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The other side of the coin May 30, 2006

Posted by Tom in Community, Economic Development, Education, Workforce.
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Don Iannone of ED Futures blog relays a recent article from the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal regarding a speech given at an economic development event in that region:

Through his research, [Stephen] Weiler [(an economist for the Center for the Study of Rural America and an officer of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City)] has a good idea of what works – and doesn't – for a region's economic development.

"Education is a critical foundation for success," Weiler said. "It's quite clear that the more educated the people are, the more a community will better develop."

With some 40 percent of Mississippi's ninth- through 12th-grade students dropping out of school, the effects are devastating, [Mississippi State Economist Phil] Pepper said.

"There are social and economic costs related to an uneducated people," he said. "While we focus on the benefits of being educated, many look over the costs of not being educated."

Pepper said Mississippi's dropout rate costs $4 billion in lost wages annually. Lost local tax collections total $1.1 billion. Economic development clearly depends on investing in its most valuable resource, its people, or what Pepper refers to as "human capital."

"It's necessary to have industrial sites and tax incentives, but it's not sufficient," he said. "It's also necessary to have human capital. But that's what we're missing. That's the one thing that will determine whether we grow or not."  

Excellent points.  We often talk about the desire to improve our communities from a forward-thinking, achievement orientation.  What we don't do is look at the perspective of lost opportunity if we do not align our workforce and economic development efforts…if we continue to foster a low-skill, low-wage workforce. 

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