It’s About More Than Just Jobs

Ed BurghardYou get what you measure. Measure the wrong thing and you get the wrong behaviors.
– John H. Lingle

The Problem

The economic development profession is obsessed with year-over-year job creation. This focus has led to several unproductive behaviors including “poaching” companies from neighboring municipalities or states, and the questionable use of incentives as a way to encourage site selection. Lost from the exercise is any focus on developing and executing a sustainable development plan. Economic development professionals and elected officials chase the “quick deal” as a way to secure on-going funding or get reelected. This destructive behavior needs to stop. It is time to change the game so both the needs of taxpayers and companies are better served.


A team at Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio has developed and validated a survey that measures the degree to which people are achieving the American Dream. This new metric offers the opportunity to evaluate the performance of economic development professionals and elected officials on more than year-over-year job creation. The American Dream Composite Index™ is now available on a state level, allowing comparisons between states on the 35 dimensions used to create the ADCI score which include: economic factors such as home ownership, financial security, and job characteristics; personal well-being factors such as family and friends, leisure, and happiness; societal factors such as trust in government, justice, civic participation; diversity factors; and the physical environment.

The Solution

Points of comparative disadvantage for a state represent barriers to living the American Dream for people residing in that state. Removal or reduction of these barriers should become the focus of state level strategic development planning.

CEO Reaction

Creating the conditions that make it easier to live the American Dream obviously helps taxpayers, but does it address the real needs of businesses?

A survey was completed by The Burghard Group LLC to answer that question. The survey results suggest business executives see a real potential for stronger P&L performance from having their employees feel good about their progress in achieving the American Dream. The reported benefits include: increased employee retention, better work-life balance, and increased productivity. The survey results also indicate the ADCI score was also something executives wanted to know and would be used to help differentiate final location options in their site selection decision process. Preference would be given to selecting locations in states with higher ADCI scores. And, when asked if they’d consider moving to a location with a lower ADCI score, a meaningful percent of business executives indicated they’d be unlikely to do so even if an incentive package was offered.

Recent Media Coverage

Business Xpansion Journal recently published an overview of the 2012 American Dream State Ranking Report []. And, in the article, announced the June issue will feature a full version of the Report.

BXJ to Feature Exclusive on State Ranking

The June issue of Business Xpansion Journal will feature the full version of “2012 American Dream State Ranking Report: Achieving the American Dream.” The digital issue will be available at The online article will be available at

Business executives, site selection consultants, and economic development professionals read Business Xpansion Journal. They will learn how each state ranks on its performance in enabling people to achieve the American Dream. It is expected this new metric will be readily embraced and become part of the standard process for evaluating location options.

A Look Forward

It is about more than just jobs. Ultimately, economic development professionals and elected officials are responsible for creating the conditions for their constituents to live the American Dream. They do this by the choices they make in asset creation, infrastructure investment and public policy. Because the ADCI reflects the sentiment of people living in their state, it is a direct measure of the success or failure of those choices. It is a way to hold economic development professionals and elected officials accountable to the taxpayer.

The data is currently available annually on a state level. But, discussions are underway to modify the survey so the data can be reported on the major MSA level as well. The 2013 American Dream State Ranking Report is targeted for release in February 2014. Having 2-years of data will allow CEOs to evaluate whether the policies of current elected officials are helping or impeding the achievement of the American Dream in their state.

Read About My Journey To Learn More About The American Dream

American Dream Case Study Series

Indiana versus Michigan

Florida versus North Carolina

New York versus New Jersey

California versus Texas

Pennsylvania versus New York

How Easy Is It To Achieve The American Dream In Your State?

To view the complete set of State rankings based on the ADCI and five explanatory sub-indexes, simply click this button

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For additional information on the ADCI click HERE.

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  2. Michael Haywood

    March 27, 2013

    Measure the right thing (what is desired) and you are still likely to get wrong behaviors and not what you measure.

    Economic development agencies in singular pursuit of jobs, or organizations in singular pursuit of profits, often fail to recognize that the essential focus should be the creation of value. Rather than simply emanating from investments in tangible assets, breakthrough development strategies have to delve far beyond surface complexity to the underlying drivers of customer and economic behavior.

    The creation of future sustainable value – value that comes from enhancing the capabilities of a community’s intangible assets (human capital, information capital, organizational capital, innovation capital, customer capital) – requires strategies that are clearly thought out, appropriately measured, and carefully managed. When over-riding consideration is given to lagging measures of success – jobs and profits – undue pressure is placed on managing for efficiencies, rather than for effectiveness. Short-term thinking stifles the energy to act. and act early
    Ignorance as to the drivers of breakthrough results, and failure to ascertain key patterns changing community and corporate landscapes negates the ability to develop a comprehensive approach essential in managing strategy.

    Pursuit of the American ream requires a balanced approach to measurement – one that incorporates leading indicators.

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