truly blessed to have a cadre of upwardly mobile leaders who will undoubtedly serve as volunteer board members for economic development organizations whether they be government, chamber of commerce or nonprofit sponsored and guide their economic development efforts towards success.

This education program prepares students with knowledge of economic development agency operations but also duties and responsibilities of the agency directorship appointment.

This is a “first of its kind” program to train future volunteer economic development leaders in Northern Indiana, a model that surely will be followed by others.




April 1, 2014

Why some small & medium sized communities are successful with economic reinvention and others become ghost towns!

Richard G. Longworth in his book “Caught in the Middle – America’s Heartland in the Age of Globalization”,  lays the historic groundwork explaining why some communities become ghost towns – the failure to adjust to change…being transportation, communications or market force changes that reshape the local economy. Today similar changes such as a lack of direct interstate roadway or high-speed internet connectivity are reshaping future sustainability of many smaller communities, especially those not having connection to a metropolitan area. There is ample evidence that metropolitan regions are the collectors of population growth, increased household wealth, creative workforce talent and ultimately future prosperity. As the concentration of growth trends continue to accumulate in metropolitan areas, smaller communities, especially those lacking connectivity to metropolitan areas, will face economic sustainability challenges. While a large number of smaller communities will inevitability be unable, or unwilling, to make necessary political and civic changes leading to prosperity, others will “take-on” challenges to reinvent themselves for the future. Study of successful smaller communities, over the past 40-years has led me to identify ten key ingredients, which will separate ghost towns from successful small towns of the future:

 1. Transformational LeadershipDilbert leadership

Every successful community has one – they are “action figures” persons with the personality and leadership “karma” drawing together differing, and at times conflicting, pathways into a single direction – “they’re the lead dog in the sled team and pilot the direction for others to follow along.”

Successfully communities in the future will all have a leader, a single person who collects and draws together ideas, combines individualized personal commitments, plots-out a uniform action strategy and sets-in-place the deployment process to implement change.

 2. Long-term Consensus Strategy

In today real world agreement doesn’t exist anymore comments Aaron Anthony, Bridgman MI, City Manager, “it’s a generally held conclusion that 100% agreement is a figment of imagination and that we can get everyone on the same page when forming community strategy”. But successful community development is founded on the premise that we can set aside our differences and reach agreement upon certain principles that result in a strategy that all parties accept and will implement.

Successfully communities in the future will be guided by a generally recognized, and community accepted, long-term consensus strategy that in general terms, tells where the community wants to be in the future – a compass point showing direction rather than specific GPS instructions for the journey.

 3. Dedicated “Single-Focus” Management

Unlike 40-years back where community leaders had a limited number of issues to handle, today’s municipal community development function is far more complex, governed by a greater number of laws and regulations, influenced by a larger number special interest groups and susceptible to increased legal intervention. Constantine MI, City Manager, Mark Honeysett sums it up quickly, it’s easy to get to many things on the plate at the same time and get nothing accomplished.  The result is more time, more money and more complexity in carrying-out both the civic and governmental community development function”.

Successfully communities in the future will those communities who recognize and realize that a community cannot address every issue at the same time and direct both human and financial resources to a prioritized list of needed accomplishments.

 4. Long-term Funding Mechanisms

Transformation according to Bridgman MI, Manager, Aaron Anthony, “is not an “annual pay-as-you-go proposition, but a multi-year commitment of interconnected projects that required several years of funding to achieve best results.   Communities that recognize implementation does not comply with election cycles or annual budget cycles have a better chance for success”.  Modern municipal project management requires identification of all potential funding sources with their probability of funding success as part of the project planning process to help communities better define the overall project scope and anticipate costs in an effort to achieve greater implementation success.

Successfully communities in the future will recognize the value of multi-year project budgeting opposed to annually deciding what can spent and how to use the annual community budget.

 5. Leverage Funding Opportunities

Change is costly with most major “transformational” projects exceeding the annual tax revenue of most communities.  This results in reliance upon other funding sources. Federal and state grants are always viewed as the first supplemental source, but tax increases, tax increment financing, borrowings and even private donations all have place in leveraged funding opportunities.

Successful communities in the future will rely on realistic expectations of  grant and other funding sources and consider the ability to complete projects using only local funds.

 6. Experienced Technical Guidance

Local elected officials “don’t have to be smart – only popular enough to get elected” was told to me many years ago Cass County, MI Commissioner Johnnie Rodebush, “the best thing we can do is hire smart guys, like you, to help guide us in making things work.” It is uncommon occurrence that once elected, the elected official has comprehensive knowledge of the vast number of governmental programs available leading to  reliance upon technical help and services to assist in successful project implementation.

Today and even more in the future, successful communities will realize navigating the complex, ever-changing, municipal world, requires good advice and technical assistance from qualified and experienced help for success.

 7. Appetite for Civic & Political Risk

Supporting civic and governmental change implies taking risks – risk of criticism, risk of losing an election and possibly loss of community status and position in social and civic organizations.

Successful communities in the future will identify risk taking as an accepted part of a successful transformation process and celebrate rather than shy away from possible adverse effects of implementing change.

  8. Acceptably for System Changes Needed for Success

Government structure, especially in some Midwest states, was born in the late 1800’s and remains in place today.  However, the reliance on single government solution, guided by independent separatist elected bodies at times hinders the ability to solve problems which span multiple government jurisdictions such as potable water supply and sewerage collection/treatment, storm water management and transportation.

Successfully communities in the future will have relinquished some of today’s commonly held duties in favor of multi-jurisdictional delivery systems that may offer cost savings, provide superior services and more efficient management oversight.

 9. Unrelentless Pursuit of Success

Author Tom Peters, in his 1980’s book “In Search for Excellence” chronicled the theory of successful companies based on a total commitment and passion for excellence.  So too with community development, strategy a long-term passion for success always trumps stop-and-start attempts.

Successful communities in the future will not only subscribe to a passion for success but leverage this passion in pursuit of continual success.

  10. Civic Acceptance of Need for Success

Bob Gets, Village of Baroda MI, President, credits Baroda’s nationally recognized economic reinvention success to the community acceptance that “if we didn’t make a change we would become another Michigan ghost town” upon realization, in 2004,  that the loss of  over 10 tool & die shops with over 220 employees would never return. Most communities need a life-or-death realization to create the wanna-factor and wake-up a passive community mind-set that changes must happen.

Successfully communities in the future will have a civic “wanna-factor” for a successful future and economic sustainability – a spirit that is communicated and is easily recognizable outside of the community.


 Successful smaller communities need transformational leadership for success.

As Longworth states “like it or not, it’s the cities that are the economic engines of the 21st Century.  The small towns may be the spiritual anchors of the Midwest, but they no longer serve as the economic engine of the future.  Only those smaller communities that have the courage and political ability to reinvent themselves and integrate themselves in the new economy will prevent the ghost town from becoming reality”.


March 12, 2014

Over the past several years, my friend Craig Hullinger, former Economic Development Director of Peoria Illinois, and I have annually surveyed our colleagues in the economic development, city management and the community planning profession asking what they believe are the “most important & biggest trends” influencing their daily work tasks both today and in the coming year.

This is always a fun exercise.

Most of our colleagues are “old guys” with 30+ years of experience.  However, we sprinkle some “younger blood” into the conversation so the old guys don’t mentally fossilize!

I decided this year to sit back and look deeply into the crystal ball again and characterize what in our collective opinion are the 10 most likely trends that will shape how communities conduct their community planning and economic development programs in the future.

The results were not what I expected.

In the past, we identified changes, ones I would say, were not very “transformational” to the profession.

The results of this current survey, I believe, are “life changing”.

In my opinion, the changes identified characterize a new generation of leadership and principles that will guide community growth as we journey through the remainder of the 21st Century.

With thanks to all contributors, here are my thoughts and predictions for this generational change.

1.  Old people will die – Generation X and Millennials (Generation Y) will lead.

The “baby boomers” are getting old and are leaving the work force – leadership is being transferred.

Senator Alan Simpson, coauthor of the Bowles Simpson Fiscal Responsibility and Reform Plan, on CNBC recently stated “there are 10,000 people each day turning 65-years old” resulting in baby-boomers retiring and leaving the workforce in massive numbers, some by choice and some by business downsizing via early retirements and layoff.

Today, Generation X, those ages between 34-54 years, are taking over corporate and government leadership.  Even the top job in the US, the President, is taken by a Generation X’er; 52-year old President Obama.

This younger generation, especially the millennials (Generation Y – aged 18-33 years), are better educated, more computer savvy, electronically connected and have different social, cultural and collaborative decision-making skills than the baby-boomers – skills which will change the way community engagement is conducted and community development decisions are rendered.

Younger, better educated and communication savvy men and women will shape the future and take care of the baby-boomer generation as it ages.

2.  History will be the future, if we let it.

Change is hard and the older you get, the harder it is to change – “inaction is easier than in action.”

History can be the predictor of the future, if we let it. Our government system is designed to make inaction easy.  As politically safe – it doesn’t cost anything and doesn’t rankle the electorate or create criticism. To many, a major transformation action is almost an impossibility, so why bother.

However, change happens, nothing stays the same and communities that realize that economic change will happen and take action are always better off.

In the future, communities that embrace action, rather than inaction, by continually reinventing themselves will gain economic sustainability as the global, national and local economy changes.

3.  Social networking is faster than coffee shop communications.

A recent NBC news report about the millennial generation commented on the continuous communication need of the generation that grew up with smart phones.   One millennial interviewed stated the importance of instant and continuous communication – “I get a bit nervous after 2-3 minutes if I don’t have my phone”.

Where baby-boomers recognized that the “morning coffee shop telegraph” was faster and had a bigger reach than the local radio & TV stations and newspapers in communicating with the community, today’s communication is instant communication by the smart phones that transfer “breaking news” throughout the community.

Beginning today and in the future, smart phone communication will replace the importance of radio, TV and newspaper communication in community decision making.

 4.  Population size matters.

The American landscape is filled with ghost towns and more will be created in the future.

The question of whether there is a minimum population necessary to have a community is serious question; one where academic research is needed. 

How many people are needed to support effective government with enough people to appoint to the planning, economic development and other committees?  How big does the community need to be to support a church, a Boy Scout Troop, and – yes – the local retail shops?

This is a serious inquire about the future of smaller communities leading to the question of how best to divide state and federal community support funds for infrastructure development and other community enrichment programs. Do we give potential future ghost town equal access to state and federal funding?

In the future, a minimum community population size will be needed to fulfill government management duties, support community social capital needs and bring into the community sufficient household income that can financially support local community retail needs.

5.  Simplicity and speed increases success.

Michigan’s community planning demonstrates lack of simplicity.  It requires preparation of three principal documents, the 20-Year Master Plan (63-day review period), a 5-Year Parks, Recreation and Green Infrastructure Plan (30-day review period) and a 6-Year Capital Improvements Program (which may not need a review period).   Add on a downtown or other authority and you have a 20-Year Development and Tax Increment Financing Plan with a 20-day review period.

Confusing, you’ll agree, I bet.

Even for us who daily work with these laws, it’s hard to explain.  It’s even understandably more difficult for the volunteer board member who is empowered to prepare the plans for their adoption or, after preparation, their recommendation for adoption by the legislative body.  The complex process of preparation of multiple plans and consolidating them into a coordinated community future strategy adds time and costs – simplicity would mean less confusion and faster preparation.

Pity the unknowledgeable citizen who comes to the public hearing and is faced with trying to fit together this mismatch of plans seeking to understand where the community is headed in the future.

In the future, comprehensive community future strategy will be simplified and easier to communicate expanding the ability for citizen input and greater understanding, all which will lead to a better community-wide understanding of which direction the community is heading.

 6.  99% may = success – but 1% can = failure.

Majority rule is thing of past, if we let it.

Even with 99% support, it’s possible for any initiative to fail when the 1% has sufficient money and legal ability to “tie-up” the process with the goal of never allowing a solution.

This problem is not only a Washington matter but one that plays out at the state and local levels.

This era of “political grid-lock” is a serious menace to participatory decision-making giving the impression that personal participation won’t matter so “why get involved”.

In the future reaching uncontested consensus will become the principal goal of community development initiatives, a process which will increase the time and cost of the community development process, and frustrate the electorate that seeks quick change.

7.  The sand box is market sized.

Riley Law of Retail Gravitation states that “all else being equal, a person will travel to the closest retail location for a purchase”.  This makes sense, especially when gas prices are reaching $4.00 per gallon; smart shoppers will travel to the closest retailer when the price and product are the same.

Riley’s law also helps define the modern community, being the market (or trade) area where people gravitate to for shopping and other services.

The reality is that, consumers today don’t pay much attention to which political jurisdiction they shop. The fact is, many don’t even know in which municipality they reside, except when voting and paying taxes.

Today, geopolitical boundaries are less important than economic market areas when defining community. 

Economic markets, in the future, will become even more important in defining community and be drivers of need for geopolitical redefinition to increase economic sustainability encouraged by community development planning and economic development strategy implementation separated from the confines of geopolitical boundaries.

8.  Taxable value is population growth driven.

Almost all communities rely on real estate taxes to fund governmental services and most local taxes are based on the value of real estate.

Ultimately the law of supply and demand rules the community real estate tax revenue.

Communities with population growth, new households added from in-migration and young folks setting-up their first households; stimulate demand for existing and new homes.

More households bring more spending creating the need for commercial real estate investment.

It’s easy to see that communities with population growth will tend to have an increasing real estate taxable value and those with stable or no population growth will tend to have a stable or decreasing real estate taxable value.

In the future, community population growth will become more important as a means to increase governmental revenue and community development measures will focus on actions to stimulate population growth.

9.  Bad times = innovation & entrepreneurism.

It’s an accepted fact that small businesses and entrepreneurs are the community job creators.

The economic recession has focused attention on this phenomenon to fulfill the job creation expectations of communities suffering from high unemployment.

It’s the mantra of economic development practice today – grow your own jobs!

Studies, most notable by the Kauffmann Foundation, demonstrate the promise of the “grow your own jobs” theory.  They document that 54% of millennials seek to start a business and that three of each 1,000 adults desire to start a business. 

Many start-up businesses result from the lack of job opportunities, others from the realization that starting a small business can be a personal career choice and for some the ability to mimic start-up financial success of others.

Economists have documented today’s post-recession recovery is no different than past recession recoveries shown by small business innovation and expansion trends presented daily in today’s media.

Community economic development strategy will continue to place more emphasis on innovation and efforts towards home-grown job creation by mentoring expandable smaller businesses, facilitating the start-up of new businesses and educating young people that entrepreneurship can be a  personally satisfying and financially rewarding career choice.

 10.  Status quo biases leads to failure.

Communities don’t easily change; in fact, there is a bias towards change.

It’s easier to deny the need for change than to implement change, but a community that doesn’t change stagnates.

Most often a major event – loss of a major employer – is needed to drive home the need for change.

There are individual and community wide mental biases against change and noted economist Thomas Friedman best describes five stages of the mental process leading to economic stagnation, with some editorial comments we’ve all heard, as follows:

1.  You’re wrong and I can prove it.

Everything is just fine – it’s always been this way.

2.  You’re right but it doesn’t matter.

Yes, we should make some changes but it won’t help.

3.  Ok, it’s time to change & we can.

Woops, we were wrong and we now need to make changes.

4.  Of course we need to change but it’s too late to do anything.

Ouch, we’re too late to make anything better.

5.  Yes, we must change but the disruption will do political damage.

I’m not going to take on this risky job – leave it to someone else.

In the future, many communities will march into the future with the community development goals they have…not the ones they want to have, or the ones they wish to have until they realize that a successful community is one that reinvents itself as the community and its economy changes and develops the civic leadership to guide that change.


The future is bright, even though the economic development, city management and community planning profession face some big challenges.

This is not new; in my career my predecessors identified equally alarming challenges calling them opportunities, not problems.

So too, these ten thoughts and predictions pose challenges and opportunities for the future.

I believe today’s economic developers, city managers and municipal planners are ready and well prepared to accept these challenges and opportunities and serve as guides for the future.

YOUR COMMUNITY BRAND – Fulfilling Customers Wishes

March 7, 2014

Is your community brand more than a logo in my face?

Come play, shop, work and live is the calling card of every community.  Many make this their logo and seek to brand this “come-on” in the conscious and subconscious mind of everyone.

However, it doesn’t work according to most marketing gurus! 

According to studies sponsored by Martin Lindstrom a global marketing expert and author of Brand Sense and Buy • ology, his scientific researchers found, with 99% scientific accuracy, a logo is not the end-all of advertising. “The logo which most people accept as being most important and powerful in advertising was infact the least important”.  They found the more the logo is presented the more the human brain glosses over the message until it become unmemorable.

But almost every community, I have worked with over the past 40 years has asked “how do we create a distinctive and memorable brand that’s stays in the mind of the folks that we want to come and visit our community.”

Maybe a better question for the community to ask is what do our customers want and how do we fulfill their wishes?

Lindstrom’s research shows that the human brain spends only a half second scanning ad content in print or electronic media. His research also shows the brain takes 2.5 seconds to make a purchase decision.

Branding, according to Lindstrom, works on personal emotions…”fulfilling the customers wishes…the way our brains encodes things of value… a brand that engages us emotionally will be remembered and win our attention every time.”

If correct, a community advertising campaign must grab the reader’s attention in one-half second and offer them something that captures their attention allowing their brain 2.5 seconds to make a purchase decision.

With this in mind, here are ten questions that every community should ask themselves when forming their community marketing strategy:


1. What is the product or personal experience that our community is offering?

2. Is this what the customer wants or is it what we think the customer wants?


3. Is product or experience offering unique and different compared to our competition?

4. Do our customers know and recognize the product or experience is unique?


5. Is what we offer truthful – do we factually present our offerings?

6. Do our customers agree they can obtain what we offer?


7. Do our products and experiences offer an individual personal emotional benefit?


8. Do we need to change the product and personal experience we offer the customer?

9. Do we need to change the way the customer perceives the product or experience we offer?


10. Are we ready to commit time and money to a “long-term” strategy of customer wish-fulfillment?


There is no doubt the human brain is a complicated instrument that can summarize and process incredible amounts of information sorting out facts, stimulating emotions and creating memories and then processing them into a rapid, spontaneous and unconscious purchase decision.

A community brand has to carefully fulfill personal emotional desires and needs for success. 

This is accomplished when the community’s products and experiences is something more than a “logo in your face” but something that triggers an emotion response, which becomes memorable fulfilling an individual’s specific wish or need.


December 10, 2012

How Government Planning Harms Your Quality of Life, Your Pocket Book and Your Future

Best Laid Plans

Government panning has become an accepted part of life in the United States.  Almost every city and county in the nation has a plan and employs planners to make studies and establish plans to better the future.  Most states require cities and counties to prepare plans, some being required to access much needed grant assistance to fund local projects.

Planning America CoverIn a recent study (spring 2012) Planning in America: Perceptions and Priorities commissioned by the American Planning Association, the trade group for professional planners, 79%  of American’s like the idea of local community planning even if they are unclear about the goals that planning should serve”.

However, according planning critic Randall O’Tool author of the The Best Laid Plans, “a plan written with the best intention, will likely go horribly wrong”.

He claims that planners who “advertise their methods as the solution to almost any problem or controversy” allow elected officials to turn over thorny problems to the planning bureaucracy rather than force elected officials to make decisions.

He notes this planning decision process is run by “well-intentioned but often clueless people called planners, who, having graduated from architecture [and planning] schools and other universities are eager to bring their visions of utopia to the American people”.

O’Tool cites that it’s  a ”bitter irony, freely admitted by numerous planners, that many of the problems that planners propose to solve were caused not by the free marketplace, but by past generations of planners and other government bureaucrats”.

He basis his conclusion on two fundamental facts –

  1. That rational planning cannot occur in a highly politicalized environment, and
  2. The notion that competing groups can sit down together and negotiate the goals for all interest groups is unachievable.

While published in 2007, the validity of his statement surely is confirmed as demonstrated by Republican and Democratic Party actions during Presidential election and currently shown by congressional efforts to address the pending national fiscal problems.

O’Tool notes “planners tend to be attracted to fads over hard economic based analysis”.  Try TND, TOD, Smart Growth and today’s placed based community strategy, as examples.

He claims, planners unlike employees in the private sector, face no risk, allowing for planning to be done without the risk of failure.

This “no risk – no consequence” situation O’Tool suggests, allows planners to  “hide behind risk-free prepackaged concepts such as smart growth principles for their plans rather than doing detailed economic analysis that might or may not lead to success”.

The fundamental premise held by these planners is that “government can be blindly objective and even altruistic and create great plans, whereas private individuals and corporations working in their own self-interests cannot.  Only government can protect the common good”.

O’Tool’s opinions are obviously disputed by planners based on the results of their recent survey.

The recent (APA) survey disclosed that the American public recognizes the importance of government planning in economic prosperity with 92% of the respondents stating they believe “things work better with a plan and that community planning is important to the economic recovery” with local job creation ranked seventh in importance by over 70% of the responders.

Ironically, macro-economic theory is not typically emphasized as a critical component in planner education.  The educational framework of most planners is based on the notion that architectural design; the creation of a hospitable and livable physical environment, will dominate and shape people’s behavior.

O’Tool sees this dichotomy – the emphasis on physical environment shaping human behavior and providing the basis for job creation opposed to a free markets making the job creation decisions as the fallacy of government planning and reason that planning never will succeed.

So what are the planners to do?

Based on the notion jobs and economic development are to be higher priority for current community development strategy, planners need to gain a higher level of understanding of macro-economic influences that shape, or result from, community development plans.

Planners need to –

  1. Gain macro-economic education allowing assessment of potential impacts of optional community development strategies.
  1. Widen inputs into the comprehensive planning process to include greater consideration of government macro-economic policy upon future growth trends and the amount and timing of new development land needed to accommodate growth.
  1. Elevate the importance of municipal economic viability and sustainability into the overall framework of plan implementation, as professional standards of practice.
  1. Make mandatory the role of “concurrency” the notion that every capital expenditure must be confirmed by a funding source prior to inclusion into a comprehensive plan, thus eliminating speculative “build it and they will come” projects.
  1. Seek closure of the gap between the practice of economic development and comprehensive planning, recognizing that economic sustainability is only achieved when both disciplines act together to implement the comprehensive plan.
  1. Make real estate development economics a mandatory requirements of planner education giving planners a better understanding of private sector risk and reward principles for the creation of real estate taxable valuation which is the basis of local property taxes that derive revenue for local government operations.
  1. Create new unique public-private partnerships infrastructure models in recognition that traditional forms of developer “exactions” specifically the donation of public infrastructure will become a remembrance and local governments will be called upon to provide infrastructure when un-fundable by the developer’s lender.
  1. Create understandable and communicable matrices to quantify and measure success of plan implementation stressing short-term tangible results specifically new job and real estate investment creation.
  1. Establish accountability performance requirements for plan implementation which hold planners , as well as elected and appointed office responsible for plan implementation.
  1. Planners must also abandon the fundamental principle that community development and economic development programs must resolve multiple problems in order to be politically acceptable and fundable by local government officials. Planners must be able to “turn their back on certain problems which maybe a political impossibility under many current community and economic development strategies.

While O’Tool claims, “planners tend to be attracted to fads over hard economic based analysis”, there is evidence that a new fad – the recognition of macro-economic inputs into the shape, direction and viability of comprehensive planning may set direction for a stronger physical, social and environmental important strategy.


November 13, 2012

In the coming decades, “the quest for environmental sustainability and the need to meet the health demands of a fatter, sicker and older population may prove to be the greatest engines of innovation and, therefore the greatest economic opportunity of our lifetimes” according to  Vijay V. Vaitheeswaran author of Need, Speed, And Greed, How the New Rules of Innovation Can transform Businesses, Propel Nations To Greatness, And Tame The World’s Most Wicked Problems and  the Global Correspondent for the Economist magazine.

The author sets about to challenge some of the widely held views about innovation, the role of government versus business, the supposed global crisis and the failure of the world economy.

His book seeks to build a case for rethinking of how the world approaches innovation.

He believes the world stands on a cusp of a post industrial revolution and new rules of innovation will reveal these new principles and practices which will reshape the world’s economy.

This innovation will bring to the market place fresh thinking that creates value for a company for its customers and for a society at large.

This innovation will result in entrepreneurial activity new investment and new jobs.

What motivates idea generators in the new age of innovation is not mere profit – it’s also inspired by the passionate pursuit of purpose, in part meeting societal goals.

The three great forces that drive these passions are – need, speed and greed – the need for the innovative goods or services, the ability for the innovator to receive monetary return for the innovation and the speed in which the goods or service can be made available to the consumer.

These three forces drive the fresh thinking that creates something of value.

Today these changes are undergoing as an unpresented demographic, economic and environmental transformation, as mankind becomes a primarily urban species for the first time in history.

This mass urbanization will both demand faster and deeper innovation and offer the means for getting it; including –

The need for more urban  infrastructure,

  • Responsive political systems, and
  • Higher degree of interpersonal civility.

According to Vaitheeswaran, “the road from [economic] stagnation to rejuvenation results from innovation.

He supports the notion that innovation will be aided by:

  • More STEM education,
  • More immigration,
  • Less restrictive government regulation,
  • Less government interaction, and
  • More accommodative government R & D spending tax policy.

According the Vaitheeswaran, greed is not only good but also does good – if, that is, there are clear incentives to tackle the wicked problems of society.

He believes that many of today’s efforts to support innovation are simply a sham, mostly being a throwback to the failed industrial policy tried in the 1930’s and 1980’s as remedy for a flailing economy.

He supports a more free market capitalist approach that uses need, speed and greed to maximum innovation opportunities.


October 30, 2012

BIG ROADS – The Untold Story of the Engineers, Visionaries and Trailblazers Who Created the American Superhighways.

A planner’s thoughts about “Big Roads”   and highway planning.


Contemporary planning theory stresses the return to pedestrian, cycling and bus/rail transportation as a means for future community sustainability. 

This theory also embraces the notion that additional communication technology will allow declustering of jobs to suburbia and rural locations whereby journey to work-to/from-work trips can be redirected to nonvehicle transportation.

For planners, this “holy grail” of shaping behavior is a fundamental premise of futuristic community planning.

But history demonstrates a rather different path.  “Big Roads” by Earl Smith chronicles the history of the interstate road system from the late 1800’s documenting the history and local economic reliance on Big Roads.

For us planner’s educated in the 1970’s, the 3-C (cooperative, comprehensive & continuous) Metropolitan Planning process established by the Kennedy administration’s Federal Aid Highway Act of 1962  for metropolitan areas in excess of 50,000 population has special meaning.

It was the first time local governments in metropolitan areas were required to take a comprehensive look at the overall transportation system and to make choices of where to invest federal, state and local funds.

It established highway planning as a joint federal, state and local planning process for both road improvements and new road alignments.

It forced local governments to come together and give serious thought about the rate of population growth and geographic areas within metropolitan areas where this growth would most likely happen.

Some planners today confide the 3-C planning process, in reality, contributed to urban sprawl.

We planned for future growth without much real knowledge of what the future may bring, note some planners.

We designated major routes to support inter-city commuting, high capacity alignments for major activity centers like industrial parks, and others to serve areas where we thought residential development would happen.

There were no smart growth principles guiding these decisions, urban sprawl wasn’t coined and growth that increased local government tax base was most important.

We never considered that city centers would depopulate, suburban relocation of central city jobs would occur, or suburban transportation centric employment centers would develop.

Reading “Big Roads”, provides background about the growth of transportation planning from the 1839 national highway planning concept offered by the Department of Agriculture to the rise of the 3-C planning process in the 60’s. 

It also provides background for to today’s more current legislations – STAA (78&82), STURRA (87), ISTEA (91), TEA-21 (98), SAFETEA-LU (05), and the newest FPTA (Federal Public Transportation Act of 2012).

I’ll share some on my thoughts on the transportation planning process generated from reading this book:

1.  Historically, highway planning was a federal top down planning process.

While commonly held, highway planning for the Interstate System was not necessarily a federal defense matter but defense was used to secure federal spending authority and used as the basis for political decision making for federal investments chosen by congress and the president.

Fact #1 – Roads contribute lifeblood to community economies and inevitability is subject to political determination regarding need and location.

2.  Roadway improvements and new routes will be required in the future.

Nothing gives cause to the lessening of demand for highway usage in the future with a 25% percent population growth project by such noted authors as Joel Kotkin. In his book “The Next 100 Million”.

Fact #2 – Road capacity needs will increase as population increases however this demand will not be spread equally throughout the United States reflecting geographic residential and business location preferences.

3.  Road Diets will become a topic for planner and highway engineer discussion.

Credit John Gallagher, real estate correspondent for the Detroit Free Press and author of “Reimaging Detroit” for bringing the notion that when demand subsides, road capacity needs to be reconfigured providing the opportunity to bring a more pedestrian friendly space to the community.

Fact # 3 – Unneeded capacity allowing for newer multi-use of highway rights-of-way, or even road abandonment, will become prevalent in highway planning for areas of declining populations.

4.  Transportation planning will always be needed.

Historically from the beginning, roadway planning has been a prerequisite to funding transportation improvements, incrementally growing more formalized requiring every level of government to complete transportation plans as part of their government duties to secure funding.

Fact # 4 – Multi-layered increasing sophisticated transportation planning requirements will likely remain unchanged even in spite of funding shortages for planning and transportation construction projects. 

5.  Traffic counts will gain more decision making importance.

Transportation plans rely on supplying services where demand for service is needed.  Therefore data, specifically existing and future traffic counts, will continue to be critical and increasingly more important determinates in identification of where transportation projects will be funded.

Fact # 5 – Transportation is a numbers game and traffic origination and destination data for modeling future needs will always be one of the major determinates of funding decisions.

6.  Technology will increase traffic system capacity and vehicle flow.

Driverless vehicles technology is now available allowing for higher vehicle speeds and closer vehicle spacing both that increase safety and vehicle capacity while reducing origin/destination travel time consumption.

Fact # 6 – Technology, in the future, will become the sought after solution for reduction in spending and serve as an alternative to the construction of new roadway alignments and reconstruction of current roadways to increase capacity.

7The need for speed – the reduction in transport times will dominate investment decisions.

Cargo is a business expense while cargo is in transit making businesses seek the lowest cost and fastest means to ship cargo.  Physical locations which have the greatest transport time potentials will have a business location/expansion advantage.

Fact # 7 – The need for shorter transport times plus the least transport cost will become more important in  decision making for location of new roads as well as decisions to improve existing roadway capacity to reduce transport times.

8.  User fees will become more common sources of maintenance and new construction funding.

Today it’s possible to monitor, via vehicle computers, the number and time vehicles are driven.  This provides opportunities to consider different pricing user fee models including fees for each mile driven, different fees for the type of roads used and even premiums and discounts for when roads are used.

Fact # 8 – Reliance on motor fuel taxes to fund existing and new transportation projects will be altered in the future bringing into discussion use of user monitored mileage fees, congestion use fees and non-peak usae credits as remedies to lessoning needed revenue.

9.  Metropolitan vs. rural policies of state and federal transportation funding will be questioned and become a contentious political issue.

Competition for funding will increase policy discussion of where to allocate funds – metro areas where demand may be greater vs. smaller population centers where the demand is needed but at lesser scale.

 Naturally, the competition between metro vs. rural areas, will increase and take on a greater role in the political decision making process for allocation of scarcer future transportation funding.

 Fact # 9 – Traditional forms of funding will be dismantled and reprioritized due to inefficiencies in generating needed funding in proportion to needs.

10.  In response to increased demand for road improvements, tax authorities will seek to increase sales and real property taxes.

The reliance on motor fuel taxes to finance existing and new transportation projects will be altered in the future bringing into discussion the use of user monitored users mileage fees.  Alternatively, traditional forms of local government revenue based on real estate taxable valuation and generation of retail sales taxes, a portion of which, in  some communities is directed to general government operations will become of higher importance for allocation, in part, to support transportation fund deficiencies.

Fact # 10 – New forms of revenue generation including here-to-fore untouchable real estate tax funding in addition to “fee for service” modeled revenue forms, will top political solution discussions resolving transportation funding.

 LAST THOUGHTS – will future roadways lead or curtail sprawl?

Throughout modern vehicle history, highway transportation has been critical to the economic success of cities, villages, counties, regional areas, etc.  This trend understandably will continue……..

However, while historic funding tools will evolve to provide more revenue for highway and alternative transportation modes it will be the application of sound planning decisions separating “good from bad” planning that will contribute or contain sprawl.


August 20, 2012


Joel Kotkin in his book, “The Next 100 Million Americans in 2050”, states that “America will inevitability become a more complex, crowed and competitive place, highly dependent, as it has throughout history on its peoples innovative and entrepreneurial spirit and emerge by mid-century as the most affluent, culturally rich and successful nation in human history”.

He opines that 80%, or more, of the total US population growth has taken place in suburbia, a trend that will likely accelerate in the future.

If true, planners will be faced with a new suburban land use planning framework, one that focuses on:

providing multiple housing choices at higher densities,

  1. walk-to-work/shopping opportunities,
  2. use of energy efficient vehicle transportation, and
  3. accelerated use of communication technology.

He concludes that in the coming decade communities will need to reinvent their economic and social viability.

Here are some thoughts on the trends, now forming, that will shape this new suburbia:

Suburbia population will grow, however not equally everywhere.

  1. Race and ethnic diversity will increase.
  2. Multigenerational households will become common sharing dwelling units.
  3. Today’s minority will become tomorrow’s majority.
  4. Globally, desire for US immigration will increase.
  5. Civic and social suburban “town center lifestyles” will be critical to communitywide social connectivity.
  6. Suburbs will continue to in increase geographic size and population density.
  7. Jobs will follow people but more people will follow jobs.
  8. Communication advances will expedite “declustering” of jobs into suburbia and rural locations.
  9. Organizational patterns of governance will change as citizen demands change.

Under this scenario, in 2050 social and economic acculturation will have occurred deemphasizing ethnic enclaves in favor of a homogenized multi-ethnic mankind.

Under this scenario, there will be more bilingual suburbia residents but English will remain the dominate language for social and business communication.

Concentrations of racial and economic minorities will diversify from concentration in urban settings creation and exposing suburban geography to racial and economic diversity.

Immigrant entrepreneurism will continue to exceed native interests and serve as economic development opportunities for community job growth.

 End Note.

For planners and economic developers employing these trends today will foster wholesale changes to some redevelopment strategy.

Clearly, social and economic changes for the basis of successful land use and economic development planning resulting in true government supported community sustainability.

 Action today means successful communities here people will want to live today and in the future.


May 25, 2012

Community and economic developers take note, community demographics answer the plaguing question of why older, better educated and more wealthy folks always seem to be more involved in making local community decisions.

Like me, I suspect, you have the same reaction when first introduced to a local government council, planning commission or economic development agency board of directors – where are the younger folks?  It seems today that only folks aged 50-years or more get involved or actually serve as the “public” participants in community meetings.

Maybe there is an answer to this question.

Reading “Fault Lines in Our Democracy – Civic Knowledge, Voting Behavior, and Civic Engagement in the United States” a recently released study sponsored by the Educational Testing Services Center for Research on Human Capital and Education Research and Development provides some interesting research possibly answering this question.

The author’s study of 2010 voting participation and their recent survey data finds the lack of civic knowledge has a direct impact on the likelihood of someone becoming engaged in civic activities.  Their research further found that individual civic engagement participation differs due to age, income and education attainment.

Simply stated, the likelihood of a person becoming engaged in a civic activity increases with their age, income and educational attainment.  The “oldest most highly educated  and highest-income group is nearly seven time more likely to become involved compared to low-income persons having high-school (or less) education.”  The “well-educated (bachelor’s degree or more) middle-aged folks are five times more likely to become involved when compared to high school (or less) educated persons”.

Thus – the “Civic Engagement Gap”.

There’s over an 80% chance that someone have a graduate degree aged 55-64 years with a household income of $100,000 can be enticed to become involved in civic activities.

It answers the question why smart, old wealthy folks determine the community economic development strategy.

So there we have it….the lack of civic knowledge and demographics today determines who most likely guides the formation of community economic development policy.

The authors provide some interesting thoughts on why participation is low for some populations groups:

1. Lack of civic education of our youth – the family, elementary, high and college driven education.

2. Lack of “role model” and mentorship by family members.

3. Difficulties in participation – meeting time commitment and committee functionality.

4. Lack of civic knowledge and understanding the degree of personal importance.

5. Lack of confidence in political leadership.

6. Personal frustration due to lack of successfully accomplishments.

7. Intergenerational biases.

8. Status quo bias of “in power leadership”.

9.  Lack of employer corporate civic engagement sponsorship.

10.  Disenchantment – dissatisfaction and alienation with government.

So what do we do about the lack of participation?   

For community economic developers their work programs will ultimately require more attention to selected constituent group participation, especially less educated and lower income group involvement.

How we elevate civic interest to increase participation rates will be challenging, time consuming and an extra cost burden to already limited resources, but necessary to assure  consensus agreement on the community economic development strategy.

We all know that preparation of the community and economic development strategy is a fundamental local government sponsored process that binds the community‘s civic and social fabric together and serves as a fundamental cornerstone of a strong community democracy that builds trust in government.

We also realize constituency involvement leads to implementation success.

I hold the opinion, that community economic development strategy must promote junior & senior school civic education improvements.

My personal involvement with community economic development strategic planning exercises with junior and senior high school students finds student leadership having great concern for the future of their community.

When given a chance to participate interesting results occur; one being reinforcement that the next generation of community leaders are “in the making” – serious and concerned – fully aware of their disenfranchised and alienated classmates who represent the future “civic engagement gap”

Today’s community economic development strategies need strong involvement of the youth of the community; participation urged on by parents and educators alike.


May 22, 2012

Our post-recession economy will be different from history.

Richard Florida provides a convincing argument that the new economy, now in the making, will change not only what we do and how we do it but where we do it.

Community and economic developers, take note, the “Great Reset” will be characterized by the new technology and new patterns of land use.

How we react today will either hasten or hinder the eventual change separating growing from declining communities.

Florida summarizes two historic resets, the (1st)   rural to urban the farm to city movement of the late 1800’s and the (2nd) urban to suburban movements of late 1940-50’s.  Florida notes that in each, the change “gave rise to new district geography” for the pattern of development.

He opines that the current “Great Reset” will likewise take shape around a new economic landscape and a whole new way of life that is in line with the emerging social and economic realities of our times – less orientation around cars, houses and suburbs…being concentrations of population within urban centers.

Florida bases his theory on the notion that an economic crisis ultimately helps economic growth and this growth is inevitable as documented by history.

He supports the theory that concentration of urban humanity creates “long term innovation” a necessary ingredient that keeps cities vital and forms a catalyst for change.

As the subsequent recovery plays-out, Florida believes “we will see the rise of certain cities and regions, within the US and the decline of others”.

Cities that fail to keep up will be trapped when they depend on one or two backward-looking industries deflated entrepreneurial spirit or by high cost and outmoded organizational social structures.

So what’s to be done by local governments to enable and nurture growth?

Florida’s answers include –

1. Support innovation

2. Install new systems of technology and infrastructure

3.  Create new living and working environments

4.  Remold the economic landscape and pattern of current living environments

5.  Breed tolerance – cultural, sexual, religious, social and personal economic stature

Government’s role is to enable and accelerate these changes by creating the fertile environment where they can grow and develop.

The challenge before community and economic developer’s is how to identify the creative and special features of every single person in their community and organize these into a program of community economic development that creates jobs that increase individual productivity and wages.

This is most aptly done by:

1.  Individual educational improvements

2.  Municipal infrastructure investment to create new technologies and living environments

3. Increasing concentration of urban population thus increasing innovation

The end product is a new lifestyle and new economic landscape that can power new kinds of development and serve as the foundation for new economic growth.

These changes will increase what is termed “urban metabolism” which, as the urban population grows faster, more frequent innovation leading to faster growth.

Economic developer’s now have their assignment according to Florida……..making the Great Reset work to their communities advantage!