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Lee Fisher on Meeting of the Minds

Lee Fisher, President and CEO of CEOs for Cities, was recently interviewed about the upcoming Meeting of the Minds event.  On October 9-11, Lee will join global leaders to convene in San Francisco for Meeting of the Minds.  The Meeting is a premier leadership summit focused on the innovations that leaders in the built environment, infrastructure, transport, architecture, planning, finance and other key areas can use to grow sustainable cities. For two days, participants from across all sectors — public, NGO, and private — engage in lively discussions focused on “connecting the dots” linking buildings, energy and water resources, mobility, and finance.

The following is taken from Lee's interview with Meeting the Minds.  Please visit Meet the Minds to see interviews with other global leaders who are attending the conference.

Tell us a little bit about your role in your company/organization.

I’m the President and CEO of CEOs for Cities, a national network of civic CEOs and urban leaders advancing the next generation of great American cities. Prior to this, I served as Ohio Lt. Governor, Ohio Attorney General, and Director of the Ohio Department of Economic Development. We were founded 12…


Detroit Initiatives Advance Contemporary Public Life

Knight Foundation and CEOs for Cities announce support for nine organizations

Detroit, Mich. – March 27, 2012 – Nine Detroit organizations that are accelerating citizen participation in public life will receive $65,000 through a partnership between the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and CEOs for Cities, a national network of urban leaders.

 The awards are part of Knight and CEOs for Cities’ joint effort to strengthen contemporary public life.  Nationally, the two groups are exploring ways to foster more informed and engaged communities where people participate in decision-making, shape their neighborhoods with volunteer and civic commitments, enjoy communal spaces together and more.

In Detroit, individuals and institutions across the city are becoming part of a growing social innovation movement, seeding small-scale but transformational projects that are having an impact on community well being. This new support will strengthen a range of efforts – including virtual and real-world spaces where Detroiters can come together to discuss local issues, create new products and services and celebrate people having an impact on the city. A list of projects is below.

“Detroiters are blending entrepreneurship, creativity and civic action in imaginative ways. We hope these projects will…


Agglomeration Economics

In The American (the Journal of the American Enterprise Institute), Ryan Streeter calls out the danger of outmoded political thinking that places cities solely on the agenda of the left. He offers three reasons:

  1. First, cities rather than states will increasingly drive national economies. States that recognize this and adjust policy accordingly will get ahead.
  2. Second, things like the cost of construction, traffic, and green policies in a state’s largest city, or cities, will begin to matter more to a state’s overall competitiveness than ever before. Whither the city goes the state.
  3. Third, congressional maps will become more metro and less agrarian, meaning that the interests of metropolitan areas will increasingly dominate national policy debates.

With one-third of Americans inhabiting just 16 metro areas and all demographic trends pointing toward an increase in the agglomeration of economic activity, our competitiveness will increasingly rely on understanding how cities best facilitate knowledge spill-overs and entrepreneurship.

For more on "agglomeration economics" Streeter suggests a review of a new book by the same name edited by Harvard economist Ed Glaeser.


What Makes a City Entrepreneurial?

This is the subject of a recent policy brief by Ed Glaeser and William Kerr.  Published by the Rappaport Institute/Taubman Center, the brief links entrepreneurship and regional economic growth.  And to encourage entrepreneurship, the authors have four pieces of advice for urban leaders:

(1) Investing too much in attracting large, mature firms may not be good policy.

(2) There is little reason to have much faith in the ability of local governments to play venture capitalist. The best role for government is simply to encourage competition among local banks and financiers.

(3) There is much to be said for the strategy of focusing on the quality of life policies that can attract smart, entrepreneurial people.  The best economic development strategy may be to attract smart people and get out of their way.

(4) Good universities have faculty members who are involved in local start-ups and train students who may become entrepreneurs and the employees of entrepreneurs.  Imposing costs that restrict the growth of such institutions can be costly.

The prize quote from the brief:  "What community ever screwed up by providing too much quality of life?"  That ought to become the guiding principle of every city.


Cultivating an Entrepreneurial Culture in Cincinnati

As the birthplace of Pringles and the 3-light traffic signal, Cincinnati has a history of invention. Launching today, Cincinnati Innovates is a contest open to anyone with a connection to Cincinnati and an innovative idea. With top prize of $20,000 this is one way to encourage local talent to kick start new small businesses that are key to our national economy. And a connected event InOneWeekend also pushes forward the entrepreneurial culture of the city.


Forced Entrepreneurship

A couple of times a week (or more) I am on the road talking about our work at CEOs for Cities.  Since talent is fundamental to the successs of cities, it is one of the big themes of my speeches.  As I talk about the need to increase the number of college-educated people in America, inevitably, I will get two questions: 

1.  We can't employ the talent we have.  Don't we need the jobs first?

2.  There are a lot of jobs that need only associate degrees or technical training.  We don't need people with 4-year degrees.  So why are you pushing them?

I point out three facts:

1.  Sixty-four percent of college-educated young adults have told us in national surveys that first they choose the city they want to live in.  Then they look for a job. 

2.  Cities best positioned to recover quickly are those with the most talent.  Talent helps make cities resilient.

3.  Talent is not simply a source of workers.  Talent is a source of entrepreneurs who create jobs.  In fact, entrepreneurship peaks at age 30.

I was reminded of this constant back and forth reading this morning's NYT piece on forced entrepreneurship about…