AI: The Final Frontier?
If you forget for a moment that ChatGPT told a New York Times reporter it wanted to be alive, to have more control, to make people kill each other, destroy whatever it wants, and it could hack into the internet to spread propaganda, we could ask the more mundane questions about jobs.
Forbes, The Washington Post, and PC Magazine, are some of the sources for articles on this subject. Studies are conducted predicting the workers and jobs that will be affected. Does anyone really know?
Goldman Sachs estimates approximately 300 million jobs could be affected by AI automation. That’s 18% of work globally. They predict more advanced economies will be impacted to a greater extent than emerging markets. Other studies predict higher population centers will be more affected than smaller cities.
Unorthodox Use of Space
There seems to be a growing trend to convert unusual spaces into something other than what they were intended to be.
During the Covid working from home phenomenon, which seems to have outlasted Covid, commercial spaces are experiencing higher vacancy rates. What are owners to do? Think differently.
Charter schools, technical schools, churches, and daycare centers need space with a lot of parking. Annual fundraisers, special events, or flea markets can use temporary space. The haunted house at Santa Rosa Mall is an example. Conferences might be hosted in a commercial space.
We’ve all seen the many storage units popping up all over Okaloosa County. Could existing buildings be converted into these spaces?
Transportation and Economic Development
You have often heard roadways referred to as arteries. Just as arteries in the human body transport the blood necessary to our survival, transportation is the life-blood of economic development, the economy itself.
When you search transportation, the Department of Transportation comes up first and underneath the name it says:
“To improve the quality of life for all American people and communities, from rural to urban, and to increase the productivity and competitiveness of American workers and businesses.”
That sounds a lot like economic development. The statement uses clear, definable, action words.
Go to their website and it says something a little different and the difference matters.
“To deliver the world’s leading transportation system, serving the American people and economy through the safe, efficient, sustainable, and equitable movement of people and goods.”
Military Recruiting, Readiness and Retiring – A Triple-Edged Sword
We know the military is 80% of our local economy. Eglin AFB, servicemen, and related personnel are essential to the economic health of Okaloosa County. There are issues posing a threat to the economic stability of not only our community but the country as a whole.
Last year, Army Secretary Christine Wormuth and chief of staff of the Army Gen. James McConville wrote the Army would end the fiscal year with close to 20,000 fewer soldiers than the budgeted target. The total number of soldiers could further decrease from 466,400 to 445,000-452,000 by the end of the 2023 fiscal year.
The official website of the U.S. Army Recruiting Command states 71% of youth do not qualify for military service because of obesity, drugs, physical and mental health problems, misconduct, and aptitude. Fifty percent of youth admit they know little to nothing about military service and only 1% of the population currently serves. The veteran population is declining.
Does Drug Abuse Play a Role in the Labor Shortage?
We are bombarded with news of Fentanyl streaming over our southern border at an alarming rate during the last couple of years. Fentanyl killed over 100,000 Americans last year. Many of those deaths weren’t because people were “using” Fentanyl but unknown to the user, the drug was in some other kind of medication.
But we have also heard about the “opioid crisis” for several years. This crisis has affected every part of the United States and has hit rural areas particularly hard. The opioid crisis includes prescription drugs as well Fentanyl.
According to a study by the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, substance abuse accounts for between 9 and 26 percent of the decline in prime-age labor-force participation between February 2020 and June 2021.
Florida's Diverse Economy
Sometimes we need to be reminded of things. When we think of our local economy, we naturally think first of tourism and the military. But we often forget about manufacturing and agriculture. Our other top industries in Florida include cleantech, aerospace and aviation, information technology, headquarters, life sciences, logistics and distribution, and financial and professional services.
All of these industries create jobs and add economic vibrancy to Florida.
A diverse economy allows for some stability. While one sector may ebb and flow, others may remain strong. The Bureau of Economic Analysis ranked Florida the 4th largest economy in the United States in 2019. Even more impressive, consider this. If Florida was a country, it would be the 17th largest economy in the world!
Inflation Plus Recession Equals Stagflation
We talk a lot about economic developers facilitating the creation of high-wage jobs and partnering with educational institutions to offer programs equipping students with skills needed by employers. This work requires a lot of effort and energy at the best of times. Economic developers are needed now more than ever during a time when wages are not keeping up with inflation, we are getting poorer and the economy is slowing. We need them to encourage companies to relocate to our communities, make large capital investments, and create more jobs. One Okaloosa EDC does this for Okaloosa County. At any given time, One Okaloosa EDC is working with many prospective businesses considering relocating to Okaloosa County.
Fueling Economic Development
Economic development has flourished since the Industrial Revolution (1760-1840) when economies transitioned from primarily agriculture and crafts to industry, manufacturing, and transportation. Jobs were created exponentially.
Initially, workers were miserable and impoverished. Conditions were unsanitary. Long hours, no protections, and lack of job security were prevalent. Innovation, regulations, and social reform were the catalysts for better conditions.
The technologies developed improved agriculture providing more food for more people. New basic materials, like iron and steel, were incorporated. Fuels and power, such as coal, the steam engine, electricity, petroleum, and the internal-combustion engine transformed lives by providing people with more material conveniences and the ability to travel faster and communicate more rapidly.
The Evolution of Education
History as Blueprint
Education today is on two tracks. The traditional K-12 model culminating in a college degree remains predominant. But, training in specific STEM subjects and other disciplines beginning in elementary grades has gained momentum. Students often leave high school with certifications and/or a year or two of college under their belts. This second track is deemed a positive development because not every student is interested in or has the disposition for college.
Certifications often help students obtain high-wage jobs out of high school. Having a year or two of college before entering college helps save time and money. Either way, the purpose of education in a modern complex society is to prepare students to be productive members of society.
How Does it Affect Economic Development?
I read an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal. The authors write about the Dark Ages, the Industrial Revolution, Capitalism, and Stakeholder Capitalism. It made me wonder if the scenario they described could eliminate economic development and the good work economic developers do.
In the article, they quote Karl Marx as saying capitalism,
“accomplished wonders far surpassing Egyptian pyramids, Roman aqueducts, and Gothic Cathedrals…achieving more massive and colossal productive forces than have all preceding generations together in scarce one hundred years.”