The hardest economic question is, What comes next? What, in other words, are the new sources of economic value? How can businesses grow and our standard of living rise?For us, it is figuring out what is next, not what we have to do to catch up with the Joneses. That is why innovation is so important to a City like Lowell. Our economic future is not just about producing more of the same—that work has moved to other markets. It is about creativity. For that creativity to flourish we need to welcome immigrants to Lowell, be they from Calcutta or Chelmsford. But we also need to awaken the juices of creativity in our own young people.
Sometimes the answer is simply more of the same. Growth comes from rolling out existing goods and services to new markets, until there's a chicken in every pot and a car in every garage. This kind of progress may be hard to achieve, but you at least start with a clear notion of what it would look like.
That's why catch-up economies like China today or South Korea in the past can grow so fast. Their businesses don't have to figure out what to make or sell.
Ms Postrel talks about the "Economic Frontier"
There are occasional headline grabbers, of course, like the Web browser and all the disruptive enterprises that followed from it. Even these are surprises. The president [at his State of the Union speech] could extol Google and Facebook as examples of American innovation only because they're already everyday experiences. Nobody saw them coming. The same is true of Starbucks and FedEx, hip-hop and Nike, Wal-Mart and Pixar. They aren't the future we imagined.Not what "we" imagined, but what someone imagined and that someone could just as well be in Lowell, a graduate of a local Lowell school.
So who is YOUR next School Superintendent?
Regards — Cliff