What We Do

Today’s best economic development practices are proving to be no match for the demographic and economic realities of the 21st Century. If community leaders hope to exert influence over the pace and quality of development of their local economies in the future, they will need to operate at a whole new level. This new level of practice involves applying a design approach to the design of a community’s economy and work force. We refer to this higher level of practice as Economic Architecture.

For Economic Architecture to become a viable professional practice, a series complicated and difficult systems problems must be solved. Solving these wicked problems is the mission of the CELab. The CELab’s work is currently focused on three of them:


  1. Finding a new, more coherent way to think, plan and manage economic and workforce development efforts at the local level 
  • Problem: Most local job creation program efforts are fragmented, piecemeal, poorly planned and lack elementary performance metrics making them increasingly difficult to fund and manage. Community leaders lack a process and a framework to get clarity and on the most basic of planning and performance parameters for a job creation agenda.
  • Challenge: We must develop a more comprehensive and rigorous framework for planning, managing and measuring job creation efforts – one that can compel a diverse group of community stakeholders to understand and sustain an economic development agenda.
  • Status: Recent breakthroughs in framework and process design and metrics system development have produced a promising new assessment, planning and accountability beta process that is in its second round of field tests.


2.  Finding ways to elevate and integrate job creation and workforce.


      • Problem: A shortage of qualified workers is primary constraint to job creation in most communities, now making the development, attraction and retention of talent as important or more important than attracting, growing and retaining employers. During the 20th century, local institutions engaged in workforce development, education and poverty mitigation have become strategically estranged from those engaged in job creation.
      • Challenge: We must figure out new ways to re-align and integrate the missions of workforce development, education and talent attraction with local job creation effort.
      • Status: The CELab is developing and testing a suite of predictive tools, planning protocols and talent procurement program initiatives


3. Developing a program approach to create Solo economic base jobs.


        • Problem: Work in the US is shifting rapidly from W-2 jobs to Freelance or Solowork. Most communities still focus their job creation efforts exclusively on W-2 employers. Any job creation effort that does not have a strategy that responds to this transformation is almost guaranteed to fail.
        • Challenge: Invent a suite of program strategies to respond to the shift from W2 to freelance work and other imminent job creation.
        • Status: In early 2007 the CELab began pioneering the development of a new business model and mix of program approaches designed to start up, retain and recruit new economic base jobs where the work is performed solo or without a formal employer.