How to Create 10,000 Jobs

Train 10,000 teachers.

We need teachers.

Despite the overwhelming need for teachers, the profession currently is looked down upon in the United States. People don’t seem to want to understand that if you don’t invest in education, you’re not investing in the future.

(Cynically, I understand the reason the United States doesn’t emphasize education more is that an educated populace is harder to govern.)

Train 10,000 farmers.

The Veteran in the Field, Winslow Homer

It might not sound sexy, but farming is a growth industry. By 2050, we’ll need to feed a planet of 9 billion people. And we’ll need to do it in the face of a dangerous confluence of events: severe climate change, water shortages, loss of arable land and a bunch of other stuff that is too depressing to think about.

The average American farmer is 58 years old.

This is of concern because no matter how much automation, robotics, and big data impact farming, you still need people to run those farms. Food security is an issue.

Another way to create 10,000 jobs is to look at the question a bit differently:

What would be the minimum number of people we could train to have a massive impact on jobs now and in the future?

Digression: When we talk about creating jobs, we’re talking about creating employees. A friend pointed out, no employers wants to hire employees and most people hate their jobs. This is a big part of the issue with current job growth models. Plus, most of the jobs being created through infrastructure projects will only last as long as those projects are ongoing. So, instead of talking about creating jobs, let’s talk about creating entrepreneurs and business owners.

To answer my question, I thought about sectors that are currently experiencing high-growth and create value faster with fewer people employeed.

Right now, biotechnology makes up nearly 3 percent of U.S. Gross Domestic Product. It contributes more to the US GDP than mining and utilities — and almost as much as construction.

Over the past decade, biotech grew on average more than 10 percent per year — much faster than the rest of the economy.

Biotech also requires fewer people to create significant value.

If you can imagine a small team developing a valuable medicine, an industrial enzyme, or a modification to a plant — all of those are potentially worth billions of dollars.

For most people, biotech is scary [2] but brewing beer is not.

Brewing is biotechnology distilled to its simplest form. Fermentation is the oldest form of biotechnology and we’ve been doing it for 9,000 years.

A brewer takes ingredients that have little value separately — water, grain, and hops — and creates something of value.

That sounds a lot like pulling money out of thin air, which is what good entrepreneurs do, right?

Over the past few years, microbreweries have exploded. In Brooklyn where I live, I’m surrounded by three — Brooklyn Brewery, Other Half and Sixpoint. New York City counts more than 30 breweries.

I can’t find the statistic, but I’ve read that all Americans now live within ten miles of a microbrewery.

What are the trickle down effects?

A microbrewery employs a few people. They have to buy the grain and hops which someone has to grow and process and that requires more people, which creates more jobs.

New York state used to be the epicenter of U.S. hop production. The industry, destroyed by mildew-related disease and Prohibition, moved West. But now, the New York hops industry is re-emerging. Today, NY state grows 300 acres of hops compared to Oregon and Washington’s 400,000 acres, but it’s a start. The microbrew boom is driving the farming of hops.

But doesn’t that mean the market is saturated?

I don’t know much about the specific outlook for breweries but since it my interest is biotechnology, I believe making the jump from brewing to fermentation is a small leap.

The next leap would be to distributed biological manufacturing.

Back in 2001, Rob Carlson described distributed biological manufacturing as means of producing many of the things we used today. That means people who are trained as brewers can easily learn to brew items that are potentially of much greater value than beer.

In 2015, Stanford researcher Christina Smolke made the news for engineering yeast to produce opioids. Today, it takes one year to produce hydrocodone from poppies that are legally grown in Tasmania. At the time there was some debate as to whether such technology would be abused, for example by the drug cartels. The bigger debate should have been how do you give access to people who have no access to painkillers — which is most of the world! Smolke and her team started a company, Antheia, dto make and fairly provide medicines to all who need them.

Last year, Adidas announced it would become the first shoe company to use completely sustainable, vegan, spider silk — one of the strongest materials created by nature. Those shoes are completely compostable.

A few weeks ago, Bolt Threads, one of three synthetic biology companies brewing spider silk, announced its first product — a $314 tie made from 55 miles of spider webs. Bolt had previously signed a deal with outdoor apparel manufacturer and staunch anti-GMO company, Patagonia, to provide its spider silk to produce jackets.

So it’s not a stretch to imagine brewers being able to produce very high value products very easily.

So, if you want to have a massive impact on the economy, train 500 brewers.

[1] I am happily married to a public school art teacher and come from a family of educators.

[2] Full-disclosure, I’ve been working with biotechnology companies for more than 20 years and am the author of What’s Your Bio Strategy?

[Thanks to Johnny Bohimer and John Cumbers for their contributions and advice on this.]

Originally published at on February 28, 2017.