Friday Roundup: Free community college, small business optimism, business superstars, Seattle income and soda taxes

There are always a few items we’ve read during the week that deserve more attention but don’t make it into our regular posts. So we bundle them for the Friday roundup.

Here’s this week’s bundle:

nprED: The First State to Offer Free Community College To Nearly Every Adult 

The opportunity to go to college for free is more available than ever before. States and cities, in the last year especially, have funded programs for students to go to two-year, and in some cases, four-year, schools.

Tennessee has taken the idea one step further. Community college is already free for graduating high school students. Now Tennessee is first state in the country to offer community college — free of charge — to almost any adult.

National Association of Manufacturers: NFIB Small Business Optimism Index was Flat in May, Remaining Highly Elevated

The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) said that the Small Business Optimism Index was flat in May, remaining at 104.5 for the second month. Sentiment among owners has remained highly elevated over the course of the past six months despite easing from January’s 105.9 reading, which was a 12-year high. Over that six-month period, the headline index has averaged 105.1. For comparison purposes, the index was 93.8 one year ago, illustrating the sizable uptick in confidence among small business leaders since November. Along those lines, the percentage of respondents suggesting that the next three months would be a “good time to expand” edged down from 24 percent to 23 percent, which was the average seen over the past six months. In May 2016, just 9 percent said the same thing.

New Geography: The Superstar Gap

Superstars are important in tech because of the 10x principle I mentioned in my recent post on the Silicon Valley mindset. The best coders are 10x as productive as the merely very good coder. The top entrepreneurs are probably 100x or or more. The presence of superstars, along with some amount of good fortune, can transform the economy of a city or region.

…These superstars are disproporationately located in only a handful of regions.

To see this effect, just look at Austin vs. Seattle. Austin is a booming, prosperous city with a major tech industry. Yet Seattle is generating significantly greater value. Seattle’s real per capita GDP is $75,960 vs. only $55,323 in Austin. Seattle’s per capita income is $61,021 vs. $51,014 in Austin.

Austin had some good entrepreneurs like Michael Dell, but not superstars in industries that would create massive platforms like Microsoft and Amazon. Austin has a lot of quantity, but it looks to me like there’s a big quality gap vs. Seattle.

Seattle Times: Income tax on wealthy draws intense support at Seattle City Council hearing

Waving signs that said “Tax the Rich,” dozens of supporters of a tax on high-income residents turned out at a Seattle City Council hearing Wednesday and testified in support of a measure that would create the state’s first local income tax.

Seattle Times (editorial): Seattle’s soda tax falls flat

Elected officials must be very selective about raising taxes. That’s especially true in a city where many are struggling with the rising cost of living and fatigued by the seemingly endless stream of city and regional tax increases, including city tax increases for transportation, preschool and housing…

Seattle officials are flirting with pushing taxpayers to a breaking point, at which they will reject taxes regardless of the merit.