Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Next New Thing?

Economic development agencies and nonprofits are teaming up to provide free entrepreneurial training for unemployed Americans.

I write about some of the programs, and their overall impact, in my column this week.

Overall this may be a good trend but what worries me is there's little long-term data that proves efficacy for these programs. What we do know is that about half of all businesses that start in a given year are still in business five years later; about one-third make it to their 10th anniversary.

Those numbers hold pretty steady over time. They don't necessarily mean all those businesses fail - some are acquired, sold or merged in lucrative or at least positive outcomes. But others certainly do fail, costing their owners and investors a good deal of money.

All this reminds me of when my sons were in school and there were constant introductions of new programs that were designed to "save" public education. The main problem: None of them were proven, and few even tested, to adequately demonstrate that the outlay of money, time, effort and educational shift was worth it.

We seem to constantly be looking for save-all solutions in society. We get enthusiastic about new efforts, but we lag behind on the testing and benchmarking tasks. Let's hope these new programs are successful and that we soon have data to prove that.

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