Month: May 2015

Robots and the Future of Work

Technology has transformed work, workers, and the workplace since early times. But the degree and pace of technological change has accelerated. It’s happening in Ashtabula County and every place else. But listen in …

Advances in robotics and automation technology have eliminated many jobs, but the rapid pace of innovation may create social unrest as more and more workers are deemed redundant, predicts Vivek Wadhwa of Princeton University (VentureBeat). He cautions that governments will not be able to create the jobs or slow down this progress. They can barely keep up with the advances that are happening in technology, let alone develop economic policies for employment…How are policy makers going to grapple with entire industries’ disruptions in periods that are shorter than election cycles?

Not so fast, says Mark Muro of the Brookings Institution. Muro found that between 1996 and 2012,industrialized countries that used more robots actually lost fewer manufacturing jobs. Germany uses more than three times the industrial robots than the United States and only lost 19 percent of its manufacturing jobs, compared to a 33 percent decline in the United States. Muro contends that “Industrial robots are a disruptive technology, and as disruptive technologies take hold some workers benefit while others are hurt. But to suggest…that the use of robots is a causal factor in the decline of American manufacturing employment is factually wrong.”

The problem with robots is not that they replace workers but rather displace them (The Atlantic). The faster the pace of innovation, the harder it is to find employees with the appropriate skills to fill previously unimagined jobs. This is all bad news for wages:

Technology-induced unemployment keeps the median wage stagnant. A large pool of unemployed workers competing for too few jobs drives wages down…wages are stagnant because it is difficult for many workers to acquire the new skills and labor markets do not fully compensate workers for those skills.

Educators, workforce developers, and their partners will need to be even more agile to prepare workers for jobs that don’t yet exist.

Tailor place-making strategies to the neighborhood context.

Place-making has taken hold in a large number of communities across America and internationally. The Civic Development Corporation of Ashtabula County (CDC) plans to give greater attention to the issue in Ashtabula County.

Let’s start with a definition of place-making. According to the Project for Public Places, place-making is a quiet movement that inspires people to collectively reimagine and reinvent public spaces as the heart of every community. Strengthening the connection between people and the places they share, place-making refers to a collaborative process by which we can shape our public realm in order to maximize shared value. More than just promoting better urban design, place-making facilitates creative patterns of use, paying particular attention to the physical, cultural, and social identities that define a place and support its ongoing evolution. With community-based participation at its center, an effective place-making process capitalizes on a local community’s assets, inspiration, and potential, and it results in the creation of quality public spaces that contribute to people’s health, happiness, and well being. When PPS surveyed website visitors about what place-making means to them, we received overwhelming evidence that it is a crucial and deeply-valued process for those who feel intimately connected to the places in their lives. Placemaking shows people just how powerful their collective vision can be. It helps them to reimagine everyday spaces, and to see anew the potential of parks, downtowns, waterfronts, plazas, neighborhoods, streets, markets, campuses and public buildings.

A recent report detailing the views and values of place-making in Michigan, the Midwest and the nation is now available from the MSU Land Policy Institute. Rebuilding Prosperous Places in Michigan brings together much of the findings from various studies on place-based development and digs even deeper into issues of demand and value.

The study found that, at the national level, people believe that there is a connection between placemaking and economic development, as well as between placemaking and quality of life. Their perceptions about whether their neighborhood and community are better places to live now than five years ago appears to be associated with place-based characteristics, such as visual appeal, mixed-use, shopping, social activities, bike lanes or paths/trails, arts and culture experiences and public transportation.

Neighborhoods are living places, which makes them very important. Place-making efforts must be sensitive to needs and views of people living in neighborhoods. Gentrification is a common concern; that is place-making efforts can contribute consciously and unconsciously to the gentrification, which is the process of renewal and rebuilding accompanying the influx of middle-class or affluent people into deteriorating areas that often displaces poorer residents.

So what are some of the neighborhood level challenges facing place-making efforts? Here are few suggested by Kip Bergstrom, Deputy Commissioner, Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development.

There are three very different kinds of place-making challenges at the neighborhood level that require a different leadership approach and policy tool kit:

  1. Low-income neighborhoods which have static or declining vibrancy, due to persistent rates of poverty and declining population and job growth.  These neighborhoods have the challenge of economic integration and upward mobility, of changing the bedrock conditions for their residents such that current residents get a larger share of economic growth and chose to stay in the neighborhood as it is redeveloped.  There are often deep creative capabilities among existing residents that can be unleashed and developed.  But, to be effective, arts initiatives need to be coordinated with housing redevelopment, workforce development and school reform (see Policy #10 below).  Working in low-income neighborhoods requires different policies and skill sets than those required in more prosperous neighborhoods.  But as soon as a low-income neighborhood becomes prosperous, it faces the next set of challenges described below.
  2. Distinctive, mixed–income neighborhoods with rising vibrancy.  These neighborhoods have the challenge of maintaining diversity and distinctiveness in the face of “commodification” as rising rents crowd out diversity of people and use.  The result is more high-income people, more chains and large companies, and less socio-economic diversity and less one-of-a-kind shops and startups.  This is extremely problematic as diversity is a fundamental precondition for innovation.  In these neighborhoods, there needs to be a deliberate effort to preserve lower rent uses, through housing policy and historic preservation policy, described in Policy #5 below, and through zoning policy that is permissive of funky uses.  For example, some cities allow commodification on main avenues, but maintain diversity through a free-for-all of permissive zoning on side streets, which typically command lower rents than the main avenues anyway.
  3. Generic chic neighborhoods with declining vibrancyThese neighborhoods have the challenge of using some of their prosperity to buy back some of the soul they sold to get it.  If they do not, they will lose the competition for talent to diverse, mixed-income neighborhoods, the next economy will pass them by, and they will become increasingly less vibrant, high-income enclaves.  I think this context is actually the most difficult placemaking challenge.  Better to avoid it by maintaining the diversity of distinctive, mixed-income neighborhoods.

Implied in all this is a fourth context:  the un-place, the vast expanse of undifferentiated strip malls, subdivisions and office parks in seas of industrialized agriculture that characterizes much of the American landscape.  Most of what we have done for the past 70 years is to make un-places.  It is actually hard to make a place from a greenfield.  Creative placemaking does not presume that a place does not already exist; it is in fact most successful when there is already a real place to build upon, made distinctive by past layers of development, of local character accreted over time.

Our cities, large and small, served as the primary ports of entry for waves of immigrants and were the engines of upward mobility that created the middle class in the last half of the nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth.  Their decline has been both a consequence and a cause of rising income inequality, and their revitalization represents our best chance to rebuild the middle class.  Income inequality and income segregation stifle economic growth and innovation.  To the extent that creative place-making helps to restart our cities as engines of upward mobility and innovation, it contributes to the solution of the most critical problem facing the nation.

Want to know more? Click here.

Entrepreneurial success depends on actions, attitudes and practice, Stanford expert says

Strengthening Ashtabula County’s entrepreneurial economy is a critical priority. What are entrepreneurs made of and what makes a good entrepreneur? Read on.

Stanford Professor Tina Seelig says that entrepreneurship can be taught, learned and practiced through a rigorous approach that she calls the Invention Cycle. With the right set of tools and techniques, people can gain the necessary skills to achieve entrepreneurial success, says a Stanford innovation expert.

“Immersion and curiosity reveal insights and opportunities that are hidden in plain view,” said Tina Seelig, executive director for the Stanford Technology Ventures Program and a professor of the practice in Stanford’s Department of Management Science and Engineering. She teaches at the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design ( and has a doctorate in neuroscience from the Stanford School of Medicine. During the past academic year, Seelig introduced in her courses the concept of the Invention Cycle, which aims, she says, to explain the nature of the innovation process.

Can you teach people to be more creative and entrepreneurial?

My colleagues and I are asked this question all the time. It arises from the fact that we haven’t had a clear framework for the entire entrepreneurial process, from inspiration to implementation. This is in sharp contrast to other fields, such as math, biology, physics and music, which have defined terms and relationships that provide a structured approach for learning and applying those skills.

My goal in Insight Out is to bring together what we know about creativity with what we know about entrepreneurship so that we can reproducibly teach, learn and practice these skills in a rigorous manner.

What is the Invention Cycle?

The Invention Cycle is a new model that defines the relationships between imagination, creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship. The framework also captures the attitudes and actions that are necessary at each step through the invention process. It is a virtuous cycle in that entrepreneurs manifest their ideas by inspiring others’ imagination, which starts the cycle again.

The Invention Cycle includes definitions for imagination, creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship. Imagination is envisioning things that do not exist; creativity is applying imagination to address a challenge; innovation is applying creativity to generate unique solutions, and entrepreneurship is applying innovation to bring unique ideas to fruition.

How do you learn the skills needed to go from inspiration to implementation?

Like all skills, they require practice. Honing the attitudes of the Invention Cycle leads to effectiveness, and mastering the actions results in inventiveness. Each set of traits is necessary but not sufficient – only when they are coupled together are you effective at bringing new ideas to fruition.

The attitudes for effectiveness include being engaged, motivated, focused and persistent. The actions that influence inventiveness include envisioning, experimenting, reframing and inspiration.

How does this apply within organizations?

In startup ventures, the founders need to have all the skills of the Invention Cycle in order to conceive of ideas and then manifest them in the world. As the firm grows, not every team member needs to have every skill in the cycle. However, collectively the team needs to cover every base. Without imaginers, there won’t be compelling opportunities to address. Without creators, routine problems won’t get solved. Without innovators, there won’t be fresh ideas. And without entrepreneurs, innovations will sit on the shelf.

How important is it to inspire others to embrace your entrepreneurial dreams?

All significant accomplishments are like barn raisings ­– you can’t do them alone. They require a collection of individuals who are dedicated to the success of the project. Therefore, if you want to accomplish something of merit, you need to find ways to magnify your impact by influencing others to support your efforts. This involves encouraging others to join your team, fund your work, use your products and spread the word. This is equally true for artists, musicians, chefs, technology innovators and other entrepreneurs who want to reach a broader audience. Inspiring others to act is not about getting people to do the things you want them to do, but motivating them to want to do those things.

What is the best way to get started on an entrepreneurial journey?

Active engagement is the first step to imagining what could be. It requires immersing yourself, not just observing from afar. Immersion and curiosity reveal insights and opportunities that are hidden in plain view. I often meet individuals who are desperately looking deep inside themselves to find something that will drive their passion. They miss the fact that, for most of us, our actions lead to our passions, not the other way around. Passions are not innate, but grow from our experiences. No matter where you are in your life, you can always return to this first principle. Engagement is a master key that opens up any door.

What are the biggest obstacles to bringing big ideas to life?

The biggest obstacle is always our own attitude. Every entrepreneurial undertaking is an act of creation: going from nothing to something. At the beginning there is nothing but the vision of accomplishing your goal. The stronger your drive to reach the finish line, the more tenacious you’ll be and the more likely you are to reach your objective.

Over the years I have seen a pattern among those who successfully navigate the path from innovation to entrepreneurship. They know how to take steps that are large enough to be challenging, but small enough that they lead manageably toward the objectives. Those who don’t pace themselves properly are doomed to one of two fates: They take tiny steps that are low risk, but that don’t take them very far; or they take huge steps that are beyond their ability, and they inevitably stumble. The key is to find the step size that is right for you.

In addition, you need to be willing to fight for your ideas, even if others think they are crazy. Resistance to your ideas is a gift, in that it gives you a chance to test the strength of your own convictions.

Reprint from GIS Planning: Top Ten EDO Website Trends

Economic development websites are constantly improving, as are the online strategies that make organizations successful. To remain relevant you need to keep up with the trends that are defining online economic development results. Here are the Top 10 trends you need to know and implement:

Economic development mobile GIS

1. Mobile  

All the people economic developers want to work with have a smart phone in their pocket and they interact with it more often than their desktop. Mobile-optimized and responsive design aren’t just a trend, they are the norm. Already, one fifth of site selection analysis on economic development websites is happening using mobile browsers. All online services have to be cross-platform compatible with smart phones and tablets.  Want to see a great examples of the same website service designed for different devices? Click on this site selection website link from both your desktop and your mobile device.

2. GIS Site Selection

It used to be that having online site selection assistance was a competitive advantage by providing services such as property search, location-specific demographic analysis, business/industry visualization, and geographic/map display. But now, not having it is a competitive disadvantage. Today, 58% of the US population is covered and served with GIS Planning site selection technology. The communities that don’t have it are losing out on economic investment opportunities.

3. Affordability

Website development costs are dropping dramatically because new economic development website vendors are coming in to disrupt antiquated vendors’ business models. As an example, a legacy website vendor has offended so many of its customers with hidden high costs to “upgrade” to the new version of their software that their customers are looking for reasons to leave. Many are going to next-generation vendors like Golden Shovel as a preferred solution for economic development websites, not only because its websites are better and upgrades are free, but it also has a disruptive pricing model that keeps total costs to less than $1,000 per month.

4. Data Visualization and Interactivity

Economic development GIS mapping Georgia EMC aeropsace

Static websites with limited information don’t meet the needs of current economic development website visitors. Modern EDOs are replacing these “dumb websites” that make their organizations look outdated.  They are being replaced by highly interactive “smart webpages” that incorporate Intelligence Components technology that empower website visitors to actively interact with demographics, search businesses, visualize industry targets, map opportunities, and compare communities.  This is “plug and play” technology that can be added to your existing website so you don’t have to replace what you’ve already built. This is a big trend affecting more than just economic development.

5. Infographics and Webgraphics

economic development infographics data

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then the economic development infographic may be worth thousands of jobs. People visiting websites are attracted to the graphics and visual design of infographics that turn data into powerful messages and storytelling. Economic developers have adopted this trend by showing the advantages of investing in their communities through infographics.

6. Scrolling and in-website interactivity

Apple changed the way we interact with content due to the iPhone and iPad. Scrolling, swiping, and parallax are becoming more popular and have debunked the old wisdom that things have to be a few clicks away. Now websites may have few clicks or page reloads at all. You can just scroll to new information or the existing webpage can continue to update with new content.  Take a look at how the Great Lakes Bay Business Advantage website engages visitors and creates the impression of depth and a more engaging browsing experience.

Economic development website design

7. Ecosystems

“A man is not an island” and neither is the economic developer’s website. The days of your website being the online strategy are over. Today, the effectiveness of an economic development website is directly correlated to the online ecosystem in which it is networked. Online site selection portals are delivering qualified prospects to communities that those EDOs never even knew were considering their area.  Social media platforms like LinkedIn groups make conversations with corporate real estate professionals and site selectors easy and accessible.

8. Plug and Play Website Services

Not all economic development organizations have the funds or even want to replace their current websites. They may be good websites that could be great with the addition of the right new tools, services, and features including things like interactive demographics, business search, mapping, and community comparisons. New technology is enabling EDOs to easily plug-in powerful economic development widgets immediately into their websites no matter who designed or developed the website. This provides meaningful improvements without the high cost or long lead-time for replacing an entire website.

Economic development websites data

9. Animated Charts and Geo-visualization

Much of the case for a company investing in a location is the data that drives the business decision. Why would you show static images when you can create dynamic charts in real time that can be viewed multiple ways and as tabular data? Also, because EDOs are promoting investment in specific locations, hyper-local heat maps communicate interactive and customized information in ways that flat images never can.  This, like many others, is a trend impacting more than just economic development.

10. Speed

Even though we live in a world of high-speed Internet, connection speeds vary depending on where you are, what device you’re using, or where you are trying to access the Internet. An unscrupulous economic development website vendor did a speed test of their websites compared to other vendors and came to the conclusion (using their own test measurements) that their websites are the fastest to load. Guess what? They don’t understand Internet speeds and are trying to trick the luddites among us. Testing speeds from their own office (or yours) don’t matter. What matters is the Internet speed from every location customers are at. An example of how to get this issue right is how GIS Planning originally set up CDNs (a network of servers all around the world), so that our website speeds are fast everywhere and not just for clients near our offices.

– See more at: GIS Planning

Competing for and Developing the Workforce of the Future in Ashtabula County

No issue is more important to economic development in Ashtabula County than workforce development. We are unprepared to tackle this issue at present for five interrelated reasons, which are discussed in this article. This is at least a 10-year change effort.

  1. Limited View of the “Problem” and “Solutions”: Current local thinking about the county’s workforce challenge is limited and disconnected. We need an integrated view of the “problem” and a connected way to solve the problem. In all fairness, many communities suffer from this problem, which causes: a) employers to blame workers, and workers to blame employers; b) an obsession with short term fixes and solutions rooted in short term training and recruitment; and c) a failure to see the “future” developing before our eyes. Ashtabula County needs a Workforce Alliance (WA) that makes the most of local workforce development and educational resources and draws more upon regional workforce and educational resources that can help us produce better workforce solutions. The WA must be 100% committed at addressing the root causes of our problem, and not the symptoms.
  2. Mix of Jobs Available and Jobs People Want: Jobs are available in the county. These include many entry level jobs, a good number of skilled jobs, and some talent-driven professional and management jobs. Turnover is high for entry jobs, which is not unique to Ashtabula County; it’s a challenge everywhere. We have great difficulty recruiting highly skilled workers for the reasons discussed in this article. But do we have the jobs that people (residents and workers within the surrounding region) want? The national and regional economies are stronger and more people are working as a result of the economic rebound. Fewer workers, especially quality workers, are available because more are working. Those who are not employed are: not prepared for the jobs that exist; they don’t want the jobs that exist; or they simply don’t want to work. Workers for now can be more picky about the jobs they work at. We must also look ahead at the jobs and industries of the future, which is why I have posted so many futuristic articles here on the forum. We must plan ahead and invest in the jobs and industries of the future.
  3. Location Challenge: Ashtabula County is a good place to live and work with future growth potential, but the county is distance-challenged because of its location. This challenge reduces the number of workers willing to commute daily to jobs in the county. There are limits to how long and far workers will commute, especially for low-paying jobs with limited benefits. Ashtabula County falls outside the 30-minute commute range for a large part of the regional workforce that can be accessed in Lake County and other NE Ohio counties. To compete for quality workers, we must reexamine the advantages and benefits we offer workers employed in the county. This is a sensitive issue that must be approached with the current workforce in mind. One thing every employer can do is create a work environment that treats workers with dignity and recognizes them as whole human beings. Not many Ashtabula County employers make the “best places to work” list in NE Ohio. More employers need to strive to make this list.
  4. Quality of Life: Ashtabula County lags in quality of life offerings (housing, shopping, education, entertainment, and other amenities) compared to surrounding locations. To compete for talent, we must improve local quality of life. This means cleaning up the county in a physical sense. It means marketing the advantages we have. It means improving the housing stock so people will want to buy a home in the county. It means marketing what our schools do right, and improving our schools in areas where they are weak. It means differentiating the county as a place to live, work, and play. Finally, it means raising residents’ self-esteem and self-image. They must believe in themselves!
  5. Build the Future: Our civic, governmental, and educational leaders must invest in making Ashtabula County a better place to live, work and play in the future. We can’t do it all, which means we must set priorities and concentrate our efforts to get things done. Also, we must look for opportunities to connect and unify economic development and community development. Our future action agenda should focus on three integrated priorities: 1) Investing in People, which starts with educational and workforce advancement; 2) Investing in Place, which should be about housing, shopping, area clean-up, and creating a healthy and quality environment; and 3) Investing in Growth Companies and Entrepreneurial Economy, which means economic gardening of existing growth companies, creating more technology businesses, connecting young talent to grow existing businesses, and investing in our core industries that matter most (manufacturing, agriculture, healthcare and wellness, and young entrepreneurship).

If we do these things well, the workers we need will emerge, but it will take time. It will take us 10 years or more. It’s all about continuous improvement.

Work-Based Learning for Students

Work-based learning, which is a sequenced and coordinated set of activities through which students gain increasing exposure to the world of work, is a core component of the Pathways to Prosperity framework. Work-based learning addresses a shared goal of educators and employers: preparing students with the knowledge and skills, including both technical and 21st-century skills, needed for productive careers. In addition, students who participate in work-based learning deepen their understanding of both specific career options and of the world of work. The resources on this page are intended to support leaders who are implementing and scaling up work-based learning in states and regions across the Pathways to Prosperity Network.

Not as Hard as You Think: Engaging High School Students in Work-Based Learning

This brief is intended to allay concerns about perceived barriers to young people’s access to workplaces and to highlight the successes of employers who have opened their doors to high school students. The brief profiles employers within the Pathways to Prosperity Network who have found ways to provide young people with meaningful work experiences. These case studies highlight the ways that these employers have managed the logistics of work-based learning and explain the benefits of doing so for employers.

What Employers Need to Know: Frequently Asked Questions about High School Students in Workplaces

This brief provides answers to most frequently asked questions about the logistics of access to workplaces for students under the age of 18. The answers to the questions in this brief are intended to clarify misconceptions and to serve as a starting point for employers that are considering offering internships to high school students.

Read more here:

Top Jobs Today That May Disappear By 2025

By now, you know I have a deep interest in futurism. I even took a series of courses on the subject back a few years ago. History is a great thing; it roots us and provides perspective to life, but everyone wants to know what the future holds. This article is from Fast Company Magazine. It concerns hot jobs today that will fade in importance in the next decade, and jobs that will grow in importance in the future.

Ashtabula County must be ready for the future. Our schools must do a better job of orienting children and young people for “future work.” Employers must do a better job of helping workers transition to the jobs of the future. Workers must broaden their their concept of what work is and will become, and they must prepare themselves for the jobs of the future through education, training, and lifelong learning.

So, here we go…

Many jobs in 2015 that are considered “hot” likely will be much diminished by 2025, according to Graeme Codrington, a futurist at TomorrowToday Global. Is yours on the chopping block?

Front-line Military Personnel Will Be Replaced With Robots: While maybe not a “hot job” today, there are still many young people in many countries around the world who are incentivized to sign up for military service as a viable career option, says Codrington: “The U.S. military will lead the way, but will soon be followed by other advanced military forces, including China, Russia, and Israel, to replace front-line troops with robots, drones, and other mechanical fighting machines. Wars will be engaged remotely.”

“This will, of course, create new military jobs in the new engine rooms of these wars, with drone operators, robot designers, and cyber warfare experts in high demand,” he says. “But the front-line trooper will find no place in the military.”

Private Bankers and Wealth Managers Will Be Replaced With Algorithms: “Already we’ve stripped the financial industry of its most iconic personnel: the stock exchange floor traders. Now we’ve even taken most of the backroom traders away too, as stocks, currencies, and commodities are all traded by complex—and lightning fast—algorithms,” says Codrington. “The next group of financial experts to be replaced by machines is going to be private banker deal makers and the personal wealth managers. Their primary jobs involve information arbitrage—they know where to find you money, or find return on your money. When the machines know how to do this, we will dispense with the people fairly quickly.”

Lawyers, Accountants, Actuaries, and Consulting Engineers Will Be Replaced With Artificial Intelligence: “Any professional that is mainly involved in dealing with information is going to be replaced by algorithms and AI,” says Codrington.

In the last two centuries, we’ve seen two significant shifts in the global labor market,” says Graeme Codrington, futurist at TomorrowToday Global. “First we stripped the agricultural sector of workers, and then we did the same to manufacturing. Now the machines are coming for the tertiary sector, and will begin to strip companies of their white-collar workers in the next decade.”

What that means, says Codrington, is that some of the hottest jobs of today could be obsolete by 2025 (check out the sidebar to see if yours is on the chopping block). Yet all hope isn’t lost, he says. “History tells us that somehow the labor market creates new jobs whenever it destroys some old ones. While it’s easy to see how the overall job market could contract significantly, and certainly many jobs that exist today will not exist in a decade or two, it’s also quite easy to see myriad new jobs being created.”

So just what are the jobs that will be in demand in this brave new world only a decade away? Codrington and two other futurists give us their predictions. Click here and find out what jobs they see in the future.

Job Gains by Ashtabula County Businesses by Business Stage, 2004 and 2013

This article presents an analysis of job gains by Ashtabula County businesses in two years: 2004 and 2013. Job gains are increases in employment by businesses. On the other hand, job losses (not shown here) are decreases in employment by businesses. In this analysis, we are only interested in understanding which businesses (by stage of business) added the most new jobs in 2004 and 2013.

The job gain data are presented by “stage of business,” as defined by the Edward Lowe Foundation in Michigan. The chart below defines stage of business in terms of employment size. For example, stage 2 businesses have 10-99 employees.

In 2004, the total job gain by all businesses in Ashtabula County was 3,719. In 2014, the total job gain by all local businesses was 3,433. Stage 2 businesses (10-99 employees) had the greatest job gains of all stage businesses in both 2004 (a gain of 1,404 jobs or 37.8% of total job gain) and 2013 (a gain of 2,061 or 60% of total job gain). In both years, Stage 2 businesses were the biggest contributor to job gains in Ashtabula County. Stage 2 businesses are a prime target for economic gardening efforts, which focus on growing local companies with the potential to grow even more in the future in terms of both jobs and sales.

We will be sharing other analyses of the Edward Lowe Foundation data in the future here on the forum.

(Click on the chart below to enlarge it.)

ash co bus job gains by stage

Coordinating Economic Development and Capital Planning

Government Finance Officers (GFOA) Brief:

Economic development strategies are used by many governments to accomplish long term objectives. They provide the context for polices and programs that governments undertake to attract and retain businesses, increase employment, or promote private investment in the community. Economic development strategies can be controversial because of potential development impacts, including increased population and traffic and increased demands on utility services, schools, parks, and public safety.  Based on the potential for these increased demands, economic development strategies should be closely linked to a jurisdiction’s capital improvement strategies, thereby providing a mechanism to help ensure that necessary infrastructure is developed to support economic development activity in a timely way.


GFOA urges state and local government officials to coordinate their economic development and capital improvement strategies and plans. In doing so, finance officers should consider:

  1. Alignment with the Organization’s Goals and Objectives: Both the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) and economic development strategies should be consistent with the organization’s overall goals and objectives and the community’s priorities.
  2. Timing of Economic Development and Capital Planning Projects: When doing economic development planning and capital improvement planning, governments should coordinate the timing of economic development projects with related capital infrastructure projects.
  3. Value of Public Infrastructure as an Economic Development Strategy: Physical improvements like repaved streets, lighting enhancements, and landscape beautification, along with access to transportation or parking, and availability of cultural or recreational facilities, may promote economic development efforts.
  4. Opportunities for Having Developer Fund Capital Assets: Governments are often able to have private developers fund public and/or private infrastructure improvements such as roadway, storm water drainage, water and sewer, or other improvements as part of economic development agreements.
  5. Impact of Development on Existing Assets and Ongoing Maintenance: New businesses, new residents, and/or new employees using transportation, water, and sewer infrastructure along with other assets will cause those assets to deteriorate faster than without the additional development. This is especially true with new manufacturing or industrial developments and related freight traffic and increased demand for utilities.
  6. Use of Economic Development Tools1 to Fund Capital Projects: Governments may be able to use economic development tools to pay for capital improvement projects that otherwise would not have funding as part of the organization’s CIP. This would accomplish both economic development and CIP goals.
  7. Debt Resulting from Either Economic Development or the CIP: Both economic development activities and CIP projects may utilize debt financing. The finance officer should coordinate efforts to achieve the most favorable terms for such debt issuance while complying with debt policies and statutory requirements.
  8. Administrative Aspects: Economic development agreements with the private sector often involve complex arrangements to install and finance needed infrastructure. Such arrangements as performance clauses (clawbacks), repayment agreements, fee waivers, and other financing provisions can prove challenging to administer. Stipulations and obligations from these agreements often require diligent oversight, as well as continual monitoring and reporting. As a result, finance officials are often called on to develop efficient and accurate systems and processes which ensure that development obligations are addressed.
  9. Coordinating Economic Development Strategies with other initiatives: Economic development strategies and capital planning strategies should be integrated into a government’s existing master plan, comprehensive plan, or long-term financial plan to ensure consistency with other efforts.

Elected Officials Guide: Economic Development, GFOA.

Joseph Casey and Michael Mucha (editors), Capital Project Planning and Evaluation, Government Finance Officers Association, 2008.

GFOA Best Practice, “Capital Asset Assessment, Maintenance, and Replacement Policy,” 2010.

GFOA Best Practice, “Monitoring Economic Development Performance,” 2009.

GFOA Best Practice, “Multi-Year Capital Planning,” 2006.

GFOA Best Practice, “Economic Development Incentives,” 1990.

City of Ashtabula Business Base Changes, 1998-2013

The U.S. Census Bureau just released zip code level data on business establishments for the year 2013. We used the data to analyze high-level business changes in the City of Ashtabula (Zip Code 44004) during 1998-2013. For confidentiality reasons, detailed data for businesses is not reported by Census at the city or zip code levels. See the chart below.

Since 1998, the City of Ashtabula lost 185 business establishments (dropping from 892 to 707). 106 of these lost businesses employed 1-4 people. Another 48 of the lost businesses employed 5-9 employees. There were no businesses in the city that employed 1,000 or more people in either 1998 or 2013.

What causes changes in an area’s business base? Typically these six developments account for these changes:

  1. Business expansions adding new jobs.
  2. Business contractions reducing jobs.
  3. Business consolidations adding or reducing jobs.
  4. Business closings reducing jobs.
  5. New business locations adding new jobs.
  6. New business start-ups. (Births and deaths).

Because of the absence of data on these 6 developments, we have no way of knowing the influence of these developments on the City of Ashtabula’s business base.

Stay tuned as we explore other local data sources that help us understand the economic bases of Ashtabula County communities.

Click on the chart to enlarge it.

ash city