The brief – step change economic development

Here’s my brief for the Winston Churchill Fellowship.

The elevator pitch

To research what makes places grow, stagnate or decline with a focus on small locations outside cities.

Identify the actions that people can take to get a ‘step change’ in the places where they live.

I started off calling this ‘provincial’ economic development but you can swap this out for ‘small town’, ‘rural’, ‘regional’, ‘local’ or ‘outside big cities’.  

Who?  

Explore the different perspectives of those who have an impact – private sector, non-government and government.

Where?

United States, Europe and China.  I’m visiting both cities and smaller locations to look at transferable actions.

When

June-July 2015.

Why?

Economic development, particularly but not exclusively job creation, is the foundation of every community, no matter what size.  Most if not all local communities in New Zealand will continue to face the challenge of how to maintain (let alone increase) employment and therefore how to sustain growth.

Provincial New Zealand is undergoing a significant shift in how economic wealth is generated, and many communities are struggling. In particular value is able to be generated without increasing job creation (e.g. in dairy) or traditional “work” in such local communities (for example in retail).

The challenges local economies face now will only intensify over the next few decades, including industry changes, the growth in dominance of service provision over production, technology, education, labour supply, agglomeration, aging population and affordability.  Each of these issues has flow-on affects, and when combined the problems become more complex, impacting the viability of economies.   More specifically how communities benefit and remain viable under different economic processes is critical.

The value add in many new successful economies does not come from traditional sources such as raw materials, low or even partially skilled work, physical presence near customers – industrial models are changing or disappearing and with them so too many of the traditional employment structures and infrastructures.

People talk of Zombie Towns, neglected regions and how to revive them.  There’s no silver bullet but we’ve got to do something – doing nothing is not an option.

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