In the wake of Dell upping sticks and moving to Lodz, “task force” has been on the lips of many. Task force this and that. While attention is very much needed to concentrate minds on finding new employment for the many thousands who have lost their jobs, in the long-term does the nuclear option of task forcing really work to grow indigenous businesses?
Details of the Limerick task force came to light over the weekend and it appears to have a decent mix of representatives from the public and private sectors. The task force has lots of experience on hand. But you kind have to wonder where jumping on the Task Force Express will take us. Undoubtedly, there will be proposals to beef up the skills base of laid-off employees. Quite possibly a hat-tip to post-grad research too. Could this turn out to be just more window dressing for Dell 2? They have three months to come back with a plan, so we’ll see.
There are lots of plans being touted for Limerick, including chatter that it could be Ireland’s Silicon Valley. Could Limerick seriously emulate Silicon Valley if the hand of the Government is close by? Compare that to Valley where entrepreneurs live and grow on failure.
The Silicon Valley model is more an ideal, I think. An analogy to describe a services industry based on R&D. Were one to marry the Silicon Valley model with the Limerick region, there’d be help from Enterprise Ireland and the like at incubation level. I’d love to see a task force work on a report that found ways for public bodies to nurture SMEs in the right way before leaving them to develop organically – almost like a father knowing when to remove stabilisers.
Task forces also have interesting addons. The consultative process on task forces would, of course, include local focus groups. I’m sure they contribute greatly to the process, are they paid to talk shop? Payment is not the issue, but rather the environment for the free exchange of ideas. That’s why in Silicon Valley ideas, feedback and advice is more freely given. That’s why events like BizCamp will be wildly successful. That’s also why some of the canniest business people always have open ears. Open minds do not need to have open hands.
My point is, if Limerick and Ireland continue to use the traditional task force hammer to entice in companies to employ people droid-fashion, we’re screwed as a region and as an economic machine. Wouldn’t effort be far better spent on eliminating Revenue and compliance as much red-tape as possible for SMEs, evening out the gaps in knowledge amongst EI reps and seeding greater collaboration between local businesses?