Using technology to overcome the ‘place’ problem

Just finished Richard Florida’s book, Who’s Your City. When I saw the title, it sounded familiar to me. Early in the book Florida gushes over his appearance on the Stephen Colbert show. It just clicked that Who’s Your City is a loose parady of Colbert’s I Am America (And So Can You!). Now we are getting our economic development direction from comedians. Who’s going to get the last laugh?

Anyway, while Florida’s book lacks in rigorous substance, it does provide some interesting areas for consideration. His assertion that physical place matters (clustering) makes some intuitive sense but his rejection of technology as a means to achieve this (the linking of less physically close areas) lacks creativity.

Take my wife for example. She Skypes her parents in Brazil 2-3 times a week and talks for at least 30 minutes. Normally, she will go to Brazil for 4-6 weeks most years and her parents and other family members will come here for a month. In short, she has way more face time with her family that most people do when their family is located in the same city.

We need to be more deliberate about this in our economic development efforts. FaceBook, Skype, etc. should be commonplace but more important we should be more deliberate about linking up to other markets where it makes sense.

Take sister city relationships. Moncton will twin with Galway, Ireland for example and the mayor’s will shake hands and exchange keys. And that will be it. How about a FaceBook group? How about a large scale student exchange program? How about a business incubator here for businesses from there and vice versa? How about being far more deliberate about business linkages (chamber of commerce activities, etc.)? How about a direct flight from Galway to Moncton? How about a section in the local newspaper on each side about the other? Of course, these efforts would need to be tied to economic and social goals but places like New Brunswick should be leaders in finding innovative ways to overcome this very real need for physical, social interaction.