Academic economic development: redux

I just wanted to follow up quickly on a few comments I received about my column yesterday.

There does seem to be a pile of academic research in the area of community economic development but I make a big distinction between CED and the kinds of ED that I am interested in.  Specifically, how do we attract business investment into regions such as New Brunswick?  How do we build new clusters from nascent economic activity in places like New Brunswick?  How do we foster a risk-taking environment where entrepreneurs grow that want to take on the world?  How do we promote places like New Brunswick around the world on a fraction of the budget of a place like Ontario?

These, it seems to me, are too pedestrian for many academics although as I have said if you substituted “sub-saharan Africa” for “New Brunswick” above you would get a lot of research.

I also realize there are lots of undergraduate programs in CED and I went through the Waterloo certification course for economic developers in the 1990s.

What I was looking for was a graduate school where I could get a Phd focused on the kinds of topics mentioned above and I had a really hard time finding an opportunity.  There was an interesting university in England that had a very interesting research area looking at how places like Northern England could attract Fortune 1000 firms and similar economic development activities.

I don’t want to start a war but I do think that much of the CED work is about re-distributing the economic pie rather than growing it.   Inner city redevelopment is a very important goal in many urban areas but much of the focus is about repatriating activity from the suburbs rather than new growth.  In a place like New Brunswick we have to be focused on incremental economic growth, incremental job creation (good careers) and incremental tax revenue to start to limit our exposure to federal transfer payments.   Take a look at a lot of the CED work and see how much of it is meant to achieve those objectives?  

Again, I think CED is critical in a community context.  Encouraging small business start ups to reduce high neighbourhood unemployment and provide services in the community is important in many situations but there is a higher level view.

1 thought on “Academic economic development: redux

  1. “These, it seems to me, are too pedestrian for many academics although as I have said if you substituted “sub-saharan Africa” for “New Brunswick” above you would get a lot of research”

    That’s probably because there is, or has been, more funding available for the ‘developing world’ applications of this kind of work. I guess I would ask, what are the outputs of these kind of studies by academics? Have they been shown to have value re development? Do they have predictive value that can be applied to other locations? Seems to me that ED studies in general (academic or not) need to be subjected to the data test. Are there many that have been rigorous enough to have value?

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