My children are still young enough that their activities, particularly sports, are about participation. Everyone gets a shot, and everyone generally gets equal playing time. There are clearly children that are more talented, and there are others that really struggle. I am pretty competitive and grew up with three older brothers, so this drives me a little crazy, but I get it. What I find interesting is that the whole team celebrates when a goal, basket, or touchdown is made. The kids that struggle a bit are delighted to see their teammates do well. The kids that do well are happy that their friends are on the field with them.
Our economy and our cities work very differently however, with a widening gap between those doing well and those that are impoverished. According to an article by Timothy Noah, entitled the United States of Inequality, “From 1980 to 2005, more than 80 percent of total increase in Americans’ income went to the top 1 percent. Economic growth was more sluggish in the aughts, but the decade saw productivity increase by about 20 percent. Yet virtually none of the increase translated into wage growth at middle and lower incomes, an outcome that left many economists scratching their heads.”
I am attending the International Economic Development Conference annual conference this week and the conference is filled with economic development professionals, economists, workforce experts, etc. There are sessions on numerous topics that touch around the issue, but none that hit the topic directly. The first step is to have dialogue about this issue without victimizing the poor or villianizing those at the top of the income bracket. Second, let us recognize that economic development does not only happen because someone in Washington changes the interest rate or enacts a policy. It happens block by block and farm by farm. It happens when neighbors pick each other up, and when the smart kid that started the company hires his or her friend who needs a job. It happens when we make sure the kid down the street doesn’t quit school and someone gives him a chance. Let’s get everyone on the field, give them a chance, and narrow the gap.
Our team will be in Charlotte this week at the International Economic Development Council’s annual conference with a host of economic developers from around the world. We will also be attending the Farm Science Review in Madison County later this week, as well as traveling to Chicago to meet with companies and a few consulting firms to market the Region. Additionally, our team leaves for Japan on Friday for ten day mission to meet Japanese companies.