Barry Albrecht

Education IS Economic Development Part 1: Keeping Pace

Since my first days at the Amarillo EDC, one of my primary mantras has been that “education IS economic development.”

If you’ve attended any of our recent events or read any of my other blog posts, you know this is one of my core beliefs with regards to growing a community’s economic base. Education, to me, is a driver and predictor of a city’s economic future.

Think about the S&P 500 for a minute. Many consider this index one of the leading representations of the American economy. A team of analysts and economists at Standard & Poor’s select the 500 companies that comprise the S&P 500.

Companies chosen are often considered some of the country’s strongest and tend to reflect market and industry changes. Historically, companies that were placed on the S&P 500 list remained on the list many years without being removed.

In recent decades, the S&P index has shifted. As Richard Foster of Yale University points out, “the average lifespan of a company listed on the S&P 500 has decreased from 67 years in the 1920’s to 15 years today.”

A recent article from Business Insider notes that “(t)en percent of the companies on today’s index are different since 2011, 17% are different since 2009 and fully half are different since 1999.”

I am not a financial advisor and we aren’t talking about great investment advice or large-cap versus small-cap. What the shift in the S&P 500 index illustrates is that the American economy is changing more rapidly than ever before.

New industries are emerging as older ones are being pushed out. Ecommerce is quickly replacing local retail. Automation and robotics are displacing the American workforce in ways never previously seen. Today’s leading industry giants may be tomorrow’s Chapter 13.

As a community, we need to prepare for these industry shifts.
While it is STEM Education.jpghard to predict which technologies will emerge in years to come, there is one thing Amarillo can do in preparation.

We must collectively develop a robust and aggressive educational system that supports our local children from Kindergarten through college. The private sector must collaborate with our local educators to construct unique ways to teach both inside and outside the classroom in STEM focused disciplines.

The Amarillo EDC is dedicated to recruiting growing companies in emerging industries which can provide excellent jobs with competitive salaries to offer residents a wonderful quality of life. Every year, we work to align our recruitment efforts with those sectors that continue to grow most robustly.

As the Bureau of Labor and Statistics recently reported, STEM related job opportunities grew more than 10% from 2009-2015 and averaged over $87,000 in annual salaries.

However, in order to attract the companies we desire to see in our city, we must focus on cultivating the workforce companies will employ. In my next blog post, I will talk about the many ways I hope to work with our area schools and higher education institutions to focus on developing the highly trained workforce today’s companies are looking to hire.