Michelle Miller-Adams says when local communities are struggling economically, leaders look to attract an employer that will bring lots of jobs. But the Senior Researcher for the Kalamazoo-based Upjohn Institute for Employment Research says “that is a very low percentage strategy.” The Upjohn Institute launched a project last year on how communities can attract and keep good jobs. Miller-Adams and Upjohn Institute Senior Economist Tim Bartik are two of the co-authors of a report called Building Shared Prosperity: How Communities Can Create Good Jobs For All. Note: This interview was originally broadcast in April.
Bartik says the report brings together a number of topics that researchers at the Institute have studied, such as place based scholarships, job training and economic development. He says many places have been left behind even in a strong economy, and many people don’t feel the economy has reached them.
The research on place-based scholarships includes extensive examination of the Kalamazoo Promise. Miller-Adams has studied how other communities are implementing their own “promise” scholarship programs. She says a program that focuses on technical training and community college can improve the local workforce. Bartik says “promise” programs also attract parents, and make communities “stickier.” He says it makes people want to stay, invest and be involved in schools.
The report’s final chapter includes a section on “building strong civic leadership.” Miller-Adams says the nature of leadership looks different in every community, and can change over time. She says there was a major shift in Kalamazoo when Upjohn’s headquarters left the city.
Bartik says communities trying to diversify and not be reliant on one employer should still build on their strengths. He says the Business, Technology Research Park in Kalamazoo as an example includes many businesses in the pharmaceutical industry but some in other sectors.