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Few of us are happy about the level of progress we have made in either creating robust employment growth or deploying a new policy and financing architecture that can scale broadly to reach the high road economic vision we all share – be it about manufacturing and job creation, small business entrepreneurship, clean energy market transformation, 21st century infrastructure, local economic development, or export expansion. This slow progress comes at great cost, as stalled success here is undermining the case for more innovation and investment in US economic competitiveness.
While debates will rage among economists about whether this is a normal cyclical recession or something more, and in Congress about what we can afford to invest in given the deficit, this paper describes a series of low-cost but high-impact steps we can take now to accelerate job creation, growth and American competitiveness.
At the core of these ideas is a simple paradigm shift – an emphasis on nurturing bottom-up change rather than top-down dictates. The reason: federal siloed programs and one-size-fits-all solutions don’t work as well anymore in meeting the complex challenges of the 21st century economic markets. Growth, job creation and shared prosperity lies in creating opportunities for entrepreneurs and small companies to find financing, lifting up new clean economy markets, and building new networks to connect innovators, suppliers and customers across traditional geographies. That’s where studies show we netted 40 million new jobs from 1980-2005, from young companies less than 5 years old.2
To be clear: this paper does not simply call for more federal revenue-sharing with the states. The changes we need to accelerate private-led innovation in regions and communities do not begin, or end, there.
What we need instead is to create the incentives and architecture for a new Regional Race to the Top, for all America’s regions.
As President Obama understands, our recovery is tentative, and we need creative approaches for public-private collaboration. Change begins with the business sector and local community stakeholders at the center of the conversation – not as an afterthought.
So is the Acceleration Agenda a new “industrial policy”? Do such labels matter? We hope not – there is too much on the line for our economy to be bogged down in oversimplified debates from the past.