One of Avalanche’s core values is continuous learning, which means that our team is always reading, listening, and watching media that helps us better serve our clients. We love to view stories through an economic development lens. We use what we learn to not only help our client communities become more vibrant, prosperous places but also to improve our own leadership and facilitator skills.

As we kick off the summer season, we thought it would be fun to share what’s inspired us lately in hopes that it will do the same for you. Enjoy!


Amy recommends On Trails by Robert Moor – “To deftly navigate this world, we need to understand how we make trails, and how trails make us!” You may have noticed that Avalanche’s name and spirit is inspired by the outdoors. We clear paths and help our clients reach their summits. (Ah ha! So THAT’s where the name came from!) On Trails scratches a curiosity itch for us about how trails form organically in nature. Interpreting it through an Avalanche lens provides inspiration on how direction changes course and pathways from the past play forward. Get On Trails: An Exploration by Robert Moor. (Or, check your local library!)

Chris recommends The Second Mountain by David Brooks – Recently released, this book looks at the power of a challenge in driving personal achievement, and what it means to be intentional with the next (second, third, etc.) mountain you choose to climb to define your life’s vocation. Get The Second Mountain.

Marian recommends The Color of Law by Richard Rothstein – Rothstein’s purpose for writing The Color of Law is to make the case that segregation in America was the result of intentional federal, state, and local policy, and how these policies have long-lasting effects that continue to impact African Americans today. This book is a powerful example of how our actions as community leaders can shape the livelihood of our neighbors, for better or worse. Although much of the policy in this book is difficult to grapple with, it should energize economic developers to remember how our actions can undo the past and create greater economic opportunities for Americans of all races. Get The Color of Law.

John recommends Why Nations Fail by Daron Acemoglu & James A. Robinson – Though the book is focused on nations, many of the book’s insights remain relevant to economic developers. The book’s authors set out to understand why some countries have become immensely wealthy while others remained mired in poverty. Their research demonstrates that many common explanations for national prosperity—including culture and geography—are insufficient to explain such vastly different economic trajectories. Instead, small differences at critical junctions—combined with aligned incentives and strong institutions—are the key to prosperity. Similar dynamics operate at the regional level here in America. Today, for example, many of the country’s most economically dynamic regions are those that embraced the tech sector during the industry’s infancy. Similarly, regions with efficient governments, innovative universities, and a spirit of collaboration and trust outperform others. Ultimately, the lessons of Why Nations Fail can help build communities that succeed. Get Why Nations Fail.

Tony recommends Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip Heath & Dan Heath – This book is about how to effectively communicate big ideas. Using research and experience, the authors summarize the human psychology behind why certain ideas are understood and embraced and why others fail. This is a guidebook for making your ideas more “sticky” and includes valuable lessons on how to make complex ideas (such as those related to economic development) more tangible, easily communicated, and supported. Get Made to Stick.

Tony and Chris recommend American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America by Colin Woodard – Released back in 2011, this book examines the variations in present-day cultures (economic, educational, political) across US regions due to their original founding populations (countries, reasons for immigration, and time period). It shines a fresh light on why there can be stark cultural differences across the country and even why economic development cannot be a one-size-fits-all approach for every community. Get American Nations.

Jennifer recommends ACCE’s Horizon Initiative: Chamber 2025, a report titled Eight Influences Shaping the Next Decade for Chambers of Commerce We are most frequently called to guide communities along collective visioning and strategic planning processes. Together, we develop tactical plans based on assessed strengths and opportunities, taking into consideration a host of internal and external factors. These plans often serve as the basis for an organization’s plan of work, but often overlook the internal and external factors impacting the organizations themselves. Eight Influences Shaping the Next Decade for Chambers of Commerce covers topics relative to economic development entities and chambers alike. This report provides insight on the eight factors organizational leaders should have on their radar, especially during times of intense competition for funds and influence. In our opinion, it is a must read for our profession. Read Eight Influences Shaping the Next Decade for Chambers of Commerce.


Amy recommends In Search of Greatness – “Athletes are getting better today and the difference in physical ability is incremental. It’s the emotional line that wins.” This inspiring documentary explores what makes the greatest athletes of all time the greatest athletes of all time. Their advantage is their creativity, artistry, and wisdom versus brute strength. In our profession, there are plenty of communities with long lists of assets. What sets the highest performing economies apart is no different than those athletes – emotional intelligence. Or, as a friend recently said, the best places “build an ecosystem, not an ego system.” Rent In Search of Greatness from Amazon.

Marian recommends Show Me a Hero Show Me a Hero is the dramatized true story of Nick Wasicsko, a City Council member then Mayor of Yonkers in the 1980s. Under his leadership, the community must fulfill a federal obligation to build low-income housing in Yonkers despite serious backlash from the community. This six-part series does a great job of providing insight into the minds of all the people that affordable housing affects, from community leaders to activists to families in poverty, and how the location and construction of this affordable housing almost tore Yonkers apart. In addition to exploring the vital issue of affordable housing, this show has the most exciting City Council meetings you have probably ever seen or ever will see. Watch Show Me a Hero on HBO.


Noelle recommends How I Built This – This is one of our favorite podcasts, which profiles the founders of some of the world’s most well-known companies. They tell their story about how their businesses started, their successes and failures, and what they’ve learned from along the way. For economic developers, this provides valuable insight into what it takes to grow a company. Listen to How I Built This.

Tony recommends Big Ideas for Better Places from Cityworks (X)po– CityWorks (X)po is an annual conference in Richmond, VA that brings together leaders from communities to discuss challenges faced by cities, share best practices for addressing them, and talk about big ideas that are changing the world. Similarly, on their podcast, Big Ideas for Better Places, CityWorks (X)po discusses relevant city topics and invites experts from across the country to provide perspective and potential solutions. Topics range from design to communication to economic inclusion. Listen to the Big Ideas for Better Places Podcast from Cityworks (X)po.

Chris recommends The Tim Ferris Show #367: Eric Schmidt – This episode includes Tim Ferriss interviewing Eric Schmidt, author of “Lessons from a Trillion-Dollar Coach.” If you’ve ever felt like a coach to your constituents, learn from Bill Campbell, advisor to some of the greatest minds of Silicon Valley. Listen to The Tim Ferris Show.


Jennifer recommends the Harvard Business Review Instagram – For leaders on the go, follow the Harvard Business Review’s Instagram account. Daily posts provide snippets on everything from leadership and personal development to management and the future of work. There are links to articles and resources when time allows for a deeper dive, but the posts themselves are inspirational and thought provoking. One of our recent favorites said “Be the same in stressful times as you are in the calm ones.” Being a leader in economic development can be pressure-filled and stressful. Don’t let that pressure shut you down or turn you into a tyrant. As the full article notes, your team – including staff, board, investors, community, and prospects – are more likely to remember that 5% of poor behavior than your 95% of good.  So, ask yourself, “When it matters most, who am I?” Find the Harvard Business Review on Instagram.

Noelle and Amy recommend Fortune’s raceAhead Newsletter – This newsletter shares news and perspective on culture and diversity in Corporate America. Diversity and inclusion are important topics to address when developing holistic economic development strategies that enhance prosperity for all residents in a community. This newsletter has been invaluable to better understanding systemic inequities and the programs that have been successful at dismantling them. Subscribe to raceAhead.

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We hope you find these recommendations as useful and insightful as we did! If you’d like to stay even more up to date on what Avalanche is reading these days, check out The Future Of. The Future Of is a curated content service where we post our thoughts on recent economic development articles that we’ve found informative and topical. The Future Of is a great resource for busy economic developers and thought leaders that need all their economic development news in one place.

Have a great summer!