I am stoked about my research topic. Nathaniel King for the win. Happy dance.

Nathaniel’s the public policy librarian at Davis Library. I was starting at ground zero and he pointed me in the right direction today. Nathaniel aligned my search with Library of Congress subheads, pointed me to the most relevant databases for my topic, and steered me to NC LINC for economic and population data. Hug a librarian yo.

So, my research topic is business retention and expansion (BRE) strategies in North Carolina.

Existing businesses are responsible for 80% of growth in a community. That means jobs, tax base, quality of life, and ultimately (though it’s not the job of economic developers), lifting people out of poverty. We offer hundreds of millions of dollars to MetLife and Dell though we know an educated workforce trumps incentives anyday and when we should prioritize loving our existing businesses instead.

Here’s a stab at my research question. Pretty rough still.

  • What business retention strategies produce the most growth?
  • Which counties in North Carolina have produced the greatest existing industry growth?
  • How do rural business retention strategies compare to those used by urban counties?

I have to dig into the data to see what’s there. Many things I don’t know:

  • What number(s) can I use as a proxy for business retention and expansion?
  • How do I overlay business expansion data with demographic and socioeconomic profiles of counties? Sh!t. This could quickly become daunting.
  • Will data analysis reveal low-performing counties/disadvantaged/income-below-the-state-average counties that still manage to do well in growing existing businesses?
  • What comes first? Qualitative interviews with business retention specialists to understand what questions to ask in a quantitative survey?
  • Or do I start with a quantitative survey to counties and/or an analysis of the data and then follow up with interviews, sort of cherry pick high-performing rural and urban counties for a comparative case study analysis?

아이구 머리가 아프다

I think this qualifies as the gap in existing research Dr. George keeps referring to.
Next steps–

  1. Dig into LINC data
  2. Meet with Dr. George to vet this direction
  3. Meet with SOG faculty or Dept. of Commerce staff to understand what the data sets are

D@mn. I wish I had more time to focus on research. Now I can understand how people pursue PhDs. You find a research topic you’re stoked about, have a super advisor, and you’re not weighted down by the reading and writing assignments from your other classes. Sigh.

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