Resource Review: Pollinating local economies
From the first paragraph (which kicks off with a pretty scathing look at the incentives used to attract the production of House of Cards to Maryland), Michael H. Shuman’s punchy new book The Local Economy Solution challenges ideas about the form and function of economic development in the United States.
Shuman, who serves as an adjunct instructor at Simon Fraser University in the community economic development program, argues quite passionately against “attract-and-retain” economic development programs focused on drawing businesses to communities with hefty incentives. Instead, he proposes that economic development should be focused on identifying and nurturing cost-effective (ideally self-financing) pollinator enterprises that support strong local entrepreneurial ecosystems. For those in the US or elsewhere who are engaged in business retention and expansion or economic gardening, these ideas are likely familiar.
These pollinator enterprises fall into five categories: planning, people, partnerships, purchasing, and purse. By focusing on local businesses, Shuman maintains that economic developers will see greater benefits for their communities (e.g. better jobs and higher employment rates) based on the significant role small and medium enterprises have in the economy and as employers. Each of these pollinator types is explored in detail with multiple examples and case studies from around the world.
In some cases, Shuman’s discussions of the state of American economic development can be oversimplified or too broadly generalized, but his energy and obvious passion for growing local economies will leave readers inspired. For those working in the American context, Shuman’s argument offers a challenging perspective on economic development that may spur some new ideas that will benefit their communities. American, Canadian, and international readers alike will find a wealth of examples, resources, and case studies that make The Local Economy Solution a worthwhile read.