Going to work ain’t what it used to be. The office, the job, and the work itself are no longer tied to a single location for a growing segment of U.S. workers. Millions of talented people are choosing where they want to live, and either bringing their job with them, or creating their own career path through entrepreneurial ventures or “gig economy” work. The rise of remote workers is one of the biggest changes hitting our labor market – arguably more significant than automation or the retirement of Baby Boomers – and it’s gone largely unnoticed until recently. How did this paradigm shift happen? And what does it mean for the economic development profession?
I’ve lived in Austin since 2010 and am originally from Texas – Lubbock to be exact. I’m proud to have lived 31 of my 34 years in Texas. I’ve had the privilege of working with economic development clients from California to Rhode Island, from the Mississippi Delta region to Alaska. I’ve spent a lot of time in the Midwest, the deep South, the Northeast, and many states west of the Mississippi, but have worked in Texas far more than any other state. After you get to know different parts of the country and how they approach economic development, you start to see regional differences. You gain an appreciation for the different techniques each region employs. In a few cases, certain states have a distinct style of economic development all their own. Texas is no doubt one of those states, along with perhaps California, Alaska, New York, and Florida. I had a chance to spend a few days with fellow economic development professionals from across Texas recently at the Texas Economic Development Council Legislative Conference and was reminded of our great state’s unique style of economic development.
Every conference has a few themes that cut across the conversations – formal and informal – among speakers and attendees. The recent IEDC Leadership Summit in Fort Lauderdale was no different.