The homepage of EDA—America’s lead agency on economic development—was recently updated with a definition of “economic development” that might be considered somewhat unorthodox. At first glance, it might not seem strange to the unaided eye. But notice what it does not say. It does not say that economic development comes only from constructing roads, bridges, buildings, or other physical infrastructure. It does not mention the common tactic of recruiting companies to relocate from other regions. It does not mention stimulus programs, subsidies for industries, or other short-term ways to inflate economic growth statistics. In fact, many of the most commonly used tools of economic development are not included.
Instead, this definition suggests a new framework: creating environments that are conducive for innovation, connectivity, and the emergence of commercial enterprises making valuable products and services. It implies that you cannot import economic development from elsewhere. You must unlock the innovative potential in your own people and community. That’s about entrepreneurial culture. This approach, in my opinion, is a revolution in economic thinking.