About Reimagining Economic Development (RED)
Reimagining Economic Development, or RED, is a new blog offering reflections, new ideas, and fresh perspectives on local and state economic development.
Let's start with a few definitions. State economic development refers to policies, strategies, programs, practices, and organizations focused on encouraging and assisting statewide economic growth and development. JobsOhio is an example of a private nonprofit state-level economic development organization (EDO) serving communities, counties, and substate regions across Ohio. The North Carolina Department of Commerce is an example of a statewide public or government EDO serving communities, counties, and substate regions across North Carolina.
Local economic development refers to policies, strategies, programs, practices, and organizations focused on encouraging and assisting economic growth and development at the substate regional, county, community, and neighborhood levels. The Greater Cleveland Partnership and One Columbus are examples of private nonprofit regional EDOs in Ohio. The Fairfax County Economic Development Authority is an example of a public EDO serving Fairfax County, Virginia. The Santa Fe Office of Economic Development is an example of a city government EDO, which serves the City of Santa Fe, New Mexico.
About the Publisher
To understand a blog, it is important to know something about the publisher. My name is Don Iannone, and I am the publisher of RED. The most important thing to know about me is that I have followed my sense of curiosity through my entire life, which has carried me into the worlds of business and economic development, sustainable development and environmental protection, medicine and healthcare, religion and spirituality, research and writing, and the arts and creative expression. My curious nature motivates me to examine issues and problems from different, often unique, perspectives. The articles published on RED reflect my curiosity.
People interest me, nature inspires me, novel ideas excite me, discovery, exploration, and creativity beckon me, and teaching and helping others makes me feel alive.
The better part of my 43-year career—for over 30 years—I have worked in the economic development field as a manager and executive, teacher and speaker, academic thought leader, and strategy and research consultant. Some highlights of my economic development career are presented below. I spent the other 13 years of my career in the environmental and healthcare fields. My work in the areas of brownfield redevelopment and tribal environmental sustainability (1995-2005) stands out to me as my most important contributions to the environmental field. Since 2017, I have worked as a business strategy and complementary medicine consultant in the healthcare field, serving major clients like the Allegheny Health Network in Pittsburgh and the Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland.
My work in healthcare and environmental sustainability has helped me reimagine state and local economic development. These work experiences have shown me that economic development organizations and practitioners need to become more integrated, holistic, systems-based, and evidence-based in how they approach their goals. Economic development policies and practices that embody these characteristics are more likely to connect in meaningful ways with larger social, economic, and political systems that create the contexts for how growth and development occur in local and state economies.
During my economic development consulting career, I contributed to over 150 strategy, change management, research, and training projects in 32 states and 10 countries. Of special note, I made valuable contributions to Ohio's economic development strategy under 4 governors (Celeste, Voinovich, Taft, and Strickland). My single most important contribution to Ohio economic development was the successful management of an influential 2-year (1997-1999) assessment of the economic and fiscal effects of all the State of Ohio's economic development programs, including its many business incentive programs. While some saw the study results as a threat to the continuation of the state's business incentives, the work laid the foundation for greater performance-based use of these programs in later years. Some observers say that my most valuable contribution to Ohio economic development was my research and strategy work in the late 1980s related to the major Ohio business investment opportunity associated with Japanese automotive transplants. Others say that my most important contribution was my continuing active role for 25 years (1986-2011) as an informed and reasonable voice on economic development issues across the State of Ohio. The Ohio Department of Development elected me into its Economic Development Hall of Fame in 1994.
My leadership contributions to economic development include serving two terms (1991-1995) on the International Economic Development Council (IEDC) board of directors, serving one term (1989-1991) on the Mid-America Economic Development Council (MAEDC) board, and serving on the Ohio Economic Development Association (OEDA) board for 4 years (1986-1990) and acting as the organization's President in 1990. When the Clinton Administration took office in 1993, I served as IEDC's Chair of Federal Policy Initiatives. IEDC played an instrumental role in shaping Federal economic development policies implemented by EDA/Commerce, HUD, EPA, and NIST. For 5 years, I directed the IEDC-accredited Ohio Economic Development Course. Finally, I served on the curriculum committee and taught at the Economic Development Institute (EDI) at the University of Oklahoma for 15 years (1988-2003).
As an author, I have published extensively, including over 30 publications (professional and academic journal articles, book chapters, monographs, and books) about economic development and sustainable development. My writings about brownfield redevelopment and economic development incentives were perhaps most influential in federal, state, and local policy circles. In 2020, I published two books in the contemporary spirituality field. The first book broadened understanding of Lakota spirituality and its relevance to today's conflicted and torn world. The second book created an improved understanding of how digital culture and technology have shaped religion and spirituality and their potential future impact.
My educational background includes a Doctor of Divinity degree, a Master of Divinity degree, a Master of Arts degree in Philosophy and Mind-Body Medicine, a professional diploma in Economic Development, graduate studies in Organizational Behavior, and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Anthropology. In addition, I am an ordained interfaith minister, and I hold professional certifications as a mindfulness meditation instructor, life purpose coach, and Reiki therapist (relaxation touch therapy).
Finally, I have had an active artistic life as a poet and photographer since the early 1980s with the publication of 6 poetry books, including one on economic development, and six photography books. Learn more about my poetry and photography books. During the pandemic, stone carving emerged as a new art form in my life.
Blogging isn't new to me. From 1999 through 2012, I published two well-known and highly respected blogs, Economic Development Futures and Economic Development Leader. Since 2017, I have published an inspirational blog called the Wisdom Well, which is widely read and followed. Reimagining Economic Development (RED) is my latest blogging venture.
In summary, I have been at it for a long time. The most active part of my career is behind me, and yet I feel compelled in my elder wisdom years to give shape to a new vision of state and local economic development. Reimagining Economic Development is a vehicle to share this new vision with others.
This blog is about reimagining local and state economic development. RED is a resource for economic development professionals, their organizational and community leaders, and anyone else with an interest in or curiosity about economic development.
The COVID-19 pandemic has dealt a crushing blow to families, communities, businesses, educational and healthcare institutions, and governments. The social, economic, and political effects of the pandemic will continue to unfold in the years ahead. Despite the damage created by COVID-19, I am deeply inspired by this upheaval. The pandemic inspires us to see today's events as the perfect storm of opportunity for transformational ideas and actions. For this reason, this is the perfect time to reimagine state and local economic development!
Initially, my plan is to write articles about four sets of important issues:
How the COVID-19 pandemic contributes to reimagining economic development;
How a complex systems approach helps us reimagine economic development;
How an evidence-based approach can help us reimagine economic development; and
Why an ethical shift is needed in economic development when it is understood in complex systems and evidence-based terms.
The pandemic has touched everybody and everything in the world. It has affected state and local economic development, and it will continue to do in the foreseeable future. A series of RED articles is planned on this topic from the vantage point that the pandemic is the perfect storm of opportunity to transform economic development policy and practice.
Complex Systems Approach
In recent years, I have educated myself about complexity science and its relevance to economies and economic development. Complexity science strives to understand complex systems and their problems as dynamic, unpredictable and multi-dimensional. Complex systems consist of collections of interconnected relationships and parts. Unlike traditional “cause and effect,” or linear thinking, complexity science is characterized by non-linearity. It is the opposite of reductionism, which has historically served as the philosophical foundation of Western science. The scientific method relies on reductionism to understand and solve problems.
An evidence-based approach to economic development policy-making improves policy development. It flows from the principle that better decisions are made if the decision-making process is informed by robust evidence. An evidence-based approach reminds us that conventional wisdom can be wrong, and policies can be ineffective or have unintended and undesirable outcomes.
While the code of ethics adopted by the International Economic Development Council (IEDC) provides valuable guidance to economic developers on how to conduct themselves professionally, the code fails to speak directly to the all-important issues of racism and equity, economic injustice, environmental sustainability, technological disruptions, evidence-based policy and practice, and global interconnectedness and cooperation. Moreover, IEDC's current code of ethics fails to speak to the realities of political and economic power in society, and how unchecked, contributes to social and economic injustice in the world. Also, an economic development code of ethics should speak to whose interests are to be served by economic development organizations. In this light, how can a code of ethics, informed by evidence-based policy and practice?