Winter Institute - Innovative Economics

Session Summaries

Thursday, 5-6:15 p.m.

Economic Outlook

There’s a lot in the news. How does that impact you and your community? Learn more about the local impacts of global business, education and more. Four experts weigh in and interpret recent data and trends.

9-9:50 a.m.

Building Economically Strong communities for an Uncertain Future, Charles Marohn

Why are so many cities and towns across North America going broke? Our roads are deteriorating. Our governments are in debt. No matter how much we increase them, our taxes aren’t enough to fix it all. And no one seems to be able to agree on how we got here—much less how to change the course.

This isn’t just about numbers on a budget. This is about the fate of the communities we love most, and the real people that live there. This is about how to give our citizens, today and tomorrow, a chance at the future they deserve.

If we want American cities to be strong and resilient we need to change everything about the way we plan and build our places.

In this session you will learn what's different about the suburban development pattern that has been in use for the last seventy years, and why it is bankrupting towns across the nation by creating an illusion of wealth rather than long-term prosperity. This session will also explain how the traditional development pattern based on incremental improvements over a long period of time can create truly productive growth for generations to come, as it has for generations in the past. 

The presentation will conclude with a community-specific discussion of how these ideas apply in the St. Cloud area.

Resource Efficiency within Cities: The opportunities of local food supply and urban agriculture, Giacomo Fiorani and Serena Mariani

The urbanization debate involves many challenges: among the main ones are sustainable natural resources management and the improvement of life quality. Within this framework, agricultural activities and food production can connect the dots and be the solution for those problems, reducing citizens’ inequality conditions while safeguarding the environment.

In this context two phenomena have recently risen: on the one hand, there is urban agriculture which ensures food security, provides environmental benefits and enhances social interactions. On the other hand, there is social farming which merges various social services within an agricultural location, in order to promote social inclusion, active ageing, education, health and well-being of the users through the use of natural resources.

Under the Grage Project, the University of Macerata, along with several European Universities and Consultancy firms, is studying the role of active aging through urban agriculture and social farming. In the Winter Institute the speakers will present the outcomes of the project: they will highlight the possibilities to both develop city areas through urban agriculture and to create social services for elderly thanks to social farming.

Collective Impact: An Approach to Solving Society’s Most Challenging Problems, Patti Gartland and Brian Myres

In recent history, economic and community challenges were expected to be solved by the sector in which they originated.  Schools solved education problems, municipalities addressed municipal problems, and public sector entities tackled economic development challenges.

However, current economic and societal conditions have resulted in the need for a new, innovative approach to solving the most complex community and social problems:  collective impact. The collective impact approach is based on acknowledgement that no single organization, public entity or program can remedy the increasingly complex social problems currently facing society. 

The approach calls for collaboration across sectors – government, business, philanthropy, non-profit and citizenry – to achieve significant and lasting social change.  It necessitates that contributors defer their own agendas in favor of a common agenda with alignment of effort, and shared responsibility and measurement of progress.

Leaders from all sectors in the greater St. Cloud region are employing the collective impact model to great success in various initiatives.  Examples include the Community Pillars initiative (comprehensive community development), the formation and work of the Greater St. Cloud Development Corporation (economic development), Partner for Student Success (cradle to career readiness), the St. Cloud Area Public Safety Foundation (public safety), Create CommUNITY (cross-cultural relationships), the SCSU Integrated Science and Engineering Laboratory Facility/ISELF (academic and business collaboration and innovation) and Lake George improvements/Summertime by George community event (Rotary organization in service of public sector projects).

The session will include:

  • A working definition of collective impact.
  • Examples/case studies of significant collective impact projects in the greater St. Cloud region.
  • Information about the value proposition to a community of using a collective impact approach to solving complex community problems.

10-11:20 a.m.

KEYNOTE “Understanding Cities” Edward Glaeser

From transportation to workforce issues, everything intersects with cities. Ed Glaeser, prominent economist and expert on cities will discuss why he believes city is “humanity’s greatest invention.”

11:30 a.m.-12:50 p.m.

Luncheon “Looking for Vibrant Cities? Start in Central Minnesota”, Shaunna Johnson, Matthew Staehling, Ross Olson and Anita Archambeau

Why would a city seek state capital investment bonding for a granite quarry?  What kind of economic impact can a granite quarry hold for a city?  How can you rebuild a successful downtown after major bridge reconstruction slows commercial traffic to a crawl for months and completely disrupts the infrastructure and foundation of the old downtown? 

Why are core neighborhoods important to a city’s economy and how do you go about rebuilding core neighborhoods when they have fallen into disrepair?  Our expert panel of city administrators and developers will discuss major projects in their cities that have built the economy in innovative ways.

1-1:50 p.m.

How did Minnesota become "above average?" Louis Johnston

Most pundits and policymakers take it for granted that Minnesota's economy typically performs better than the national average. This has not always been the case, however. Starting from a position above the national average before World War I, per capita income fell to 85 percent of the national average in 1920 and remained below the national average until the 1970s. 

Urban growth, generally, and the Minneapolis-St. Paul economy, in particular, drove Minnesota’s per capita income from below average to above average over the past seventy years. Incomes in non-urban and rural areas remained at roughly 80 percent of the national average throughout the period. Understanding this phenomenon is important to making good economic policy both in Minnesota and at the national level.

Repurposing Community Spaces, Michelle Kiley

Open spaces and deteriorating buildings can still serve a fundamental economic development purpose; by incorporating innovative (and even temporary) approaches to enhance the community, it allows cities to test new ideas, bring together neighbors, and support flexible entrepreneurial models with the power to reinvigorate community spaces.

Economic development in rural communities is often met with challenges, including financial constraints and limited staff capacity. By intentionally engaging creative, grassroots leaders, rural communities can empower others to identify adaptive solutions resulting in unique perspectives on what a "thriving community" could look like in 2018.

This session will provide the audience with a virtual tour of once forgotten spaces in the communities we love.

The Impact of Refugees in Germany and the U.S., Taisiia Stanishevska and Edward Glaeser

In this session, Taisiia Stanishevska, an undergraduate economics student at SCSU, will present the results of her senior research project titled “Refugee Crisis and its Impact on Crime Trends in Germany.”  Edward Glaeser will then take some time to discuss the impact of refugees in the U.S. and elsewhere.

Abstract for Taisiia’s “Refugee Crisis and its Impact on Crime Trends in Germany.”

The refugee crisis in Europe has been a major source of debate and controversy for the past two years. Germany has been accepting the largest number of refugees among other European countries, which has a tremendous influence on the country’s economy and social structure (Dustmann et al., 2017). The phenomenon of “Wir schaffen das” (We’ll manage it by Chancellor Angela Merkel) draws further attention to Germany, which consistently helps refugees to find a new home despite criticism and lack of support from other European countries. However, the question of how Germany will manage the recent refugee influx does not have a definitive answer.

The impact of immigrants on the national economy has been studied extensively over the years, however the impact of refugees on crime trends has not been given as much attention, which makes it a particularly important and interesting aspect for empirical research. This paper uses time series data from 1976-2015 to analyze the effect of refugee influx on crime rates in Germany. An autoregressive-distributed lag model (ARDL) is used to identify the long run relationship and a vector error correction model (VECM) is used for short run relationship between the two variables.

Finally, a granger causality test is used to identify the causality between the two variables. The results of this paper indicate a positive effect from refugee influx on crime rates for both long run and short run. Overall, the empirical results of this study can be used to improve the quality of integration courses for refugees and come up with more effective safety measures in times of rapid demographic change in Germany.

2-2:50 p.m.

Rediscovering Cities Workforce through Shared Services, Paul Drange and Anna Gruber

In 2015, the Alliance for Innovation, a network of innovative city and county governments who are inspiring innovation to advance communities, set out to explore what government should, and could, look like over the course of the next 20 years.  They recently released a new report entitled “The Next Big Things: The Next 20 Years in Local Government.” It highlights 44 trends within four driving forces — Resources, Technology, Demographics and Governance — that they believe will have deep impact on how local government operates for the next generation. 

One of these key trends and driving forces is the need for governance to change its focus to more of a collaborative and shared approach that provides efficiencies to all forms of government and its citizens.  Here at NJPA, we are happy to be a catalyst in this movement, to create more government efficiencies over the next 20 years through shared services.

Sharing is a simple concept taught to children at an early age.  However, NJPA has taken sharing to the next level and has made life – and business – easier for organizations throughout the State by hosting valuable employment positions to be shared by government entities.  In this session, learn how NJPA's Shared Employment Services is creating efficiencies and helping cities to rediscover their workforce.

The Stories Cities Tell: Strategies for City Regeneration and Transformation, Aspasia Rigopoulou-Melcher and Cathy Mehelich

Regeneration and growth in the context of cities appear to focus on new multiprong models that suggest the importance and propulsive ability of new physical, economic, governance, and cooperation forms as the engines to bring cities out of depressive stages caused my structural economic problems and/or to move cities to areas of new opportunities.

This session will report on research that addresses:

  1. The trajectory, challenges, diverging paths and unique important assets and opportunities of legacy or post-industrial cities
  2. Strategies and recommendations for change.
  3. Case studies of Economic Development Efforts that will highlight many of the strategic initiatives and efforts of legacy cities but in the context of St. Cloud. The characteristics of these efforts are instructive and speak to specific strategic initiatives prescribed in the context of legacy cities.

After the Quake: How the University of Macerata Responded, Francesco Adornato

In 2016, the province of Macerata, Italy endured a 5.0 earthquake. The entire region had been hit by a series of earthquakes in 2016.  Francesco Adornato, newly became president of the University of Macerata at this time and under his leadership, the University of Macerata was immediately and actively involved in helping the community rebuild. In this talk, Rettore Adornato will discuss the University’s contribution to the community after the devastating earthquake.