The Local Economy Solution

How Innovative, Self-Financing "Pollinator" Enterprises Can Grow Jobs and Prosperity

Growing evidence has proven that economic development's current cornerstone — incentives to attract large businesses — is a dead end. This book suggests an alternative approach: nurture a new generation of enterprises that help local businesses launch, grow and create jobs in self-financing ways. The book includes two dozen successful case studies. It also shows how the right public policy can encourage this growth at virtually no cost.

248 pages. ©2015.
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Reader Reviews for this Book


Review posted June 4, 2021


The book provides an overview of economic concepts related in a fashion that is relatable and not too advanced.


Review posted May 17, 2021


Why does small business matter? This book explores that question with the principles and practicalities of the stories of small businesses in the US and Canada. The real-life examples of people, coalitions, and communities that are reinventing economic development is inspirational. Previous to this book I was reading "Doughnut Economics: 7 Ways to Think Like A 21st Century Economist" by Katie Raworth. Glad I did so, as both books really complement one another. Now it'll be interesting to highlight these approaches in a post-pandemic world.


Review posted March 16, 2021


This is a good overview of various strategies for local economic development, with a focus on attracting, spawning, and supporting innovative businesses.


Review posted October 30, 2020


This book is fascinating and eye opening. I will increase my efforts to support local businesses. Page 36 reads, "Every dollar that that moves from a nonlocal to a local business in a community generates two to four times the income boost, two to four times the jobs, two to four times the local taxes, and two to four times the charitable contributions." This book also includes real life examples.

Juliet Hyams

Review posted May 2, 2020


I really liked this book. It's full of ideas, examples and practical suggestions for building a local economy. It gets you excited about pursuing that change.


Review posted November 6, 2019


This book is an interesting read for anyone interested in promoting sustainable economic growth in their town or area. I was encouraged to find strong data and information to reinforce my own observations and experiences that courting large, relatively low-paying corporations instead of investing in home-grown local businesses is a short-sighted choice. As someone who is not an economist, it is helpful to read about the success stories and follies and come away with tangible ideas to support economic growth in my city.

[email protected]

Review posted November 3, 2019


This is a fascinating book! I wish I had the time and energy to do just one of the many projects they outline and talk about.


Review posted July 6, 2019


A great new way to look at small & local business. Putting to the forefront social entrepreneurship and its seemingly endless benefits.


Review posted June 14, 2019


This is a great read for anyone thinking of starting a small business, lawmakers and community leaders looking to move beyond the current economic incentive system that gives unfair advantages to outside corporations. It is also good for the well informed voter who wants to learn how the local economy can help their community. Just reading the first chapter will give you a great overview and may be all that the average voter needs to know.


Review posted June 3, 2019


If you're like the majority of people in America, this is a Must Read because what has caused the economic woes for most of us, is solved by the concepts included in this book. This is not only a well researched book, it also includes answers on how we can take back control of our lives. We must first start from our local economies because that's what affect us the most and it's the most controllable. If we can stop allowing large corporations and Wall Street to brainwash us, we have a solution for a more equitable society for now and the future. This is the kind of reading that should be mandatory in high school so that all sides of the equation can be studied


Review posted November 29, 2018


I loved this book. as an economic developer in a rural community, it was very helpful and I could not put it down. I gained lots of insights and way of looking at the problem that I have started to implement.


Review posted November 13, 2018


This is one of the best books in TFFF's collection. Whenever someone tells me we need to land a big box store or international corporate factory in our county to rescue the economy I say, "Read the Local Economy Solution." It helped me understand how money circulates in the community multiple times from the activities of small and medium-size businesses that hire local residents. It gives examples and models from around the country of innovative approaches to banking, cooperative purchasing and business ownership. Don't be sucked into the conventional "economic development" notions that put local communities at the mercy of commercial and industrial behemoths. Read this book and empower your community!


Review posted October 5, 2018


Worthwhile reading. Not all solutions are locally practical, but you would not expect that; every place is a bit different. Thought provoking and accessible.


Review posted October 1, 2018


This is a great book for rural and small town economic development. I have passed this book around to several community leaders in my area.


Review posted September 25, 2018


a good read for community minded intervention and support


Review posted August 11, 2018


packed full of useful ideas and information! very relevant to my life as a small business entrepreneur. Of course, being a business owner, I support and promote local investment in local businesses, and this book was an eye-opener in that respect! I couldn't put it down... :-)


Review posted April 6, 2018


Shuman is a blessing for rural communities, a person who could find success addressing other issues, but has his heart set on helping rural places. If we could have a Shuman-oriented support system of federal/state agencies, universities, non-profits/foundations I think we could see real positive change. In nothing else, read the Appendix: 28 Models of Pollinator Enterprises.

Joanne Gordon

Review posted November 28, 2017


Too convoluted & dry for a citizen volunteer to want to finish.


Review posted November 20, 2017


This book provided wonderful insight into the world of small business. Working with downtown development in a small town, the ideas presented here granted me a new perspective on my town. A well written, researched, and thought out book.

david grant

Review posted November 17, 2017


It was very good at providing examples of how to pollinate enterprises. But for our community it would be nice to have a "work book" which has not only descriptions of success (which this has abundantly) but actual case histories of the various methods that would work in a town such as ours ( city pop 26,000, county and city total about 70,000) and is lacking in growth but has two colleges (one of which actually has an Entrepreneurial Class and the other rewards 3 students with possible ideas for a business--that is not enough --in my opinion that is!) and a hospital. While investment pools of money are critical---- in our community it does not seem possible to raise such amount as the political climate favors other areas within the state and other local needs. The local politicians lack the vision to see what we need here for the future sustainability... We do have farmer's markets but they are not promoted effectively. They do not emphasize the results that a community may achieve by purchasing locally. There are many fine and interesting examples of how small investments may magnify into larger investments...and provide growth so I am not disparaging this book because it is excellent as far as it goes to get the town politicians on board and the community activated in a real concrete sense that is the real problem how to actually get started on this path... The answer that I am looking for is how to ignite interest in a community that has lost all hope...and is not even trying..."they talk the good talk but they do not walk the walk...." Sorry, I am more complaining about what we can do here (or not) in our town than what the book has to offer...I would certainly wholeheartedly encourage purchase of this has invaluable ideas and suggestions that have worked in numerable various not pass this by...the critical idea here in this book is that one can start small and grow---- it does not have to be a large enterprise to start....providing "seed" money is a great way to start things rolling without riskinglarge sums of capital.....


Review posted October 20, 2017


Well written, makes a sometimes technical topic understandable and fun to read about. This is a great resource for anyone working in or around economic development. The authors central argument is that economic development as it is, consists of corrupt pandering to large corporations in the small likelihood that they may add jobs and tax revenues to a community. Shuman counters this economic development with local focused pollinator businesses that create the networks of various services needed for small businesses to succeed. Small local businesses are his focus because they are the most likely to hire local, stay long term, and generate the most local economic improvements. Inversely, large corporations may leave, bring in outsiders, and get so many incentives as to render whatever benefit they do create obsolete. And that may well be Shuman's most convincing argument, that economic development as is is not only morally wrong and misguided, but out and out ineffective in reaching the goals of the profession.


Review posted September 28, 2017


This book is a continuation of prior books, of which I've read two. Like the previous books, this one is full of interesting and insightful examples. The author expands on his 6 "Ps" of local economic development in an easy to follow progression from one "P" to the next. Very clear writing and pleasant to read.


Review posted September 18, 2017


Very helpful resource for my clients in rural Oregon.

Nan Devlin

Review posted April 18, 2017


Michael Shuman shows how rural communities can promote economic development through local innovation, needs assessment, and reliance on each other. In these times when rural Oregon is struggling to meet the most basic of public services, Shuman shows a path to action.

Megan Peterson

Review posted March 31, 2017


Very informative. Sparks ideas.


Review posted March 14, 2017


A good read that offers excellent suggestion on how local economies can and should work--and how it helps local community development. The author presents cogent arguments on how grassroots local economic dynamism can have a significant impact on both businesses and small communities.

Richard LaPlante

Review posted January 12, 2017


I have not had any involvement or exposure in the past with city or state economic development so I have not had any past to judge what works or doesn't work. This book was very informative in not only painting a clear picture of what has been done in the past but more importantly what the potential future is for economic development. I was left with a desire to not only find out what is happening in my community but a drive to want to be part of it.


Review posted November 2, 2016


A fairly technical, yet accessible, introduction to the benefits of directing support to local small businesses. The author cites many studies in his argument against luring large corporations with expensive tax incentives.


Review posted October 4, 2016


Very insightful. Thought provoking look on supporting and growing local businesses - creating a self-reliance on local/regional economies over national/global economies.


Review posted September 25, 2016


Great book. I will be sharing with many all over the country. As I went through it, learning about how we waste tax payer dollars attracting business that have no ties to our communities and many times are gone as soon as their freebies run out. Any person who has been in the employment market in Oregon, has run into this. Many times these sometimes unethical businesses that get paid big money to be here, use third party staffing agencies. As a example, in Washington County there was a call center, privately held 2 family members and 1 outsider. There was a lawsuit going on about misuse of company funds. Staffing agencies were placing (rather churning) people thru there as a temp to hire. This company was stiffing - NOT PAYING IT VENDORS ETC, and was very clear and it is published they would be gone in a minute, if they had a better offer. One morning employees went to work, to be unpaid locked out with their possessions inside. Fortunately, since I did my research up front, I wasn't one of them. Another good book on this topic is "Great American Job Scam.". As I was reading, I was thinking it would be good to introduce to SCORE. As I kept reading, I learned already done. The people chapter great, the idea of pollinators and partnerships that people can come together to form to improve local communities and keep dollars at work there is great. Sharing and teaching skills together for the common good. I would like to see this author at the next Democracy Convention. Gar Alperovitz was at the last.


Review posted June 14, 2016


I thought this book made a very good case for economic development through pollinators, using private sector resources rather than traditional, government funded Economic Development methods. The author explained why the standard methods of recruiting outside businesses are actually counterproductive to local business development, and how local business development keeps more money recirculating in the local community. The concept of the five types of "pollinators" sounds very promising.


Review posted May 31, 2016


This is a great book on keeping money and resources local. If your community is not already focused on how to empower your community members to create a stronger, healthier local economy, this book is a great place to start for ideas.


Review posted May 18, 2016


The opposite of inviting Wal-Mart to town, which is what many rural towns could use right now. Grassroots social enterprise.


Review posted April 8, 2016


Book was great


Review posted March 30, 2016


Shuman's years of experience give solid backing to his "Local Economy Solution." I appreciated his focus on local businesses building local communities while poking holes in the effectiveness economic development. The book is long on examples...though I gave it 4 stars because it is a little light on data.


Review posted February 22, 2016


First this book makes clear what shopping mall's have done to our communities then it confirms what we've long suspected about the growth of big box stores. Thankfully author Shuman then provides a life boat in that he includes numerous accounts of individuals and communities working to solve their problems locally. If I would have highlighted points of interest in this book almost every page would be covered with my marks. And finally I want to use what I learned in this book in our small town.

Nancy Straw

Review posted January 21, 2016


Powerball exceeded $1.5 billion last week. What if you already knew four of the six winning numbers? Doesn’t that make it look more like an investment than a game of chance? In Michael Shuman’s newest book, The Local Economy Solution, he reminds us that seven out of 10 new jobs are created by small businesses and that half of all jobs in the U.S. are in businesses that employ fewer than 500 people. And, Shuman states, “99.9% of all small and medium-sized firms are locally owned.” He makes it clear that our best investment is in growing the businesses we have in our communities, if we want to help create jobs. Shuman also disputes many long-held beliefs/myths about economic development, including the need to focus on manufacturing or traded-sector businesses to bring new money into the community. This is a good read that begins with an example of the economic development “investment” made by the State of Maryland to subsidize the production of the Netflix hit, House of Cards. How the investments were negotiated and the impact on Maryland are a good lesson for everyone interested in economic development.