Weekly Radio Summary

Evaluating local growth

So there were a few topics discussed on air today with the main one being evaluation of local area economic growth and development (based on my post yesterday). I think the audience, JT, and I viewed the issues similarly. One of the principle issues remains there is no absolute set of standards for evaluation. Is 3% growth in wages good? Bad? What are at the proper comparisons?

Modifications and additions by the callers varied. Some suggested parsing any data into a public v. private sector comparison. This has the benefit of being possible with much of the data and potentially meaningful. Another caller seized on an issue I raised at the start of the show which is incredibly meaningful for the exercise: what is the community identity? I think this enormously important for a proper choice of comparison cities. Is Grand Forks a college town? Is it a retail hub? Are the policies implemented leveraging strengths or fighting against weaknesses? Identity is really important and while data contributes a significant part to that story there are attitudes and beliefs that weigh heavily as well.

The same caller suggested looking at population measures with an effort to discount the college population and then compare the age distribution with other cities. This is interesting and I will give it some thoughts on execution and see if it yields anything.

As yet unresolved is the proper set of comparison cities and really any set of standards, objective or otherwise to choose and evaluate them.

Retail Questions

As a part of the larger question the topic of retail stores came up. JT asked if the retail apocalypse is an overblown concern. As in all things the answer is a mixed bag. From my perspective there will always be room for brick-and-mortar retailers. The extent to which they remain viable and competitive with online retailers will depend on community support and really the ability of the retailer to provide products or services the consumers want to buy.

I was recently at the Mall of America (or as I call it the Cathedral to American consumerism) and there is no sign of struggles for brick-and-mortar establishments there. So the questions to ask get at economies of scale, economies of agglomeration, and the mix of stores provided by a mall.

For a community like Grand Forks it might be the case that these factors are stacked up against a local mall, though I think a better analysis of retail demands and the willingness of local shoppers to travel for shopping or to shop online would be important.

For next week

I think the age distribution and some comparison locations will be in order for next week along with the other, more academic, research underway right now. And we will of course see what else is going on with national events like the government shutdown and the possibility of local impacts and other stories cropping up before then.

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