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A Taxing Future

“Government’s view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.”
-Ronald Reagan

I am more convinced each day that we live in extraordinary times. Things that we only used to see in sci-fi movies like flying cars and robots that “think” are becoming a reality.

An often-overlooked challenge is that it is difficult to keep pace with things that once moved predictably, creating revenue streams to sustain the government and fund our infrastructure. Income streams for governments, businesses and individuals may change drastically over the next few decades. For those given the great responsibility of community stewardship (civic, business, political and economic development leaders), it is a daunting time.

Alas, these things that overwhelm us can also be used to our advantage. We have a greater access to information and a greater ability to analyze and predict problems than ever before. The urge to act is strong, but we should take the time to use our ability to assess large data sets in order to see trends and understand what is predictable.

Does your community have a research agenda to address competitiveness and sustainability? It is important to consider that and many related questions:

  • Where do our citizens derive income today? What are the key drivers of revenue and our economic base? Are some of those sources likely to change in form or function, and can we reasonably predict how?
  • What are our key industries? What is the future of those industries and the major employers in our region?
  • What healthcare, energy and educational assets do we currently have? Are they equipped for the future? How will changes in the ways we use these resources have an impact on tax revenue and economic sustainability?
  • How does our community derive tax revenue and how will it need to be modernized to adapt to new business models? What kinds of technologies will be necessary to assess and collect taxes?
  • What do our demographics look like? What are they likely to look like over time? Do we have the infrastructure (mobility, housing, healthcare, and educational facilities) to serve them? Here’s an example of how Wales presented answers to these questions.

It has never been more important to use technology and deep research capabilities. This creates a great opportunity for colleges and universities to engage with their communities, and it should challenge economic developers to engage advanced analytics firms to assess opportunities and risks, just as large businesses do today.

-Kenny McDonald

Columbus 2020 Update