Academic journal article Community Development: Journal of the Community Development Society

Jobs Now, Later, or ... Never? an Exploration of Resistance to Economic Change in Communities

Academic journal article Community Development: Journal of the Community Development Society

Jobs Now, Later, or ... Never? an Exploration of Resistance to Economic Change in Communities

Article excerpt

Members of the research team report findings from a telephone survey of residents of Michigan's Upper Peninsula. The survey asked residents about their preferences for job creation if a computer software company would relocate in their community. Respondents chose to create jobs among several options. (1) to create ten jobs now, (2) to create 16 jobs in five years, (3) indifference between now or in five years, or (4) never. Although the majority of the respondents viewed the software company as a social good, a substantial minority (18.3 percent) preferred that the company never move to their community. Reasons for respondents' resistance to a seemingly attractive (high technology, nonpolluting) employer are explored with logistic regression. Those who are less well educated, younger, or Native American are more likely to choose the "never" option. A reason for resistance may be .fear of cultural change associated with the arrival of others, especially newcomers familiar with high technology. In contrast, those who are less attached to community are more likely to prefer that the firm arrive in the community. Implications are that investments in education may make communities more open to change, and individuals considering out-migration may require a faster pace of change to remain in the community.

Key-words: community change, economic transition, mining-dependent, Native American, time preference


There are many potential explanations for the rise and fall of regions. Natural resource dependent regions are particularly susceptible to boom and bust phenomena. Some natural resource-dependent communities are able to sustain growth and development and diversify their economic base, while others become ghost towns after a natural resource is exhausted. Recognizing this, many natural resource communities implement economic development strategies with an eye towards diversification.

Traditional approaches to economic development focus on recruitment of new industry (Bartik, 1990; Loveridge, 1996). More recent thinking has emphasized building on existing assets (Kretzmann & McKnight, 1993; Barkely, 1993; Schaeffer & Loveridge, 2000; Flora et al., 2003), especially focusing on longer-term, more gradual approaches to development, such as entrepreneurship (Walzer, forthcoming), (1) business retention and expansion (Loveridge & Smith, 1992; Allanach & Loveridge, 1998), social networks (Putnam, 1995; Kilkenny & Nalbarte, 2000; Flora et al., 2003), as well as culture and amenities (Florida, 2002) as tools for economic development. The success of any economic development strategy depends on the willingness of the local population--especially local policymakers to support approaches that may not produce visible results for several years--and on residents' acceptance and support of new approaches to economic development. Therefore, understanding the attitudes of the community is vital to understanding why some regions accept change more willingly than other communities accept it. To change the path of development in a community, it is important to understand sources of resistance to change, as well as what types of individuals may object to change and under what conditions. This paper uses telephone survey data to explore economic development preferences in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, an area predominantly rural and resource-dependent. The researchers focus on characteristics of individuals who say they do not want new a new company to move to their community.

The rest of this paper is laid out as follows. The literature review provides a review of the rural development, sociological, and economics literature pertinent to the study. The subsequent section provides brief details about the study region, the Upper Peninsula region of Michigan. The section on methods introduces the investigative team's survey instrument. The following section presents the basic findings of the study, while the next section reports on results of a logistic regression exploring determinants of resistance to the introduction of jobs. …

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