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Taking it back to the 80s: Enterprise Zones

20 Mar

Enterprise Briton? Again?

This week, Chancellor George Osborne stated that the government will put aside £100 mil in the new budget to create 10 new enterprise zones in England. These ‘hotbeds of economic development’ seem to be a revival of Margret Thacther’s 1980’s individual tax breaks and other incentives for ‘depressed urban areas’.

However, the Thatcher’s ‘urban renewal-program’ has been under fire since the early 90s; the rate of return from this model is said to be far too low, some even argue negative. Two reports from ‘The Work Foundation’ and ‘Centre for Cities’ put forward how zones create too few jobs and are far too expensive. Moreover, it is suggested by many sources that times have changed – 80’s style enterprise zones will simply not work in the present climate.

However, let’s look at the opportunity! This is a fantastic way to further any business. ‘Depressed areas’ suggests a ready and willing work force, not to mention the vast array of tax and regulation relief. Furthermore, the government would be silly not to follow the Canary Wharf model of impeccable infrastructure and transport links; surely that will make living, trading and working in these zones a joy?

My point is that whilst the zones may not be the most cost effective for tax payer, only the true entrepreneurs and innovators within the public realm will realise and adopt the social, cultural and economic capital that these zone provide an opportunity to harvest. In support, Mr Chancellor has stated that the new zones will be focused on areas of high growth potential, not just physical decline, and will be tailored to the individual needs of an area. This will become apparent when the 2011 Budget is unveiled on March 23rd.


Finding Your Nearest Billionaire…

14 Mar

Check out for a great tool on mapping billionaires. Fascinating stuff!!

70mph Blog

12 Feb

Vast amounts of geographical research has been focused on the impact of the Internet Revolution on geography as we know it. The decoupling of time, space/place and activity in recent years has completely re-invented societies and economies within the last decade. As a result, the geographies of the Internet have been heavily theorised and mapped; most of which is interesting stuff!

HOWEVER, I am posting this blog whilst traveling at 70mph (Mr Officer) along the M5 motorway on my way to the Manchester derby – of course I’m not the driver today!

….. From a geographers eye, the fact that I can blog, tweet, follow, chat or study anything on the world wide web whilst travelling at such speeds in a car is quite frankly scary. Some would say it is liberating, some would strongly argue against this! Much more importantly, the opportunity to capitalise on use of time is amazing; perhaps time and activity have never been so together?

Introducing the fastest evolving organism: ‘The Internet’

18 Jan

It is no secret that the internet has disbanded the geographies of time, place and activities. People can now create and access information where and when they want (given some access and a little bit of education). With a growing population of 2 billion users, this revolutionary world has given birth to an intricate set of ‘Online Communities’ or, what academic geographers may call ‘Neo-tribes’. Combing this rapid growth with the freedom of time, place and activities has created an organic like world which evolves to meet the population’s needs.

Artist Randall Munroe’s  “Map of Online Communities” (below) exemplifies how the e-world has evolved at an alarming rate; survival of the fittest being clear cut (poor Myspace!)

Online Community Map, 2007

The Online Community: 2007

Online Communities Map: 2010

Online Communities Map: 2010

Back before the internet days (when the geographies of time, place and activities were less unsettled), there would be chaos if communities grew and landscapes changed that much in just three years…. Don’t you agree?

This BIG question is… What will it be like in 2013?

Why care about [graduate] Human Geographers?

7 Jun

This post is a response to the thought provoking comment from Ed Hannifan on my ‘About’ page. He raised four questions which, in my opinion, every graduate of Human Geography should carefully consider:

1. What’s the point in knowing about any of the stuff we have been taught over the past three years or so?

Well, that is a question that is both subjective and complex in nature. For a start, everybody ‘knows’ different things because nobody has the same experience at University, be it differing units of study (or modules) or uneven levels of learning. Furthermore, it is up to the student to decide whether what they are learning is important or not. This aside and in the interest in finding ‘the point in knowing’, I would suggest the following:

There is a difference between knowing and applying. – ‘that IS the point’

All of the ‘stuff’ we are taught during our Geography degrees only has a point if we can apply it to everyday life, from work to play. For example, the most knowledgeable person in the world (a walking dictionary if you like) is useless unless they can apply themselves.

2. Why would your employer care if you’ve learnt about a disfunctional family of topics and concepts, taught by a bunch or fairly parochial aged men?

I am not sure Human Geography is a ‘disfunctional family’, more of a vast, interlinked monster which lurks everywhere?! (Although, if you want to label Geography dysfunctional, surely this a credit to our ability to deal with diversity?) Moreover, it is the skills we have nourished which is the important factor(s) here. An employer will not care so much about your discipline per se, as long has you can effectively demonstrate how they are at benefit from your presence in their organisation. This leads on nicely to Ed’s next point:

3. Why we are at an advantage having learnt the things we have?

Perhaps otherwise put as “What is the unique selling point of a geographer?” – Literature on student employability will tell you a list of classic examples (See See Rees et al. 2007). However, I will stress that it is down to the individual to make their own advantage; nobody should have to tell you what you have, right?

4. Why should anyone else care that we learnt the things we did?

It is not why they should they care, it is how can we make them care?! Why would anybody care about anything? – Because they are told or convinced they should care.

What Ed has (perfectly and rather conveniently) hit on here is a motive of this blog. I am not claiming to have answered Ed’s questions and you will have noticed that I have only suggested how they can be answered. This is deliberate as I firmly believe that giving Human Geographers a group identity is challenging due to the diverse nature of the subject and the individuals involved. As I view it, the key for graduate Geographers is to minimise your internal competition (against other geographers) whilst maximising your collective identity (making people care about Geographers); surely a paradox? No, innovative and original movers should be noticed first. An individual person cannot represent the whole of Human Geography, it is just too vast. It is the individual’s application of their knowledge and skills which is crucial to graduates.

Geography is what you make it; once you have decided what you have made, only then can you sell it.

Geography: Right Here. Right Now.

2 Jun

This video provides a holistic introduction [not a summary!] to a Geography in the 21st century….enjoy!

University Graduation, Haircuts and ‘Moving On’

1 Jun

Finishing University has made me realise something that, prior to such ‘freedom’, was under-stressed to me and my fellow students: ITS NOT ALL ABOUT DEGREES. Let me be clear, I am not undermining my qualification, rubbishing the importance a good education or regretting my choice to go to university and study Geography. In fact, it has been my best decision so far. However, I have, like many of my fellows, rapidly developed an appreciation for ‘the bigger picture’. Whilst I always knew that I was going to finish my degree and I have largely stuck to my game-plan, the apparent freedom of finishing my final exams has significantly altered my perspective of post-graduate life [one consequence being this blog!].

I guess you are now thinking “well obviously your attitude towards it is going to change… you’ve reached the end of your degree….every graduate faces the same challenge” ; Okay, I agree, BUT, I do not agree with what many consider the next step. From talking to my fellow geography students there seems to be two approaches to finishing university:

1.) Apply like crazy for Jobs and/or a Masters course.
2.) “I guess I’ll just ride it out and hope for the best…..”

These customary attitudes towards ‘moving on’ seem problematic in my eyes. Firstly, whilst approach one potentially offers you the security of a job and the satisfaction of knowing you are ‘trying’, it also threatens to rush you into a field you do not want to be in and/or are not happy in (be it immediate or later in life). Furthermore, I have personally found it rare that a final year student has a fully thought out plan or goals before they ‘apply like crazy’; thus suggesting that they are ill prepared for the field they are about to jump into. Secondly, approach two is just too hazy (perhaps lazy!) for me.

Taking the above points (along with some additional reading!) has caused me to view myself as a product; where my buyers are potential employers, people I meet (both in real life and virtually) and any others who I come in contact with. This product is still, and always will be, in development…. continually searching for the right niche in the market (or field of employment/speciality), making sure the product is best prepared for the buyers needs and wants. Leaving the ‘University field’ has created an opportunity for a re-branding of this product (starting with a haircut!). And, like any other product, serious long-term planning is required – making sure I do not launch the product into the wrong market [as we see above in approach 1.)]. Moreover, I will not just let the product ‘ride it out and hope for the best’, I would rather build the ride so I can best know what is coming; thus minimise the hope and create opportunity.

What I am a proposing here is that graduation is not simply a starting gun for the employment race, it is more of an opportunity to build and re-enforce your product (yourself). Yes, a job is required to support your financial means; however, I believe that a carefully thought-out plan full of innovation and determination is needed to build a career in which you happily prosper.

It is my life, I am the product, and a durable brand supported by a strong plan is crucial to my future.