‘Underemployment discussion misses boat of lack of economic development’

The recent story (and followup editorial) about Franklin county having higher underemployment, and lower average income, than the rest of the state, shows more about how statistics lead to mis-placed efforts of economic development then any real news. To start, let’s get clear about ‘facts’, yes, incomes are lower here, but so is the cost of living, a lot lower. What underemployment is really about is a long term lack of real economic development vision, not about what jobs there are or what they pay.  The hidden story in the numbers is about all those people who are not counted, and conversely, where the efforts of the developers of policy put their efforts.  All business development statistics clearly show that small business creates far more (and better) jobs than large businesses, including related franchised operations.  Yet, the valley economic developer focus (including our own town efforts) are about real estate and getting good press, and that means bigger business deals. Such deals take far longer to close, and produce fewer jobs, usually including tax incentives that rarely pay off, than efforts at small business development.  To really create more, better jobs in the area, look more toward efforts that support small and micro business, including the ‘Creative Cluster’ and so-called Hidden businesses, those you can’t find on a street sign, yet will fill the current vacant upper floors of buildings in town. (Disclaimer: I am a founding board member of Hidden-Tech, a 1000 member strong valley association that runs without dues, as well as CEO of a growing small business in Greenfield)

For those interested:  see http://www.hidden-tech.net

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