Teaching Economic Development

I had the privilege this past semester for the first time to teach a college class. Economic Development Planning in the Masters of Urban Planning program in the Taubman College at the University of Michigan. Where I got my degree. It was a great experience. As always I was most impressed with the quality of the students at U of M. If they are our future, we will do just fine.

I learned first hand that teaching is the most powerful vehicle for learning. I’m sure I learned as much as my students. Teaching the course forced me to think hard about what I believe is the most effective way for states and localities to grow their economy. The answer is not obvious.

The goal of the course was for students to develop the skills needed to lead a state or local community through a process of creating a economic development plan in the context of a flattening world driven by globalization and technology.

The course was organized on the assumption that current economic development practices may not be the best way to grow state and local economies. If I believe anything about state and local economic development it is that there is no recipe book for how to do it effectively in a flattening world. Therefore state and local communities can benefit from considering other approaches to growing their economies.

The main topics covered were (1) how do state and local economies grow, (2) what are the most important drivers of that growth and (3) what are the most powerful levers available to state and local communities to get growth.

Seems to me that these are issues that are worthy of exploration by all of us who are working on growing Michigan’s economy.

My plan is to write future posts on specifics topics we covered in the course. For this first post I wanted to share with you what I had the class read. These are the best writings I know of to help one think about state and local economies. I highly recommend them all. If time is limited, the two essentials to me are The Economies of Cities and the Race Between Education and Technology. Both will make you rethink everything you think you know about how economies grow and why.

On how economies grow:

The Economy of Cities, Jane Jacobs, Vintage Books, 1969

On the drivers of economic growth:

The Race between Education and Technology, Claudia Goldin & Lawrence  Katz, Harvard University Press, 2008

Who’s Your City, Richard Florida, Basic Books, 2008

New Growth Theory, Technology and Learning: A Practitioner’s Guide, Joseph Cortright, Impresa, Inc., 2001, available at:

On the levers for growing state and local economies:

City Success, Joseph Cortright, CEOs for Cities, available at:

On winners and losers in the economic transition:

Did the Death of Distance Hurt Detroit and Help New York?, Edward L. Glaeser & Giacomo A. M. Ponzetto, NBER Working Paper, 2007, available at:

The End of Men, Hanna Rosin, the Atlantic Magazine, July/August, 2010, available at:

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