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Cities and states race to lead in blockchain technology
Eli Dile   on Friday, June 22, 2018 at 12:00:00 am

By Vitalii Zakhozhyi, IEDC intern & Fulbright Fellow, University of Washington

Blockchain – the core technology behind cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin – is a distributed, encrypted, digital ledger that securely records transactions. Beyond its primary use in the financial sphere, blockchain is finding applications in many fields, including economic development.

Some forward-thinking states are boosting blockchain’s potential for growth by passing industry-friendly legislation, including Wyoming, Arizona, and Tennessee. They hope to gain first-mover advantage in a wholly new technology to encourage economic diversification.

The New York City Economic Development Corporation announced a plan for a blockchain resource center and contest to identify applications for the public sector (amNew York). Interest in blockchain is exploding there, with an 800 percent increase in blockchain-related job posting between 2015 and 2017 and more than $199 million in venture capital investments in 2017.

Wyoming is not known for technology jobs, but the state hopes to diversify its economy by becoming a hub for the new technology (Wyoming Public Media). The state adopted several blockchain-friendly laws after an advocacy campaign to remove regulatory hurdles in 2017, and its cheap power is an enviable asset for the energy-intensive technology (Bitcoin Magazine). Since then, the number of blockchain-related businesses registered in Wyoming grew from 17 to more than 145 (Christain Science Monitor).

Time will determine these strategies’ effectiveness, but blockchain is just another example of why economic developers have to stay current on new technology or risk having opportunities pass them by.

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