More Work To Do

October 19, 2015

Life is often compared to a marathon, but I think it is more like being a sprinter—long stretches of hard work punctuated by brief moments in which we are given the opportunity to perform at our best.
-Michael Johnson

Economic development successes are and should be celebrated, whether a community development project brings investment to a depressed neighborhood or a Fortune 500 company announces a major jobs commitment. These successes are often the culmination of the long-term efforts of many civic leaders and teams of hardworking people.

However, even the most positive economic development announcements will often have this caveat placed at the end: “There is more work to do.”

What defines that work? What is left to do? In two words, a lot.

  • At a time when there are many unfilled jobs in manufacturing, information technology and other great fields, the unemployment rates of African American men remain nearly double the U.S. unemployment rate. Labor participation rests at 61 percent within the African American population, a full 2-3 percent lower than the national average.
  • In an era of great globalization, less than one percent of America’s 30 million businesses export — a percentage much lower than other developed countries. It is hard to be a globally competitive company if you are not competing for 95 percent of the world’s market (which rests outside our borders).
  • Infrastructure that moves people, goods and ideas is necessary to expand and innovate. As a share of total GDP, public infrastructure spending in the U.S. has been stagnant from 1979 through 2014.
  • Most truly new jobs are created by new enterprises and entrepreneurs, who are often immigrants and talented students with high debt rates. Communities that welcome and support these groups will thrive.
  • While there are many passionate supporters and programs to aid in the retention and growth of manufacturing in the U.S., this important and innovative sector remains under siege by foreign competitors and uncertain workforce and energy markets.

This does not mean that we should not celebrate victories and reward the hard work and admirable intentions of those who toil each day to make their communities better. In fact, we should celebrate even more! But, we should also begin to aim at the root causes of the challenges stated above and engage more creative, innovative people to change their trajectory.

Let’s have a great week.

Kenny McDonald

One Columbus Update