My swan song.

It’s time!  After almost 26 years, five governors, eight directors, six department name changes and hundreds of workshops and presentations, the time has come to put away my three-legged stool theory of economic development. Yes, the rumors are true that at the end of this month, I am retiring.  I will feel like an alien from another planet, leaving the comforts of state government that has supported me for more than two decades and stepping off into the unknown that is retired life. This blog shall serve as my swan song, which causes me concern, largely because I am neither swan-like nor can I sing. I’ll gladly blame the Greeks and all their mythology for this, of course. They considered the swan a symbol of beauty and harmony. As for the idea of the swan song itself, well, it is supposed to be a final gesture, the final number in a last performance. Given its gravity, I thought long and hard about what to write in the first place. I could have done an In Memaury-am piece. But that seemed a bit self-serving. I also could have done a big thank you as my sendoff, thanking everyone who helped me throughout my economic development years. But I would not want this to sound like I just won the Academy Award for Best Performance in an Economic Development Role. My work at Commerce was rewarding but was it really award worthy? Anyway, I don’t want to embarrass Linda, Karen, Terry and Robb for making me the man I have become as a result of their guidance and partnerships over the...

WWMD (What Would MacGyver Do?)

Take a roll of duct tape, some Post-It Notes, a couple of toilet tubes and an empty soda can and what have you got? We’ll if you’re MacGyver, you have everything you need to do in the bad guys, rescue the requisite damsel in distress, save the world and whip up a soufflé for dinner. If you’re an entrepreneur, you’ll probably be able to cobble together a new business idea, create a bunch of jobs and help your community grow. But if you’re an economic developer, you’ll end up trying to do all these things at the same time, except perhaps rescuing that damsel in distress, which is sad because it’s the only reason I got into this profession in the first place. If you’re not familiar with MacGyver – and I can’t imagine anyone who isn’t – he’s a fictional secret agent whose mission is to set everything right in the world. Think James Bond without the big budget. No beautiful women by his side, no huge R&D team, no sleek Aston Martin to drive around in, unless he carves one out of a bar of soap while he’s locked away in a seemingly inescapable tomb of doom. In an age of dwindling budgets and ever-changing priorities, we’ve all had to become MacGyvers in our respective jobs. We are asked to do more with less, watching our budget dollars shrink while expectations rise. True, I don’t have any real data to support this, but certainly the anecdotal evidence is there, and if that’s good enough for MacGyver, who am I to argue? While I think it’s safe to...

So you probably think this blog is about me.

I gave a lot of thought about what I should write about this month. There seems to be no shortage of topics to cover about economic development and entrepreneurship. But I feel that over the last two years I may have covered most of the subjects people beside me would find interesting. Wanting to be helpful, Robb Zerr, colleague of mine, suggested that I should write about the new book I’ve just published, Startup Wisdom: 27 Strategies for Raising Business Capital. But I felt that was a lot of self-promotion, even though the book is FREE. Sure, Startup Wisdom has received glowing reviews from the likes of Jack Shultz, the guru of entrepreneurship who set a high bar with his book BoomTown USA. Gifford Pinchot, founder of the Bainbridge Graduate Institute and author of Intrapreneurship, also wrote to say how wonderful Startup Wisdom was, especially since it was FREE. Even Mark Nager, who created the world’s largest pre-accelerator and is the founder of Startup Weekend, thought Startup Wisdom was revolutionary in its assistance to entrepreneurs. I suppose I could have also mentioned that Chris Britt, the nationally syndicated editorial cartoonist and winner of the Sigma Delta Chi awards, one of journalism’s most prestigious awards, did the illustrations. But I didn’t think being a namedropper was really appropriate for this column. George Clooney, Kim Kardashian and Bernie Sanders. By its very nature, blogging lends itself to feeding one’s ego. But I didn’t want to take up precious bandwidth and your valuable time just so I could stroke my own ego by mentioning my new FREE book, Startup Wisdom: 27 Strategies...

Those who can’t follow, lead.

I’ve been thinking a lot about leadership lately.  It’s not necessarily my fault. Hardly a day goes by when we’re not bombarded with the latest notions and pseudo-epiphanies about what a leader should or shouldn’t be. Last year alone, almost 1,500 paperbacks were published with the word “leadership” in the title. If I did my math correctly (and don’t count on it…apologies to my son the math teacher), that works out to four new books a day being published. For its part, Amazon lists 57,136 books on the subject of leadership. There’s so much content out there, in fact, that you could dedicate your entire life learning how to be a leader instead of just being one. Which leads me to wonder. Are we in such a crisis of leadership that we need others to tell us how to lead? Or are we being hornswoggled into thinking that leadership is something so magical, so rare, that thousands of dead trees must be committed to unraveling its many mysteries? In this election year, this aura of rarefied leadership is being taken to new levels. Everyone seems to be beating their political chests, trying to look like their style of leadership is the answer to all of our worst fears and woes. Leadership, however, is in the eye of the beholder as leadership means different things to different people. For years, the concept of leadership was about good management. It was the ability to influence, motivate and inspire people to action. It was a powerful and positive force, one that could lead to greatness, such as landing a man on the...

It’s the talent, stupid!

Are you sitting down? Good. I want the world to know that I think recruiting business is the most effective economic development strategy around. What? Has Maury finally lost it? For years you’ve heard me speak and write that recruitment is the devil’s work. And now I am opening my community door to the devil. No, not yet. If you read carefully, you’ll notice I didn’t say recruiting a business. That one little word makes all the difference in the world for economic developers. The ‘a’ was left out intentionally because while it is fun to land that ever-elusive big fish that promises to bring hundreds of jobs to town, we all know it’s the small businesses, those grown right in your own backyard, that are the true job creators in our economy. Businesses are a legal structure, nothing more, nothing less. They can be a corporation, a sole proprietorship, what have you, but they are not a living, breathing person no matter what Mitt Romney says. Businesses can’t be successful without talented people, the ones who show up day in and day out to deliver on the company’s promise to its customers and help them grow through continual creativity and innovation. They are the lifeblood of any business; its heart and its soul. Just as the heart pumps blood throughout the circulatory system to keep people alive, employees pump creativity and innovation throughout the company to keep it sustainable. Without people, there would be no business. Without people, there could be no economy to grow. Let’s focus for a moment on the first employee of any new company: the...