By Marian Kansas, Consultant

As the manager of The Future Of, Avalanche’s curated content website featuring new economic development articles and commentary each week, I spend a lot of time finding and reading economic development-related articles from a wide variety of sources. I’ve seen trending topics shift since we started The Future Of about a year ago, from the economics of opening craft breweries as a revitalization method to the impact climate change will have on our local and national economies.

Even though trending topics change as various economic, political, and cultural shifts take place, a few themes are consistently discussed among economists, researchers, and journalists regarding economic development. Here are the three trends I’ve seen surpass news cycles and receive continued research and media attention time and time again:

  • Economic Inequality: Especially in the wake of the 2016 election, media outlets have tried to determine just how serious economic inequality is in the U.S. and how it affects our decisions as workers or voters. This led to economic developers asking what we can do to curb growing inequality and provide more economic opportunity for residents of our communities. Economic development strategies that seek to mitigate the negative effects of economic inequality have grown in popularity, and even became so popular as to be the theme of IEDC’s 2018 annual conference. Despite this topic’s popularity and increased research focus, there’s still much to learn about the political, cultural, and economic implications of this economic divide, especially about effective ways to shrink economic gaps in the future.
  • Automation: Everyone is talking about automation, but no one can agree on how it will affect our economy. Will effects be positive or negative, will automation destroy or create jobs, will automation provide upskilling opportunities for workers or lead to mass layoffs? There’s a lot of research out there that reaches different conclusions. Despite the differences in findings, there is a consistent message throughout much of the discussion around automation – workers can benefit only if public and private leadership are proactive about training workers with the skills necessary to thrive in a workplace with more automated tasks. If we just let automation run its course and hope that workers figure it out, we’ll surely be worse off.
  • Millennials: This is no surprise for the Avalanche team, seeing as we’ve found talent to be the top concern among economic developers in our 2018 and 2019 ED Index Survey. Jobs follow talent, leading researchers and journalists to pay close attention to demographic shifts, especially among millennials. Millennials made the news several years ago when research found they favored major metros over suburban or rural areas. We saw companies relocating to urban centers to be near millennial workers. But more recently, increasing housing costs, traffic, and lower quality schools are now shifting the millennial population out to suburbs or to midsized metros that are more affordable. The ‘burbs are making a comeback! This trend means that no matter the size of your community, it’s important to invest in efforts that keep costs of living reasonable while keeping lifestyle amenities fresh and fun for young professionals and families.

These are just a few of the topics we explore on The Future Of. If you’d like to keep up with the latest economic development news and have access to curated articles and commentary each week from the Avalanche team, check out www.TheFutureOf.com.