Are Jobs the Only Metric?
Happy Halloween! Unfortunately, computer issues prevented me from posting in September. I will revisit the Oregon Infrastructure Bank topic in the future. I hope you enjoy this month’s installment. Please, forward your suggestions and constructive comments to ensure the information provided here is relevant and engaging. If you have any interest in learning a little more about me, you can find out more via my LinkedIn profile.
As I mentioned in my initial blog post (The Big 3), value is a function of measurement. There is an entire professional and academic concentration dedicated to accurately measuring public sector program performance (see American Evaluation Association and ICMA’s Center for Performance Measurement). When looking at your economic development program, are jobs the only metric that matters?
The common sense and academic answer is no. The numbers of jobs are not outcomes but outputs. Depending on your assets, advantages, and size, more communities have moved away from activity and output counts to making the outcome connection (Ammons & Morgan, 2011). Whichever set of measurements you choose to utilize, there are four overall outcome areas to consider. Yes, job creation is one of them, but it’s about quality not just quantity (IEDC, 2006).
Consider the outcome category of job retention. The loss of a job is more important than the creation of one because that loss means the economic advantages associated with that job are lost or eroding in your community. This directly feeds into the other three outcome areas of job creation, tax base enhancement, and quality of life. Job creation is a headline grabbing way to communicate perceived successes. There is a stark difference between 50 part-time, minimum wage, retail jobs and 10 jobs that support a desired standard of living, offers stability & professional advancement, and decent working conditions. Those 10 livable jobs sustain a higher opportunity yield to enhance your tax base without raising taxes to support community services. In turn, this supports a quality of life the community envisions – low crime, excellent schools, and a robust connectedness to that community.
Jobs are not the only metric. In fact, it’s not even an outcome. It is an output in a process a community undertakes to achieve an outcome or goal. For example, the outcome could be “vibrant and growing entrepreneurism.” The activities of your economic development program directly or indirectly lead to the outputs of increased angel funding, venture capital investments, or patents filed. Sure, 15 creative class jobs accompanied these activities and outputs. The community goal is growing entrepreneurism. These activities and outputs provide the community with evidence that their investments are providing a return.
Please, post comments and questions here. If you have more specific questions and prefer a less public dialogue, email me directly at [email protected]. More importantly, let me know what you are interested in me covering in the future. Cheers! Pat Mobley, MPA
Wednesday, November 28 – Defining Economic Development: Belonging & Community
December – End of Year Break
Ammons, David and Morgan, Jonathan. (2011). State-of-the-Art measures in economic development. Public Management, 93(5), 6-10.
International Economic Development Council. (2006). Introduction to economic development. Washington, DC: Shari Garmise, Swati Ghosh, Corky Neale, and Shari Nourick.