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Heartland Tech Weekly: What ‘The Value of Work’ Means

Here’s this week’s newsletter: Fourth of July celebrations took place across America yesterday, our nation’s Independence being one of the few things that everyone can agree on. Perhaps another is the importance of work — but not just work. Rather, a good-paying job that, aside from providing a wage, also offers less tangible rewards like meaning, a sense of pride, even beauty.

In his landmark book Working, Studs Terkel captured the oral histories of ordinary people engaged in ordinary jobs from gravedigger to studio head, from police officer to piano tuner. Nearly 50 years after its publication, Terkel’s masterpiece can be seen as a protest against many of the same forces rocking today’s labor market. He wrote, “As the automated pace of our daily lives wipes out name and face — and in many instances, feeling — there is a sacrilegious question being asked these days.” The question, of course, was then, and remains today: What is the value of work?

It’s a question facing heartland cities as they seek to spur economic growth with tech jobs. Companies that offer fair salaries and opportunities for advancement, and that directly contribute to the commonweal or become part of a rising tide lifting all boats, will do the most to bridge the tech and economic divide between Silicon Valley and the rest of the country.

For in the end, the intangible benefits of job creation can be far-reaching and have lasting impact.

Eric Tobias, a partner at High Alpha, an Indianapolis-based venture studio, described the local effects of Salesforce buying ExactTarget this way: “That success made everyone’s ambition level rise 10X. Everybody saw that it wasn’t just something that happened on the coasts.”

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