Educational-Led Economic Development

The factors of production - land, labor, and capital - have been augmented by information as creators of wealth in today's technology-driven, global economy. Information is the raw material, but education is the basic process that renders information useful. An important development in public policy would be a much higher, more sophisticated appreciation for the central role of education in all modern economies. If information is, in fact, a new wealth creating factor in our economy, then investing in education is equivalent to increasing the land, workforce, and/or money available to support economic activity.

We observe that investments in education have a salutatory effect on economic development on five levels.

  • Investment in Neighborhood Schools: The Project GRAD Effect
  • Investments in the Education Industry: The Philadelphia Effect
  • University-led Investment in Information Intensive Industries: The Akron Effect
  • University-led Investment in the Information Processing Industry: The Austin Effect
  • University-led Creation of New Industries: The MIT/Stanford Effect

These cases are organized to reflect more and more direct involvement of education in producing the economic effect. I offer this framework as a way to structure the conversation, and I propose that a national conference be held on the subject of education-led economic development built around these five themes. The objective of the conference is to bring educators and economic development practitioners and policy makers together to explore common ground, develop a shared vision and a common language with which to define, develop, and exploit this important field. The extent of the conference will, of course be a function of the resources we are able to attract to finance it, but we would expect to have invited papers, workshops, an opening and a closing plenary session, a luncheon speaker, and published proceedings.