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Are We There Yet? … Markers of a Healthy Local Economy

Courtesy Norris Krueger, Jr., Ph. D.

Norris Krueger, Jr., Ph. D. is an experienced leader in entrepreneurship-led economic development. His projects in entrepreneurship range from public policy analysis and research to the design of truly experiential entrepreneurial education and training programs. He was just deeply involved in a global summit of thought leaders on growing healthy entrepreneurial communities and is happy to share what we know to be true. Learn more about Norris here. https://docs.google.com/a/u.boisestate.edu/file/d/0B7of6ihOVaOLNzhkNzI3Y2QtOWE5Yi00YTkwLTkyMDctYmYzNjdkZWVlYmM3/edit?ddrp=1&hl=en

If we suddenly had a great entrepreneurial ecosystem … How would we know?

How would we know we were on the right track? Not an easy question at all – for many reasons. Data is weak or non-existent, we analyze it poorly, etc. But are we even asking the right questions?

Markers and metrics are so important – don’t we get what we measure? And if we don’t even try?

Rather than dive deeply into the critical issues around entrepreneurial ecosystems, just go read my blog [http://bit.ly/NKblog2 ] or, better yet, go read Brad Feld’s Startup Communities. Or even my interview in last month’s B.U.M.? 😉

Instead, let’s focus on the trajectory. Doesn’t “Are We There Yet?” suggest we know where we want to go? (And where we are now?) Think Google Maps – plug in where we are and where we want to go and… voila! We can see our options for routes to take.

However, most communities plot routes, often in great detail without clearly knowing the destination. Very few communities have a great map of their current ecosystem; almost none know where their entrepreneurs want to go. Boise needs to do this “Google mapping.” But what can we do in the meantime? We can jump start this process by simply asking…

“How would we know if we’re there yet?”

Objective metrics are hard. Data is tricky and analyzing them is even harder. It is all too easy to pick measures that are self-serving. It is all too hard to identify measures that actually predict the outcomes we’d like. And if you knew how they estimate jobs and GDP you’d likely go punch an economist. (J/K!)

Markers of Progress – why not look at process?

I crowdsourced a list of process markers from economic developers, academics and entrepreneurs and if you take a look (please!) at http://bit.ly/EcoSys, you’ll get a feel for that approach.

But I always say “Go ask the entrepreneurs, dammit!” So I’m asking you. NOW!

So… How would YOU know?

What would give you the “gut feeling” that Boise was growing a healthy entrepreneurial ecosystem? What would be a marker, a symptom of progress? BUM and I are asking you to give us your “gut level” marker of an improving local economy. We don’t need statistics about jobs, GDP, income, new/small firms, etc.

Example: One city in our region claims to use the percent of beer consumed that is craft/microbrew – higher percentages actually predict economic growth rather well, it turns out!

So until we get Idaho to seriously “Google map” itself… let’s have some fun and suggest some markers that tell us that we are (or aren’t) making progress toward a great entrepreneurial ecosystem?

Send your comments to tabitha@boiseurban.com for publishing in next issue, and/or Facebook/Twitter with hashtag #AreWeThereYet

Can’t wait to hear your ideas!

Entrepreneur Up, y’all…

Dr. K


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