“Politicians tend to see job growth as something predictable and under their control,” entrepreneur Martin Babinec writes in his new book More Good Jobs: An Entrepreneur’s Action Plan to Create Change in Your Community. Politicians’ approach to job creation—if we build a factory or innovation hub, jobs will come—is well-intentioned but wrong, Babinec says.
The truth about creating good jobs is both more complicated and less expensive: Good jobs can come from helping local entrepreneurs connect and share with each other. It’s a bottom-up, not top-down, process.
Babinec’s book, which came out this week and is currently available for $0.99 on Kindle, is rooted in his own experience. After growing his multi-billion dollar HR company TriNet in Silicon Valley, Babinec moved back to his home in upstate New York and became fascinated by the difference between the two places.
While Silicon Valley attracts America’s most exciting businesses and talent, Babinec’s home of Mohawk Valley has struggled to keep its young people from moving to greener pastures. There’s a startling divide in America between “magnet cities” and “talent-exporting cities,” Babinec found. Magnet cities becomes hubs for emerging tech companies and draw talented young people, who in turn help grow a city’s restaurant and art scene. Cities that lose their young talent seem stuck in the past, with aging industries and struggling downtowns.
Babinec identifies this as a cultural problem.
“[I]f a talented millennial with entrepreneurial aspirations doesn’t see successful examples around them of others who have started and grown innovation economy companies, it is natural for them to think they have to move ‘where the action is’—places like the established startup hubs of Silicon Valley, New York City, Boston, or Austin, to have a chance at success.“
A politician can’t fix this deep-seated cultural problem by announcing a taxpayer-funded infrastructure project—and politicians that try to impress voters with these projects often end up embarrassed by high-dollar, low-job boondoggles. In fact, Babinec says, “the only time we hear about output measures like actual jobs created from these billions comes when a big project fails or an enterprising reporter starts digging to compare actual jobs created with the original projections in the press releases that announced a big government-funded project.”
Instead of counting on their state politicians to transform talent-exporting cities, local business and community leaders can try to transform their city culture from the bottom up. How? By bringing together stakeholders on the ground—including investors with private capital, educational institutions, and nonprofits—to create an entrepreneurial community.
In More Good Jobs, Babinec goes into detail about what he learned from his own experience in Silicon Valley and Mohawk Valley, as well as his decades of HR experience staffing emerging technology companies around the world. It’s a fascinating read for anyone interested in why some American cities lag so far behind others—and in how private citizens can coordinate to transform their hometowns.
Babinec is slated to be an upcoming guest on Ideas in Progress, a weekly podcast from the Institute for Humane Studies. Visit TheIHS.org to listen and for additional episodes.