I'm moving an exchange between Dennis Halterman and Cory Heidelberger up here where I can give Dennis' thinking a headline:
The true profit engine of our economy today is knowledge. Companies are not hiring Mines graduates because of what they can make, they are hiring them because of what they know. The intellectual propriety of the patents they create and help create is where the real value is, particularly in, but not limited to, IT. This isn’t generally obvious because the value of intellectual property doesn’t show up on Profit and Loss statements and so sometimes we will see a company pay billions of dollars for another (typically a start-up) that has never made a profit. The purchaser is buying patents the not profitable company has developed and owns.
So, instead of spending money to build a new civic center, which is just a building that designed to create profits in Rapid City, we take that money and use it to specifically design and create a corridor designed around the School of Mines, it’s knowledge, and it’s product: young people with engineering degrees who have that knowledge. There is very little actual need to ship them to other places as they will never actually build something, they will use their knowledge of highly advanced and technical engineering to design things that will be build at remote locations (often China). They will sit in offices. We can build offices here.
A place to start would be a building that is absolutely state of the art in things such as teleconferencing. At the same time we contact the companies that typically hire the graduates, tell them our plan, and provide an economic incentive for them to satellite operations here, for instance a lower starting salary, which we make up to the graduates by refinancing their student loans at a decent interest rate (say 1%), or simply paying some of them off as they stay here (which many, many want to). Everyone starts to win.
With the Civic Center we are talking about spending $300 million dollars over the next 30 years. That is an enormous amount of money we could use in outside of the box thinking that could actually elevate our local economy dramatically in a few short years (imagine Rapid City filled with Twenty-Somethings earning an average starting salary of about $50,000)."