The Importance of Action and Innovation vs. Statistics

Cape & Plymouth Business recently held their “Economic Forecast 2012: Growing Your Business in the New Economy” event.   The program included featured speakers Jeffrey C. Fuhrer, Ph.D., of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, and Michael D. Goodman, Ph.D., of the Department of Public Policy, UMass Dartmouth.  

The information conveyed to attendees at the event by these substantive speakers is very helpful to businesses and policy makers in the community.   For those who love numbers and statistics, and what they may or may not imply for the future, it is all quite interesting.  But forecasts of the future based on the present are hard to make.  Those who projected (or failed to project) the downfall of the former Soviet Union later recognized that forecasting straight line projections based on current circumstances continuing into the future will always be wrong. 

In fact, history, and the future, is never a straight line because it is always disrupted by intervening events – both positive and negative.  Projections of GDP growth and unemployment are out the window if Israel bombs Iran, if Greece defaults on its debt, etc.  The same will be true with positive intervening events – a new technological creation can create whole industries or a new resource discovery can lower commodity costs dramatically. 

Some intervening events can be made to happen, though admittedly they may have some unintended consequences.  For example, imagine that the federal government were to suddenly address our long term unsustainable liabilities and infuse infrastructure stimulus into the near term budget?  An intervening event, deliberately taken, can have a tremendous positive effect.

 There is little that can be done locally to change what will or will not happen in Greece or Iran, or in Washington for that matter.  These international and national trends are beyond our control.    What is in our control is what happens on Cape Cod!   

Economic and demographic forecasts have been part of several conferences on Cape Cod over the last five or six years.   Peter Frances provided some of the first regionally relevant forecasts in 2007.  It was made very clear at that time that the Cape has a systemic  problem –  we are overly reliant on hospitality, retirees, and partial year residents, resulting in unbalanced demographics and an unsustainable economy.  We have to diversify and grow our year round economy.

 The Smarter Cape Summit is not about statistics and forecasts – it is about addressing through ACTION  and INNOVATION  the static straight line projection those statistics and forecasts will deliver if we do not as a community INTERVENE.  That is what makes the SmarterCape Summit different.