I recently gave a talk called “the Predictive Power of Analytics” at the Senate Garage in Kingston, NY for the March Hudson Valley Tech MeetUp. By all accounts, this is one of the local organizations that is helping to build an actionable community. In partnership with Re>Think Local, where I joined the board in December of last year, I’ve found two groups of smart, creative and passionate people who are very mission oriented. It is inspiring to me to be part of a solution and what feels like the right side of history in the making.
As the son of a retired IBMer and elementary school teacher who both grew up in the Hudson Valley, I am extremely aware of the good times IBM brought by creating prosperity and security for so many families. I also witnessed first hand the painful struggles and economic despair when the majority of that prosperity was outsourced overseas to China and India. In many ways, the region is still recovering from the trials and tribulations and an economic model that no longer works: over-dependence on a single large company or a cluster of a couple of industries. The analysis has been done, and with this old model, the numbers simply don’t add up to prosperity and vibrancy for all members of the community.
In my talk, I give examples of how I have helped large companies and even entire industries raise their value through revenue, share price and market capitalization. It always started with a strategic outcome, which would help them get to where they ultimately wanted to be. The challenge we face today here in the Hudson Valley is not incremental growth but a “Space Race” type of vision that people can really get behind. With most folks working so hard to survive, the thought of more work can be almost unthinkable. Yet, it is always said to be impossible until it’s done.
One possible strategic outcome that would have big positive impacts would be to increase the median salary for the region from $24.5K to $45K. This is something that can be measured and easy for people of all walks of life to relate to in terms of the positive benefits for them and the people they know.
What I’m suggesting is approaching the challenge and solution with a better set of tools so that we can work smarter and more efficiently. The median salary, which currently is approximately $24.5K for the region, is something that is easy to track to make sure we are moving in the right direction towards our goal. This is something that we can understand, but that we often rely on our elected officials to improve. We can increase this number in very short order in 3 steps: 1) identify local businesses that could support jobs well above $24.5K, 2) unlock the obstacles that are keeping those businesses from hiring more people or form new businesses that could support higher paying jobs, and 3) put into place a way to measure the positive economic and social impacts of raising the median salary range, ensuring future support for more actions that drive value.
One of the risks I’ve identified through my research work on the top seven future industries, is not the risk of losing more jobs to overseas workers, but rather, the risk of losing more jobs to technology. More specifically, to robots, artificial intelligence, and algorithms right here in the U.S. The other big risk is having large investors from Silicon Valley & Wall Street come here to the Hudson Valley, buy up all of the farm land and just hire people as contract workers with no benefits or opportunity to move up. This is the danger of being ‘Uberized,” resulting in all of the economic value and prosperity being sucked out of our region and communities. This could actually have worse and longer lasting negative effects than when IBM moved the majority of its operations to China and India, because people might not have the chance to rebuild and regenerate due to their time and energy being drained by investors and companies outside the region.
The best way to predict the future is to create it. What I’m suggesting is that we focus on creating a better future for ourselves, our families and our communities by investing in our farmland and leveraging the technological solutions of precision agriculture, designed for large corporate agriculture, but re-designing it to support small-scale organic precision farming, thus aligning it with our strategic outcome of increasing the median salary to $45K.
Let me explain why and how.
During my talk, I explained why this is a realistic solution that will allow us to leap frog the process and secure our land by building and investing in organic precision farming. There is a strategic design that would allow for us to protect one of our most undervalued assets to create prosperity at every level of the value chain which would have positive first, second and third order impacts on every local small business community. Growing the industry of organic precision farming would create the first order impact: high paying quality careers for farmers and workers, as they will learn to make a good living by leveraging technology to increase their yield and profit. This in turn creates a demand for more expensive farming equipment and information systems to gather, analyze and predict the information that drives yield and profit, the second order impact. Farming equipment and information system careers pay well, and since they are tied to a local industry, will allow individuals working in them to stay local, resulting in even more new companies establishing themselves in the Hudson Valley. This will increase the median salary and benefits, better allowing for people to start buying homes once again, the root of any vibrant community. Also, with higher disposable income, people will be better able to buy healthier organic food, thus supporting the very industry that is providing them with a good living. Additionally, people will have more time to enjoy the local arts and culture, restaurants, outdoor activities such as hiking, kayaking, or spend more quality time with their friends and family.
The third order impact that will benefit, is increased tax revenue, including business sales taxes, income taxes, and property taxes from more people in higher tax brackets due to a higher level of quality careers and jobs. With more tax revenue, city governments can better invest in much needed infrastructure, transportation and educational improvements. Educationally, our children need to understand the high tech world they will be competing in; merely teaching them to memorize answers for an quarterly exam is not going to prepare them. It is crucial that every child has the opportunity and access to be part of the exciting industries of the 21st Century. One of the best ways to do this is to show them what that looks like, such as building a cutting edge industry like organic precision farming in the Hudson Valley, along with all of the derivative industries it will need to support it. Children will then be able to visit the farms and see organic precision technology in action. They will be able to sit next to a programmer and information analyst mapping out how to grow more organic tomatoes at more affordable prices. They will be able to tour a manufacturing facility where they are producing organic baby food being exported in large quantities to New York City, Greenwich and Boston. And hopefully they will get excited and see how they can be part of this new ecosystem of value creation right here in the community they grew up in, instead of dreaming about how to escape, because they don’t see a future for themselves.
Is this a tall order? Maybe, but not if we all get behind it. It’s not impossible, in fact, it’s inevitable. I’m proposing that we protect, own and invest in our future. Let’s not passively allow the future to happen to us, let’s actively control our own destiny, and our children’s future prosperity for generations to come. Contact me with your thoughts and feedback: firstname.lastname@example.org. Let’s start planning our outcomes.
If you would like to read up on numerous examples of other communities that are doing excellent work within the scope of the Local Economy Solution, I suggest you check out michaelhshuman.com. Michael H. Shuman has written several books and articles on the best practices happening around the world. Michael and I are partnering together to work on building new local analytical tools to help expedite these solutions here in the Hudson Valley. Stay tuned.
Re>Think Local Board Member