During the 1960s and 1970s, the primary economic development strategy of local governments in the United States was to attract manufacturing industries. Unfortunately, this strategy was usually implemented at another community`s expense: many manufacturing facilities were lured away from their moorings elsewhere through tax incentives and slick promotional efforts. Through the transfer of jobs and related revenues that resulted from this practice, one town`s triumph could become another town`s tragedy.
In the 1980s the strategy shifted from this zero-sum game to one called "high-technology development," in which local governments competed to attract newly formed high-technology manufacturing firms. Although this approach was preferable to victimizing other geographical areas by taking their jobs, it also had its shortcomings: high-tech manufacturing firms employ only a specially trained fraction of the manufacturing workforce, and there simply are not enough high-tech firms to satisfy all geographic areas.
Recently, local governments have increasingly come to recognize the advantages of yet a third strategy: the promotion of homegrown small businesses. Small indigenous businesses are created by a nearly ubiquitous resource, local entrepreneurs. With roots in their communities, these individuals are less likely to be enticed away by incentives offered by another community. Indigenous industry and talent are kept at home, creating an environment that both provides jobs and fosters further entrepreneurship.