I’ve been testing the laws of regional physics in one way or another since about 1999. What is regional physics, you ask? Those are the laws that govern how organizations, institutions and individuals inside a region think, plan and act win a complex regional environment to intervene in the economy. Some call this regional economic development others call it regional economic competitiveness. Regardless of its name, it is challenging work that is never boring.
Pete Carlson, of the FutureWorks consulting firm, first used the term “regional physics” on me when he was evaluating the Fund for Our Economic Future’s efforts to align economic competitiveness efforts across four metropolitan areas in Northeast Ohio. Pete, who is one of the sharpest wits in the economic consulting world, quipped: “You guys are really testing the laws of regional physics.” Not only is Northeast Ohio a big place with very distinct metropolitan areas, the Fund is pursuing an economic agenda that promotes both growth and equity. Most regions are dominated by a single metro area, and most economic agendas either promote economic growth (often led by business groups) or economic equity (often led by social service groups).
Since Northeast Ohio gave birth to the modern industrial corporation (Standard Oil) and community philanthropy (The Cleveland Foundation), it makes sense that we should try to test the laws of regional physics here.
This blog and my Twitter feed, @ccarsonthompson, will chronicle my personal reflections on those laws and their implications for operating within complex enviornments. (You’ll have to put up with some posts about fly fishing and my children on my Twitter feed, as well.)
I hope these lessons are helpful to others interested in building stronger, more vibrant regions. I believe many of these lessons can also be applied across all aspects of civic infrastructure as many of the laws of regional physics apply within our communities, our neighborhoods and even our homes.