STEM related economics are tied to both the tragedies and opportunities unfolding in Ferguson, Missouri. The town is not an economic backwater – Emerson Electric , number 121 on the Fortune 500 is headquartered in Ferguson. On the other hand, Fortune and others say economic imbalance is fueling the unrest. With $165B of revenue from STEM companies with headquarters in the St Louis area, there is strong demand for STEM skills throughout the region. The St. Louis Business Journal reports that 143,000 STEM jobs will need to be filled in the state over the next 4 years. It is well known in the area that these jobs pay more
“The average STEM worker earns $66,000 compared to $38,000 for non-STEM workers in the St. Louis metropolitan area.”
the difference being comparable to the income disparity in Ferguson shown above in the screen shot from CNN Money. According to Fortune, the St. Louis area economy is doing better than others, but African-Americans have not shared in the prosperity as this detailed map and story on Business Week explains clearly. While BusinessWeek says that corporations in the Ferguson area are being good citizens, Forbes reports that Emerson Electric ranked near the bottom of places for minorities to work so there is opportunity for improvement. The real question is whether this is the most important thing when it comes to the best interests of the community. Sure, better civil rights leadership, corporate diversity and systemic improvements in law enforcement are important, but people interested in self-determination need to be as self-sufficient as possible. We need to be able to create our own jobs and new industries. While there are still enormous challenges and obstacles to job creation, new unprecedented opportunities exist. The 2012 Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act is one I’m reminded of while listening to legendary venture capitalist Bill Hambrecht reflecting on the 10 year anniversary of Google’s IPO. The JOBS Act
makes it easier for normal people to participate in the tech revolution…much of the growth that’s happening in America is coming from high tech startups so why are we only going to let rich people participate in that? Let’s let everyone participate in that growth and the upside that comes from it.
The fact that Hambrecht is working with companies taking advantage of the JOBS Act in 2014 shows it is not a fluke. While these are not Google sized companies, they are still pretty large. However, it’s valuable to note that the JOBS Act was significantly influenced by the grass roots crowd funding movement. As mentioned previously here on STEM Drum, individuals can use crowd funding get small or non-traditional projects launched. If you have a job creating idea, there are ways to get it funded. More and better jobs can’t bring Michael Brown back, but they can help prevent additional tragedies and provide more opportunities for the village.
Some related links that didn’t make it into the body of the post: