Don’t Go Chasing Unicorns

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Remember that 1995 TLC hit “Don’t Go Chasing Unicorns“? Ok, maybe it was “Don’t Go Chasing Waterfalls”. But both sayings have somewhat similar reasonings….don’t be doing something you shouldn’t.

Slaughtering the lyrics of that song came to mind when I was reading an older blog post from Ilana Preuss’ blog, Recast City. The post, entitled “Chasing unicorns is not a good economic development strategy” emphasizes that communities shouldn’t be trying to be tech hubs. Provided below is the video from that post.

My Take

While I agree in general in this belief in general, I think there is more to it. First Ilana discusses how so many communities want to become tech hubs. Tech hubs are the economic development grand slam. The prestige of landing a tech company, combined with good-paying jobs, puts the sparkle in the eyes of your townspeople like they’re sailors who’ve just heard the singing of the sirens. But how many towns of 2,000 have you seen with a major tech hub?

This is similar to the “smokestack chasing” of a few decades ago. Heck, many communities are still chasing smokestacks, large industrial complexes that will employ hundreds of jobs. But for the most part, that market has dried up. It has been way cheaper to produce products elsewhere and ship them here for quite a while.

Nurture and Grow

As I discussed in Adjusting to the New Economy, rather than chasing what you don’t have, appreciate what you do. Take stock of your current businesses. Select those businesses that you’d love to see double in size and just have a conversation with them. A quick cup of coffee.

You never know. They may need some additional equipment or machinery which could be paid for through a state incentive you know about. There might be an embargoed county bridge affecting their operations and your community might be able to pull some strings to get it replaced. Or they are in need of some workforce training, but do not have the contacts at the local community college to make it happen.

Be Ready

Whether it is an existing business that wants to expand, or an entrepreneur looking for help starting out, your community needs to be prepared. Don’t just know what programs are available. Have pamphlets, informational fliers, and any other helpful items at the ready.

Many times the Scouts motto of “Be Prepared” can be more fruitful than chasing the unicorns that are outside your reach.