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Before we delve into the crux of our discussion today, let's take a moment to understand what we mean by 'critical thinking'. At its core, critical thinking is a disciplined, intellectual process that involves carefully and skilfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and evaluating information. It's about questioning assumptions, identifying biases, and making thoughtful decisions. Now, imagine applying this potent tool to economic development. What changes might we bring about?

For generations, we've been following conventional wisdom and established strategies to propel economic development. The well-trodden path, with its apparent security and predictability, often seems the safest bet. But is it the most efficient or effective route to sustainable economic growth? In this blog post, we argue it's time to challenge the status quo, to approach economic development through the lens of critical thinking, and to redefine our understanding of success.

Rethinking 'Doing it the Way We've Always Done It'

Traditional economic development has often revolved around chasing growth at any cost. This approach has produced remarkable gains over the years, but it's also led to issues like wealth inequality, resource depletion, and environmental degradation. The 'business as usual' mentality confines us to a box that stifles innovation and prevents us from seeing the broader implications of our decisions.

Applying critical thinking to economic development means questioning the norms. It allows us to break free from the 'this is how we've always done it' mindset and encourages us to explore novel ideas and innovative solutions.

Redefining Economic Success

How we define success significantly influences our strategic planning and decision-making processes. Traditionally, economic success has been predominantly measured in terms of jobs and investment on deals that we make to attract and retain businesses in our local economy. The expectation is that we see a growth in Gross Domestic Product. While GDP is a valuable tool for gauging an economy's production output, it doesn't necessarily reflect the well-being of citizens, environmental sustainability, or social equity.

Incorporating critical thinking into economic development challenges us to redefine success. We should seek a more comprehensive measurement that takes into account not just jobs, investment and GDP growth, but also indicators that reflect how people in the local economy are being affected. By doing so, we can formulate strategies that promote holistic development and long-term prosperity.

We need Novel Approaches to Economic Development to Meet Novel Demands

Economic Developers are seeing a change in trends from people and businesses in their local economy. The focus of economic development is increasingly shifting to “satisfaction” instead of “bottom line”. Some of the interests and expectations for our local economies are:

1. Sustainability: With increasing awareness about environmental issues, there's a

strong demand for sustainable practices in businesses. This includes reducing waste, lowering carbon emissions, using renewable energy sources, and implementing circular economy principles.

2. Localism: There's a growing trend toward supporting local businesses, products, and services. This not only helps to stimulate the local economy but also creates a sense of community, helps to reduce carbon footprints, and often results in better customer service.

3. Digitization: The pandemic accelerated the trend of digitization and online services. Businesses and consumers now expect digital access to services, from shopping to banking to remote work opportunities. This means local economies need to invest in digital infrastructure, like high-speed internet.

4. Inclusive Economic Development: Communities are demanding that economic development benefits everyone. This means creating opportunities for minority and marginalized populations, investing in affordable housing, and addressing income inequality.

5. Green Spaces and Quality of Life: As the pandemic has increased the value of outdoor spaces, communities are demanding more green spaces, bike lanes, and pedestrian-friendly city planning. This improves the quality of life, which can attract more residents and businesses.

6. Resilience: Given the shocks from events like the pandemic and extreme weather

events, communities are demanding that local economies build resilience. This might mean diversifying the local economy, investing in resilient infrastructure, and planning for future disruptions.

7. Collaboration and Partnerships: Businesses are increasingly recognizing the benefits of collaboration, whether it's partnering with other businesses for mutual benefit, working with local colleges or universities on research and development, or engaging in public-private partnerships for community projects.

These trends reflect the evolving demands of people and businesses for local economies that are sustainable, inclusive, digital, and resilient, with a high quality of life.

These approaches require us to leverage local resources, promote sustainability and r

esilience, and encourage innovation and entrepreneurship. They represent a shift away from traditional, often top-down models of economic development, towards more inclusive and sustainable models.

Are Economic developers preparing properly to meet these demands?

The Road Ahead

Economic development is not a one-size-fits-all journey. The world is evolving, and our strategies must evolve with it. By rejecting the notion of 'doing it the way we've always done it' and employing critical thinking, we can redefine success and explore novel approaches that will truly make a difference. It's not an easy task, but it's a worthy one—because sustainable economic growth is about more than just numbers, it's about improving people's lives and safeguarding our planet.

At Infinite Sequence Economics, we believe in the power of new ideas and robust critical thinking to transform our economic landscapes. Stay tuned for more discussions as we continue to explore these topics and more.

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  • Writer's pictureJon Maynard

For more than a century, economic developers have relied on two metrics as the key to demonstrating success; jobs and investment.

Jobs and investment are the two things that you will hear in any conversation when an economic developer talks about the latest deal that they made. I still do it too. It’s hard to NOT talk about these metrics. They sound so perfect for describing success. Unfortunately, as our world keeps evolving, I've come to realize that these traditional objectives don't paint the full picture. To truly catalyze change in our local economies, I've discovered the importance of examining a diverse range of economic factors.

This paradigm promotes the use of extensive, reliable data…measured over time…. to drive intelligent decisions, rather than simply relying on personal opinions or beliefs. Data is now integral to my work and, I believe, the cornerstone of a better approach to economic development. In this age, we're immersed in a sea of data. I've realized this vast resource can be an influential tool in deciphering the dynamics of our world, particularly when we aim to uplift our local economies. Without robust, trustworthy da

ta, we are merely speculating, voicing only an opinion. To make the most effective decisions, we must delve into a multit

ude of factors, extending beyond the confines of jobs and investment.

Consider variables such as population growth, total job growth, workforce size, income per person, median household income, and Gross Domestic Product (GDP). When we

analyze these factors over a period of time, patterns begin to emerge. These patterns, derived from hard data, offer invaluable insights into the right steps to stimulate economic growth. These data are all factors that measure the economy based on things that directly effect the people in our local economy. Making life better for people in our community is the most important part of growth in a local economy. This "People-Based" approach places the emphasis on the individuals who make up the economy. The principle is straightforward: if the people in a community prosper, the economy will follow suit.

Embracing this approach means going beyond jobs

and investment. It also implies improving community life through better education, healthcare, and social services. I've witnessed how prioritizing community wellbeing in this manner can spur a cycle of gr

owth that benefits everyone. I'm firmly convinced that the future of economic development hinges on a diverse array of data and a focus on people's wellbeing. By leaning on data rather than just opinions, I can gain a deeper understanding of our communities. This understanding, in turn, aids in formulating more effective strategies for economic growth. So, isn't it high time we all adopt this new, data-centric, people-first approach in economic development? Data, I've learned, isn't just a tool—it's the foundation of a truly people-based approach.

But maybe that’s just my opinion…..

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In 2023, small towns, especially those in rural parts of America, are dealing with big problems related to their workforce. These problems are complex and affect these communities in many ways. Lightcast, a workforce research and analysis company, recently published a report called "Bridging the Gap in our Labor Force" This report is a follow up to their research on what they call the “Demographic Drought”. The updated report focuses on what we need to do to deal with the new normal.

The New Normal: Not Enough Workers

In their research, Lightcast simply states that we are facing a new normal: there aren't enough workers. This isn't just a temporary problem caused by the pandemic. It's a long-term issue that's been growing for years. It's due to things like low birth rates, older people retiring, and fewer immigrants coming to the country. The pandemic just made these problems worse.

The lack of workers is a problem for the whole community, not just businesses. People are the most important part of a community. If students leave the area after they graduate, it makes the worker shortage eve

n worse. But if these students can see a clear path to a job in their local community, it can help lessen the impact of the worker shortage.

How Small Towns in Rural America are Affected

The worker shortage has a big impact on small towns in rural America. With so many job openings, workers have more choices. With more choices for available to the current workforce, employers are forced to create innovative ways to attract the talent that they need to be successful. The old adage about catching flies with honey seems to apply here.

Employers still need skills and talent that should be taught in local schools. If those skills aren't a part of the educational fabric of your community, jobs go unfilled. Worse yet, the talent that you have in your commu

nity can just pack up and leave forever. This shows why it's important for business leaders to work with schools. They can offer opportunities for students to learn while they work, advise on school programs, give tours of their facilities, give guest lectures, or even donate equipment specific to their industry. The next step in this process is to listen carefully to what the school and the talent is wanting. Times are changing rapidly, and employers need to be the source of better honey in order to catch the flies the they need to be successful.


To solve the workforce problems faced by small towns in 2023, we need creative and proactive solutions. This includes investing in a skilled and effective workforce, thinking differently about how we recruit workers, and understanding the role looking farther and wider when filling job openings. Everyone needs to work together on this: employers, schools, communities, and the talent themselves. Infinite Sequence Economics can

examine your workforce and talent situation and help you develop creative ways to improve the needs of your local employers.

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