Entrepreneurship and the future of places like the Iron Range

This post from Dr. Steve Wyckoff of the education reform blog “What’s Become Clear” explores the notion of teaching entrepreneurship to high school students as a form of economic development. I have to say, upon reading his ideas, there is merit here that could be applied to the Iron Range.

So much money is spent in the game, and it is a game, of economic development. A limited number of large employers pit communities and states against one another in the process of making a very complicated decision to contract, expand or move — oftentimes regardless of government. Those governments can influence important factors — taxes, Republicans might say; or quality of life and education, Democrats might say. But the onus of control falls to distant or uncontrollable forces as we dance to the song they choose. A quick read of Iron Range history suggests how this ultimately turns out.

What Wyckoff suggests is that history shows locally-grown businesses are the most enduring. Further, technological change is allowing new forms of entrepreneurship that had been unavailable in the past. Further still, young people receive almost no early training in the concept of business planning, marketing and self-development of ideas. A region (let’s say the Range) would have an advantage if they could turn this trend around.

Of course, the issue again runs up against some barriers. We still need reliable, faster internet on the Range and local leaders are derelict in advancing this modern necessity. This article shows how a small Wyoming community advanced a private broadband-to-home network. Indeed, there are so many different ways to do this. That large parts of northern Minnesota are slow to realize the potential of the internet even as the internet changes our entire economy is frustrating. Some progress in infrastructure is being made by the NorthEast Service Cooperative, Blandin and others, but we are nowhere near a competitive advantage yet.

Additionally, this is another long term investment that might take a few years to produce results. Oh, how the politicians love the alluring whisper of a project promising just five more years of permitting and then jobs, jobs, jobs. I’ve lost count of how often that shell game has failed or under-delivered. Ten years of hard work for a century of self-determination is a harder sell. That is, however, just what we need.


  1. We need some basic class on personal finance in the schools. In some schools, the “lower” kids get this while the “upper” kids get the higher math, with the assumption that they will apply it to the real worlds. Come on…lets get more practical and teach the real stuff to all the kids so they understand what they are getting into when they sign for a loan, etc. Then also introduce the basics of self-employment economics, both the pros and cons. I know so many people around here who have a business on the side, if not for their full employment.

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