Last year's election has brought to light many issues with the US's socioeconomic health. One of the main hypotheses is that much of Trump's success was due to the corrosion of many once-prosperous American communities. Whether or not you believe this was central to Trump's success/Clinton's failure in the most recent Presidential election, the fact remains that economic decay in many of our nation's communities is a real problem that isn't going away.
I've been reading a bit about this and, while acknowledging each community is different and there is no panacea for these issues, I touched upon a few interesting ideas that might demonstrate better path's forward for some of these communities.
The example that spurred this post was that of Iowa's transition from an agriculture to an insurance hub:
Des Moines (the capital of Iowa) now even has a startup accelerator for insurance-focused businesses.
How did they accomplish this? There are several theories, but the usual suspects are: talent, low cost of doing business, and inter-connectivity with complementary businesses. They key takeaway is that in Des Moines, government and industry collaborated to bring in an industry that their community could service. This effort has been focused locally (i.e. not statewide) and began with courting bigger businesses to set up shop in Des Moines and seed future growth in the industry.
To dig a little deeper, I read a bit about what various public intellectuals and publications had to say about becoming the next Silicon Valley, since my new home region is in vogue as the epicenter of wealth growth in both our country and the world (allegedly).
Dave McClure, founding partner of SF-based venture capital firm and accelerator 500 Startups, notes that things like confidence, competitive environment, and thinking big (with some caveats) matter most (along with access to resources, e.g. mentorship, capital, etc. being important as well).
Paul Graham, another widely-cited guru in startup circles and founder of accelerator Y Combinator, believes that people are key. If you can attract the right people, any place can be the "next" Silicon Valley, specifically you need rich people to fund enterprise and "nerds" to start them.
Spurring the economy is ultimately what this is all about, but perhaps there are other deeper root causes? Perhaps there are unseen barriers that only smart policy and a safety net can ameliorate? Ta-Nehisi Coates in his most recent piece for The Atlantic argues that in black communities the issues run far deeper and issues of race must be confronted before any other steps are taken.
Some of these might be missing the forest for the trees. Many individuals believe the issue can be fixed with government policies. Others consider societal (i.e. Toquevillian) or spiritual malaise (see: David Brooks) as the culprit. Regardless of which of these you think is at fault (most of us probably agree it's a mix of all the factors I mentioned), I think we can all agree fairly conclusively that the issue of post-industrial decay in America is a somewhat unique problem that seems to have secular roots. Automation, population growth, and cultural change (to name a few) are unlike anything we've seen previously in American history.
Hopefully, thinking about these issues makes people realize that no matter what your community is, your President is unlikely to have the antidote. Most likely, we need to revert to a more locally-focused mindset to these problems, be it in politics, community organization, business creation, culture, and/or technological development.