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The Business Horizon Quarterly (BHQ) is the Emerging Issues team's signature publication. Its purpose is to share informed insights on emerging issues facing the American business community. By asking questions like “what is growth?” and “what is innovation?”, we aim to inform and to spur debate.
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As Secretary of Education, I visited with students and teachers across America. And now, as Executive Vice President of the National Chamber Foundation, I meet with business leaders and innovators in diverse sectors and communities. These travels offer me a constant reminder of the dynamism that makes America what it is today. Enterprising places are all around us if we know where to look. !is latest edition of the Business Horizon Quarterly takes us on a journey from outer space to the #elds of North Dakota in search of people and places taking the initiative in search of economic growth.
The scope of our nation’s biggest challenge—creating and filling jobs—is largely national. Yet many of the solutions are being pioneered at the state and local level, or even internationally. !ese solutions are helping some communities avoid the worst of the economic downturn and chart a path to prosperity.
For 100 years, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has been committed to preserving America’s free enterprise system. We look across the world— and beyond—to find the enterprising places that encourage businesses, entrepreneurs, and innovators to thrive in that environment.
There are voices today depicting America’s economic straits as “the new normal” – low growth and high unemployment that leaves the country technologically and economically static. There are, however, concerted efforts and powerful forces at work throughout the 50 states that belie this all-too-simple conclusion. In fact, it seems clear there are bright and growing areas around the country, offering important lessons for America’s state and business leaders.
It’s one of the lessons that the U.S. Chamber’s National Chamber Foundation (NCF) has been observing with its annual Enterprising States study. Started in 2010, the study has investigated the challenges that states have navigated in fostering the policies, programs and environments that enhance industry and build prosperous communities in the midst of an economic downturn. Enterprising States has also generated a greater need to understand how state and business leaders are driving jobs and growth through new approaches, real solutions, and public-private collaboration.
Where we live and work matters. That’s why we choose to settle down in one place over another. It’s not random to us. When faced with a choice of living anywhere in America’s vast expanse, we increasingly choose to put down roots in our nation’s cities. The greatest of these are what I will call “enterprising cities.” By building on the power of place and the strength of their people, they form the roots of our national prosperity.
Why is this so? In one sense, cities magnify the strengths of humans as social creatures. Cities create value because they break down the barriers of distance between people. We grow more when we exist in community with others. We nurture and exchange ideas with those we live nearby. This lack of distance is what ultimately defines a city. Once people are drawn into close proximity, cities then provide the conduits and institutions for a healthy free market. The fruit of this proximity in turn make us more prosperous.
We all have moments that catch us by surprise. Mine came recently as I stepped off the plane in a place known as the “Magic City.” I’ve been fortunate to visit a lot of places in my life, but few struck me the same way as Minot, North Dakota. Oil and gas discoveries have brought tremendous opportunities to this place. There’s a hunger for opportunity there that many in America long for in their own areas. While our national economy idles, people stream in to Minot from towns and farms for miles around. Yet, I also saw the challenges that come with being a modern-day boomtown. There are far more jobs than there are people to fill them. Essential services are racing to keep up with the pace of change. These are the challenges that come with such tremendous growth, and Minot faces the overwhelming challenge of emerging success.
With a population of about 40,000, Minot, North Dakota is surrounded by a patchwork of farmlands in the northwestern part of the state. It was first deemed “the Magic City” for its fast growth in the early part of the 20th century. Minot is about 15 square miles in all. With brutal winters and a tough terrain, the residents are the kind of hardworking folks that have long fed the country and world but are now pulling oil and gas from the earth to fuel our nation’s future.
There is a small framed black and white photograph hanging in IBM’s Israel headquarters, an impressive complex of modern buildings in the Tel Aviv suburb of Petach Tikvah, which shows a group of half-a-dozen bespectacled, smiling young men and women standing arm-in-arm. This was IBM’s Israel team in 1950, during the first year of the company’s operations in a country that was not yet two years old.
Meir Nissensohn, Chairman of IBM Israel, said that even he can’t quite understand why IBM entered Israel back then, but he knew that it was a “pure business decision” not driven by nationalism or religion.
Israel had just won a bloody war of independence against six Arab countries, in which nearly 10% of its population was killed just a few years after World War II. This was a country roughly the size of New Jersey, half covered in desert, surrounded by hostile neighbors, with no natural resources, and still in the midst of absorbing hundreds of thousands of Jewish refugees from European and Arab countries. These refugees lived in primitive shelters while the country faced chronic food shortages and a nearly nonexistent economic infrastructure.