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Dubuque’s economic turnaround featured in new book

Dubuque’s economic turnaround featured in new book

by Jeff Montgomery, Dubuque Telegraph-Herald, July 18,2016 (jeffmontgomery@thmedia.com)

Dubuque’s economic turnaround and job growth are prominently featured in a recently released book promoting collaboration and community engagement as key aspects of economic development.

“Growing Jobs: Transforming The Way We Approach Economic Development” was published June 30 by ABC­ CLIO, LLC, a company that has published reference and professional development resources for the past 60 years.

Author Thomas Tuttle is president of the World Academy of Productivity Science and directed the University of Maryland Center for Quality and Productivity for 26 years. He said he discovered Dubuque while attending a meeting on sustainability in the fall of 2012.

“It really happened accidentally,” Tuttle recalled. “I sat through two days of presentations that were extremely interesting, and then, a few months later, I got really serious about doing this book. It occurred to me that, from what I had heard in Dubuque, it had many of the principles that really needed to be emphasized.”

Dubuque and Austin, Texas, are the two U.S. cities featured prominently in his book, which includes chapters on each of the cities.

“Growing Jobs” studies Dubuque’s descent into economic collapse in the 1980s. The Dubuque metro area had an average employment level of 37,600 people in 1983. That number now tops 61,000.

Tuttle spent one week in Dubuque, conducting interviews with more than 15 local leaders, to research his book.

Greater Dubuque Development Corp. President and CEO Rick Dickinson was among Tuttle’s interview subjects. Dickinson recalled it wasn’t too long before he realized that many of the practices Tuttle believed in already were being implemented in Dubuque.

“He was really interested in the connectivity of economic development — how one thing is connected to another,” Dickinson said. “That is also what we think of economic development. Business retention is connected to workforce solutions, which works with national marketing, and so forth.”

Tuttle said he left the Dubuque interviews impressed by the way city officials engaged residents on a wide range of initiatives. In his book, Tuttle also praises the sense of collaboration among community organizations, noting that these groups “placed the needs of the community above self­ interest.”

Tuttle told the Telegraph Herald he also admired Dubuque’s approach to job growth. He said the city’s approach is different from many other cities and states, which have shown a propensity to rely too heavily on incentives to create jobs.

“Many people have recently realized that the job attraction strategy (through new businesses) is not the way to really go about growing jobs,” Tuttle said. “In Dubuque, I saw this laser­beam focus on trying to grow existing businesses.”

While Dubuque is ahead of the curve in some areas, it is lagging behind in others, Tuttle said.

“The need to support startups and entrepreneurs has been recognized in Dubuque, and they’re now taking a systemic approach,” Tuttle said. “But that effort is just beginning now.

“Austin, on the other hand, is very far down that road. I think there are possibly some lessons Dubuque could learn from Austin on that topic.”