JT and I talked about the issue of economic development in Grand Forks on the Jarrod Thomas Show today. Let me preface my remarks with a recognition that economic development is a difficult process, whether we are talking about managing it, reacting to it, hoping for it, or whatever. Development can inherently alter relationships in an economy, and in unpredictable ways. (Note I am not advocating management of economic developing because I think that often creates its own issues but we can discuss that later.)
JT asked me whether UAS could become oil for the eastern part of the state. My response, as always, is I do not see how. This could completely be my own failing. Maybe there are connections and opportunities that I am not seeing, but I do not think so. I think it is far more likely that I see a lower probability of success than others. That’s all. And reasonable people can disagree about this. I would rather see UAS activity here than elsewhere, but I am not yet seeing huge growth prospects from it.
Now as to it being the onset of growth similar to that found in the west? Let’s ask first why we would want that. Do you want chaotic growth in labor markets? If housing markets are tight already do we want to create further issues there?
A more fundamental question that we should ask is whether UAS can even create growth in the fashion oil has. Effective oil extraction required a massive amount of labor. I thought one of the arguments in favor of UAS is that it will increase productivity and replace labor? How is a technology to replace labor going to increase labor?
Maybe the things flying in the sky are not drones, but economic development fairies. That’s it! They are going to grant our growth and development wishes and solve any problems. There will be no unintended consequences, no crowding out, no externalities and all will be well. I am sure this issue will not be going away anytime soon. I will post some data about Grand Forks and Williams counties tomorrow on this same topic.