Economic Development -- It Begins with You and Me

Article excerpt

If I could only write one column to promote economic development strategy in Oklahoma, it would be on the importance of creating an environment that supports innovation.

Why innovation? Because innovation is the deep-running current that moves below the surface of the economy. Sometimes the surface water of the economy can be so calm that it looks like a glass mirror, while at other times it can be so turbulent that it resembles the perfect storm. But regardless of what is happening on the surface, the deeper current is unaffected. Like deep-water currents, the long-term strength of the U.S. economy moves through the underlying power of innovation.

The short-term economic metrics of corporate earnings, jobs, and business cycles are measured in weeks, months and occasionally years. These short-term indicators can represent acute pain and acute gain.

Long-term economic development metrics like industrial base, personal per capita income, education levels, birth rates, teen-age pregnancies, and infrastructure are measured in decades.

Make no mistake about it -- is no chicken and egg question about what is most important in affecting change either for the positive or negative. All aspects of life, whether social, governmental, or educational are dependent upon the economy, and the health of our economy is directly related to the strength of innovative capacity.

When developing government policy and allocating scarce resources, those decisions -- even in the name of humanity -- should be made in the blinding light of what effect the action will have on the long-term health of the economy. Even more specifically, the questions should revolve around how policy and strategic decisions affect our capacity for innovation -- the making of a change in something established -- new ideas and new methods.

Without question, innovation is the underlying, fundamental factor that drives change -- not only in the economy but, also, in government, education and social systems.

Innovation is a social process of combining resources such as research, financial capital, infrastructure, human capital, infrastructure, and entrepreneurs. However, even with the presence of these resources in abundance, innovation is not guaranteed.

Innovation results from an attitude starting with an individual and spreading to groups, organizations, institutions and communities. Individuals have a responsibility to make a conscious decision to either embrace innovation or not.

Those who choose to embrace innovation don't have to conceive the ideas that lead to change; they only have to be part of the process. For example, you as an individual can simply offer a set of resources to the effort, such as what you know, whom you know, your reputation, and your energy. …