An Interview with Maury Forman
Senior Manager for Rural Strategies and Entrepreneurship, Department of Commerce


blog-maury1Maury Forman has been an employee with  DTED/CTED/OTED/Commerce for 24 years.  He aspired to be a standup comic after college in Texas but audiences did not find him funny.  However, after many failed standup startups, he did find a home in government in the area of professional development where the standards of comedy were much lower.  Little known facts about him prior to public employment is that he has a degree in health care, created three startups, and written books on management, political cartoons and economic development.  His life since joining the public sector is well documented on Google and YouTube where the number of viewers is in the high double digits.

Why did you decide to interview yourself in your bestselling newsletter? 

You may think it was because I had some great wisdom to impart to my colleagues but it was because I was so busy last month with global entrepreneurship that I forgot to ask a practitioner to be interviewed.  By the way, I would like to correct the title of this section that refers to “lessons from an experienced economic developer”.  I am an educator, not an economic developer and I don’t want to diminish or devalue the experience and skills that it takes to become a practitioner by calling myself one.  I am a perfect example of “Those who can, do. Those who can’t do, teach”.  Economic developers “do” make a difference in our communities and should be supported accordingly with funding and continued professional development.  If it weren’t for this job, I would be following Woody Allen’s advice “Those who can’t teach, teach gym”.

Who wins in a job smack down strategy, business recruitment, business retention/expansion or entrepreneurship?

That’s a good question.  I am glad you asked it.  Recent work from the Kauffman Foundation and the Institute for Competitiveness & Prosperity studied where new jobs actually do come from. The conclusion was that over the last 25 years, almost all of the private sector jobs have been created by small businesses and entrepreneurs less than five years old. That’s where we should be investing our money and resources.  Jobs created through business recruitment are less than 3%. The SBA has similar numbers.  It’s on the internet so it must be true. If practitioners want to participate in recruitment, think about recruiting  talent, tourists, conventions, artists and graduates who have left the community but would love to come back.  The success rate will be quicker, easier and cheaper.

What do you see as some of the economic development best practices we have in Washington State?

There are best practices in every county but some of my favorites are the Northwest Innovation Resource Center, start-up weekends, the Avista Center for Entrepreneurship, Million Cups of Tacoma, Yakima County Development Association Business Plan competition, the Palouse Knowledge Corridor’s entrepreneurial bootcamp, Spokane STEM, and the Co-Lab co-working space in Port Townsend. Google them. Contact them. They will be glad to share their practices.  I also like the partnerships that have developed in Stevens County with the library, EDC, Commerce and WSU for their Business Resource Center.. And I am glad to see that more and more maker spaces are opening up in schools, libraries and other public facilities like the ones in Spokane and Bellingham and other parts of the state..

If you were an economic developer in a rural area, and we all know you are not, what would you do to create a healthy community?.

Economic developers need to connect with the schools to stem the brain drain that is taking place. I would start by looking at the kids that are in school right now because they should be the backbone of your community in the future. Also, before I even thought of a strategic plan I would conduct an asset mapping session for the community to recognize and support and promote the talent, workforce and existing businesses  that is available..   I would work with the schools and businesses  to participate and sponsor National Lemonade day and Global Entrepreneurship Week, conduct  ideation programs, support STEAM projects (the A stands for art…one of the driving factors for people relocating) and establish business plan competitions. I would promote the great community college system that we have in Washington  where businesses help develop curriculum and recruit from the schools and existing workforce.  I would work with urban entrepreneurs from around the state  to mentor rural businesses to help them grow and expand.  And finally, I would invest in tourism, maker spaces and libraries, all which are drivers and provide assistance toward healthy economies .

You have initiated many ideas that have been implemented around the state.  What’s your next one?

I would like  to host my own reality TV show called Community Makeover where we use only  local assets to revitalize downtowns. All I need is funding, a willing community and  Jennifer Aniston as my tool woman.   However I will accept two out of three.

Thank you Maury.  What a great interview.  You may not be an economic developer but you sure play one well in state government.

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