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Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Wisdom! Be attentive!

During my two terms (forgive the off-topic, self-serving link, or ignore it) as Mayor of my home town about a million years ago, I remember attending a service at a Greek Orthodox church. When it came time for the scripture reading, the priest sang out an admonition.

“Wisdom! Be attentive!”

For some reason, that chant came back to me as I read this from Michael Mazerov of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

It seems that entrepreneurs and business executives of high-growth companies are a pretty smart bunch – smarter than most elected officials who think they can lure them to their states by cutting taxes and starving essential public services like parks. As Mazerov writes:   
Cutting state taxes to attract entrepreneurs is likely futile at best and self-defeating at worst, a new survey of founders of some of the country’s fastest-growing companies suggests.  The study, which is consistent with other research, should be required reading for state policymakers…
The 150 executives surveyed by Endeavor Insight, a research firm that examines how entrepreneurs contribute to job creation and long-term economic growth, said a skilled workforce and high quality of life were the main reasons why they founded their companies where they did; taxes weren’t a significant factor.  This suggests that states that cut taxes and then address the revenue loss by letting their schools, parks, roads, and public safety deteriorate will become less attractive to the kinds of people who found high-growth companies… The new survey… found that:
  • “The most common reason cited by entrepreneurs for launching their business in a given city was that it was where they lived at the time.  The entrepreneurs who cited this reason usually mentioned their personal connections to their city or specific quality of life factors, such as access to nature or local cultural attractions.”
  • "31% of founders cited access to talent as a factor in their decision on where to launch their company. . . .  A number of founders also highlighted the link between the ability to attract talented employees and a city’s quality of life.”
This rightfully turns the conventional "wisdom" of how to make states "attractive to businesses" inside out.  Instead of cutting taxes and public services, when it comes to attracting high-growth businesses, focus on making states more attractive for the entrepreneurs to live in with high-quality services.  What a concept!

It’s already well-established that conservation - and state parks - are proven job generators. But there’s real wisdom in the these findings – about natural resource conservation and using access to nature as the most effective path to attracting high-growth companies and high-wage jobs.  That wisdom also benefits all of us.  Will public officials be attentive? 

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