Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Greensboro Not Ranked Future Ready: Part 4

In Greensboro Not Ranked Future Ready I shocked Greensboro leaders when I informed them the New York Times is working on yet another story that won't look good for Greensboro. In Greensboro Not Ranked Future Ready: Part 2 I told you how Greensboro's current economic development strategies have proven to be "An Epitaph for the Past" and in  Greensboro Not Ranked Future Ready: Part 3 I showed you how the resistance of Greensboro's leaders to change has lead to our downfall. Today we again look into the white paper Enabling Economies Into The Future. in an attempt to understand the failures of Greensboro's leadership over the course of the last 30 plus years.

 From Page 6:

"What was the origin of the CIO role in your city?

Riverside - In 2006, city leaders decided to embark on a $1.6 billion infrastructure upgrade, which included a focus on becoming a smart city. The Chief Innovation Officer was created as part of this new vision to help guide the city and its initiative.

Wellington– The role was proposed by Philippa Bowron and was inspired by the CIO role in San Francisco, where Bowron had worked on a city-to-city relationship. The proposed role came at the time of a newly elected, tech-savvy mayor; a restructuring within the city council; a new initiative on asset management; and a focus on driving growth in what had been a flat economy.

Louisville– The newly elected mayor, Greg Fisher, campaigned on making Louisville a more sustainable, data-driven and innovative government. To make this happen, he realized he needed to create a position specifically responsible for driving this initiative. The CIO role was a commitment and an enabler to that promise.

Burlington– The newly re-elected mayor, Miro Weinberger, came from a business, rather than political, background. He was interested in transforming Burlington from a city slow to adopt change and new technology. As part of his mission, he wanted to create a role that would drive long-term infrastructure and technology goals. As a result, the CIO role was created."

Notice the commitment to technology in those cities? Roch Smith Jr, the creator of the CityFi project, ran for Mayor of Greensboro in 2001. Of course Greensboro's elites didn't embrace him and fund his campaign so most folks didn't even know he was running. Remember: He with the most yard signs wins.

Roch also created the media aggregator Greensboro101.com that helped Greensboro become recognized by the Los Angeles Times in 2004. Think how different our City might be today if Roch or someone else whose focus was on technology had been elected to lead our city rather than people who can't tell you the difference between economic development and real estate development. Instead, Greensboro's City Council is voting tonight to sell a City owned downtown building at less than 1/3 of its tax value to a rich connected developer who also happened to be the highest campaign contributor to the entire city council.

Coincidence? Maybe, maybe not.  But let's forget about that and move on to Page 13 of  Enabling Economies Into The Future:
"One of the tenets of innovation and creativity is the ability to experiment with new ideas and fail. Experimentation and failure, however, are two words not found in any politician’s campaign promises. Enabling experimentation and managing risk were common themes throughout the Summit. Pilot programs and small initiatives are common in city government. But the idea of experimentation clearly suggests that the outcome is not known and there is the potential for failure. As one participant articulated it, “Some segments of the public, the media, and elected legislators do not think experimentation is a valid use of taxpayer dollars.”

Yeah, so? Real leaders lead, real leaders take risks, real leaders understand the biggest mistake of all is doing nothing. Without experimenting babies would never learn to walk, man would have never learned how to start a fire, nothing would have ever been built and all of you reading this would be sleeping naked outside tonight in the 15 degree weather. Insisting that you  "do not think experimentation is a valid use of taxpayer dollars" is tantamount to saying you want to return the entire human race to the cave man days.

And yet that is a perfect description of the Greensboro City Council for the last 30 plus years. The Cave Man Councils.

Now I'm going to let you, Dear Readers decide for yourselves what might be Greensboro's best options for managing risks but the fact remains: nothing that has been tried in the last 30 plus years has worked and we are now to the point that everything, including nothing, is risky as hell.

So where do we start? Here's what they're doing in Louisville:

"Louisville has taken a different approach. It uncovers the most important social needs and tries to find ways to de-risk those and obtain private funding for support. The asthma air-quality program is a great example. They focused on finding a solution for specific problems, even if the impediments were great. "

What did Greensboro's "leaders" decide to do to solve Greensboro's problems? They're spending somewhere in excess of $65 Million Dollars on a downtown performing arts center where most of us will never be able to afford a ticket to get in the door.

Funny, they weren't concerned with risk when it came to STPAC.

The white paper goes on to challenge conventional ideas about attracting start-ups. Considering how quickly and how often new businesses fail it really makes sense. From Page 24:

"Despite what you may read or hear, there is little persuasive evidence that increasing numbers of start-ups is the critical path to prosperity. Startups are not the be-all and end-all of entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship is one thing; startups are something else – one small slice of that.  Recently a startup initiative, Start-Up New York, promised 2,000 jobs – but only delivered 76 jobs at a
cost of $28 million dollars."

And yet the only 2 things we hear about from economic development "gurus" is attracting start-ups and attracting giant manufacturers like automobile companies. Again, from Page 24:

"There are some serious problems with the notion that start-ups create jobs. Those that have venture capital usually generate meager results. Only about 5% of startups create net jobs. This may be due to the fact that oftentimes, because they are not tested, startup jobs are low quality. There is a significant body of empirical research that shows that 15-25 year-old companies are the ones that create jobs. Yet there is still this idea that we need more startups to reduce unemployment and improve economic

But where does Greensboro put most of our economic development money? Into start-ups like restaurants and other low quality jobs located in buildings rented from connected developers.

And from Page 25:

"The 5 “P” Practical Principles of Entrepreneurship

Infectious entrepreneurship is geographical in some cases. There was a Boston innovation district that started with no budget and no full time people allocated to it, but it has been very successful. Meanwhile Lawrence Massachusetts, only 29 miles away, has had very little growth, very high unemployment, and problems with social cohesion. If you look at Woods Hole Massachusetts, they have only 1000 full time residents and has been the host to 56 Nobel Prize winners. But since 1888, there has only been one new company.
High Potential
Focus on existing ventures with revenues – rather than startups, micro-enterprises, small businesses, or large companies. In the Milwaukee area, for instance, there about 19,000 companies that have a revenue of between $1 million and $10 million dollars. Dan Isenberg argues that 10% to 20% could achieve growth trajectories with a minimal amount of support and mentoring.

In most work environments that have 10-20 leaders, if they decide to do something together, they can accomplish it in a short amount of time. If you want growth you need to convene the 15-20 most
effective local leaders from different sectors of an entrepreneurial ecosystem (policy, markets, human capital, support, culture, and finance) for training, alignment, and planning.

Set specific objectives for how many firms need to grow more rapidly. In most places around the world there are usually no more than seven doctors for every 1,000 people. Doctors are important, and we need them, but more is not necessarily better. Similarly, entrepreneurial growth is important, but not everybody needs to be an entrepreneur. Growth is inspiring, not for everybody, but for enough people.

Achieve and broadly communicate “quick wins.” The advantage of post-revenue companies is that they already know how things work. They know how to invoice, how to collect, and what it means to go to the bank. These companies can show growth in six to 12 months. Growth events occur in short periods of time. "

There's only one problem with all that. Greensboro is in such dire straits I'm not sure if we've any of those things left.

Stay tuned for In Greensboro Not Ranked Future Ready: Part 5