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Fighting the “culture of cheap” April 25, 2006

Posted by Tom in Opinion.
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Here's the beginning of the best blog entry I've read in a long time:

There are times when it just seems that Memphis can’t get its economic development strategies into the 21st century. It’s as if we just don't want to compete in a knowledge economy in a global marketplace.

Our economic development strategies are caught in the commodity trap, stemming from our background as an agricultural center and continuing with our pride in being a distribution center. Our experience is in selling products that tend to be seen as commodities, to a consumer making a decision based on the lowest price.

Commodity economic development is premised on the same thing – appealing to companies who make their decisions based on the lowest prices. This kind of economic development is forever in a race to the bottom to offer the cheapest land, and the cheapest workers.

It isn't just Memphis.

I cannot overemphasize how much I agree with this post. In our drive to be cheap, we have overlooked quality. And it's not just in the products we buy, it's in the way we train our people (or expect our trainers to perform with insufficient resources), in the way we fund our infrastructure…and on and on.

Companies want to go where the people are skilled (read: quality), where the roads are kept up and the broadband flows freely (again: quality). Sure, they don't want to pay unreasonable amounts of taxes and other investment costs – but they're willing to pay if they know that they're getting a superior product in return.

Look at growth areas like the Bay Area and Silicon Valley, Boston and its 128 corridor and Chicago. These communities – and others like them – redefine competitiveness based upon the quality of the people, services and place that they offer. The same could be said for Austin or the Research Triangle.

We've moved into an age of development have's and have-not's. If your community can't offer quality – and don't have the fortitude to demand quality and pay for it – you are left offering cheap.

But what happens when there is no more tax abatement money to give away? What happens when every school fails No Child Left Behind?

Waht a great commentary.  Take a couple minutes and check it out. 

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