Where Is the Knowledge Economy in Little Falls?

DSC00577Supposedly, the world is shifting from an industrial economy to a knowledge economy. What is a knowledge economy?

According to BusinessDictionary.com, it is an “Economy based on creating, evaluating, and trading knowledge. In a knowledge economy, labor costs become progressively less important and traditional economic concepts such as scarcity of resources and economies of scale cease to apply.”

Technology-based jobs tend to fall within the knowledge economy. So does creative content creation, particularly of a digital nature, including infographics, e-books and documents, online course curricula, and other digital content.

Investopedia has a slightly different definition:

“A system of consumption and production that is based on intellectual capital. The knowledge economy commonly makes up a large share of all economic activity in developed countries. In a knowledge economy, a significant part of a company’s value may consist of intangible assets, such as the value of its workers’ knowledge (intellectual capital). However, generally accepted accounting principles do not allow companies to include these assets on balance sheets.”

It goes on to explain that there are three main types of economies, agriculture, manufacturing, and service-based, with the knowledge economy including “research, technical support and consulting.”

While each of the main types of economies, agriculture, manufacturing, and service, depends on knowledge, what sets the knowledge economy apart from them  is its heavy emphasis on intellectual capital that doesn’t necessarily produce a physical product. Computer coding falls squarely in the knowledge economy. Research and writing and marketing and consultants putting together reports and slide decks and conference presentations are all part of the knowledge economy.

As the world shifts to the knowledge economy, where does that leave Little Falls? Are we doing anything to encourage the creation of knowledge economy jobs and businesses? Can you think of examples of knowledge economy organizations that currently exist in Little Falls?



3 thoughts on “Where Is the Knowledge Economy in Little Falls?

  1. I shared this post on Facebook, where someone asked if the Initiative Foundation would be part of the knowledge economy. Absolutely, I think it would. IF concentrates a lot of its activity on training leaders, economic development, and sharing information about trends in its service area. All of these rely heavily on the transmission of knowledge.

    The largest knowledge economy business I can think of in Little Falls is Atomic Learning, which appears to be very successful.

    Another business that I’d place in the knowledge economy is Contegrity, which is a construction management company. The company uses its knowledge of the construction industry to work between contractors and customers in getting structures built.

    Other knowledge economy organizations that might not be seen as generators of economic activity are the Carnegie Library and all of the museums in Little Falls. I work at the Morrison County Historical Society and our whole mission is the preservation and sharing of knowledge. While people might assume the museum doesn’t contribute to the local economy because it is a nonprofit, that’s patently false. In running a facility, there are costs involved, which necessitates raising money to cover those costs. Every knowledge-based attraction, from the Lindbergh Home to the Fishing Museum, is generating revenue based on the sharing of that knowledge.

    Can you think of other local businesses that are part of the knowledge economy? Feel free to include those that overlap the different economic realms (i.e. agriculture + knowledge, manufacturing + knowledge, etc.).


  2. The first man to USE fire had more “knowledge” than others living at that period. The first man to USE the wheel, for whatever purpose, had more “knowledge” than others. One would have to wonder if those men had shared their “knowledge” with the others or did others steal their “knowledge” ideas.

    I don’t believe that the world is becoming more “knowledge” based, or if there even is such a thing as “knowledge economy”, but only that there is a shift in where the manufacturing and farming are being done, and how it is done. Manufacturing has done a lot of converting to computer-based robotics, eliminating many “hands-on” jobs. Small farms are being replaced by larger ones with computer-based farm equipment, although, to my knowledge, they haven’t progressed to robot driven tractors…the day is coming, as they are already using GPS.

    Although advances in technology have spread worldwide in the past 100 years, it doesn’t mean that the world is becoming “knowledge” based, or is part of some “knowledge economy”. What it does mean is that there is, and will be, a greater need for specialized skills…computer programmers, computer repair technicians, robotics technicians, etc. Those specialized jobs require more “knowledge”, but it has to be learned. Although they are more “technical” skilled jobs, they still can be considered to be “hands-on” jobs, as they are using a “tool” that requires hands to operate…the computer.

    Just because a particular business is using computers for design, planning, cost-estimating, purchasing, etc., doesn’t mean that it is a “knowledge” based business. It only means that they are using new tools from the advancement of technology. People who designed buildings previously had to spend many hours on a drafting table, using pencils, paper, and a lot of drafting “tools”…today, that drafting is computer-based, start to finish. A “knowledgeable” designer can do the work in less than half the time, using new technology. An old saying says “time is money”…the “knowledgeable” designer of today can make twice the money of his “hands-on” counterpart of the past. That’s because of advances in technology, not “knowledge”, except for knowing how to use the new tool, the computer.

    Accountants, lawyers, doctors, etc., all used to use paper/pen for their documentation…now, they all use computers. Other than the “knowledge” needed to use computers, they still have specialized skills that are learned. That doesn’t make them “knowledge” based businesses.

    When I was in high school, we had been told that there were jobs in government, good paying jobs for “thinkers”. Some people were paid just to sit and think. Wouldn’t that be a great job?!?…I wonder what they were thinking?!?

    Little Falls has a lot of buildings that contain “knowledge”, such as the library, the fishing museum, the historical society, etc., but that doesn’t mean that they are “knowledge” based or part of some “knowledge economy”. The computer is nothing more than a tool, an advancement in technology, that makes a business more efficient. Remember, the typewriter was replaced by the computer…it, too, was a tool.

    “Knowledge economy” is nothing more than a “buzz phrase”, currently being used by some people who have gained the “knowledge” to use a computer, for the sole purpose of making themselves feel more important and/or possibly gain financially from it’s use.


    • J.Ski – I understand that there is knowledge behind every industry we as a society have built, be it agriculture, manufacturing or service. (After reading “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” by Michael Pollan, I am thoroughly impressed with the amount of knowledge it takes to run even the smallest farm.) What distinguishes the knowledge economy from other industries is that a product can be produced that isn’t physical. Take music, for example. It used to be that musicians sold their music through physical objects … vinyl albums, tapes, CDs. Now, so much of music is digital and those who purchase it end up with an ephemeral product. Without the device to play it on, it doesn’t exist on its own. The same could be said of the publishing industry with digital books. Young people, particularly Millennials, eschew owning lots of physical stuff and are fine with the ephemeral. That’s where the economy is going.

      One of the problems with Little Falls and Central Minnesota is a disregard for people who work with their brains. We celebrate those who create a physical product, the farmers and the manufacturers, however we don’t really want to hear about all the thinking they do in their jobs. And those who do the “fluffy” work of thinking on their jobs are just too hoity-toity for their own good. Gotta take them down a peg because they’re not really working. In the end, because we dismiss thinkers, we end up dismissing all sectors of workers … the agriculturalists, the manufacturers, the service sector, and the knowledge workers … all of whom should be thinking in order to effectively do their jobs. This is such a pervasive feeling in our region that it is no wonder our young people leave for metropolitan areas. They want to be in a place where they are accepted for having a brain and using it.


Comments are closed.