Sunday, May 09, 2010

Past Silos and Smokestacks

In my first year officially working in economic development I got to work with some very interesting new people. One of the most valuable was Mark Drabenstott, a former vice-president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City and recently a Director of the RUPRI Center for Regional Competitiveness and Chairman of the Territory Development Policy Committee for the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. (OECD).

Mark has been facilitating a discussion about the emergence of a distinct economic region around the geography of the Upper Midwest. I found his ideas challenging, and I'm trying to help with an experiment to test the concept.

Mark just authored a great report, "Past Silos and Smokestacks: Transforming the Rural Economy in the Midwest", published by The Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

This is from Mark's executive summary: "The path to stronger economies in the rural Midwest is plain. Partnering regionally to compete globally is what's needed. This pathway will lead to scores of multicounty, self-defining regions across the Midwest. Only by combining their forces to create new businesses and good jobs at home will the towns and counties of their rural Midwest compete and thrive in a global economy where this sort of collaboration is fast becoming the norm."

"The Rural Midwest needs a bold new development strategy to transform its economy. The strategy developed in this report stands on four legs:

- Help rural communities and counties think regionally to compete globally.

- Focus public investments on transforming economic opportunities rooted in distinct economic strengths, not on smokestack chasing.

- Spur innovation and entrepreneurship, turning ideas and innovations into economic progress.

- Create a world-class entrepreneurial climate and innovation culture to grow a landscape of new companies, in the process of recycling the region's considerable wealth."

I find Mark's ideas compelling. My own response is to help take this idea into action steps that tie logical regional assets together while developing the infrastructure tools that can make these emerging regions globally relevant. Our Iowa County projects can make key contributions to the regional food systems emerging around us.

Building wise micro-region economic partnerships is vital. Wiring counties and micro-regions together to create globally relevant economic entities requires vision. I believe Mark's report , Past Silos and Smokestacks, provides that vision.

Here is a great summary from Mark: "Rural areas must partner regionally to compete globally. And they must give up the worn strategy of industrial recruiting in favor of innovative investments in their own distinct economic strengths. This bold new model for economic development is now gaining steam around the world…. The Midwest has always been good at growing things. And its hallmark values of resilience, determination and hard work will supply the essential fuel for a new century of prosperity. Let the work begin."

Many thanks to Mark Drabenstott for the contribution he made to the economic well being of Southwest Wisconsin and his work to help build a vision for connecting wisely to its regional partners.

As Mark says, let the work begin!

Download Past Silos and Smokestacks, 3.1 MB. 48 pgs. Published by The Chicago Council on Global Affairs

RUPRI. Rural Policy Research Institute.

Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Couldnt agree more with that, very attractive article