Trends in Town-Gown Collaboration

Trending-Town-GownToday’s economy elevates the value of higher education institutions to the highest degree of public awareness ever demonstrated. Higher education institutions impact their community in a host of very obvious ways, such as:

  • Supporting the development of 21st century talent armed with skills to drive modern business;
  • Employing a range of professionals in a sector often recognized as the largest in many small communities;
  • and Initiating research and development initiatives supporting the advancement of technology and improved economic performance.

These examples speak to the common ways nearly every institution engages. Yet, what does it mean for a campus to be truly connected to its community? Continue reading “Trends in Town-Gown Collaboration”

It’s all About that Base: Baseline Data, Energy Planning, & Economic Development

P32-Energy-BaselineIt’s no secret that the best strategic plans are based on qualitative and quantitative analysis, using this information to determine the best allocation of resources to pursue growth and change.  Too often, strategic planning processes “jump right in” and do not take the time to fully understand and quantify current and expected conditions. Change cannot be measured without first analyzing existing conditions to establish a baseline dataset from which change can be measured. This approach also applies to regional energy planning. As regions consider energy in relation to economic development planning, there are direct correlations to the impact energy has on people, place, and ideas. Establishing a regional energy baseline must be the first step before tactical planning can occur.

Additionally, energy planning is an often-ignored element in developing regional economic development strategies. Energy is a universal business itself, however it also impacts every single industry and business within a region. Energy directly impacts the health of people across a region, and is a critical element to regional success. How can economic development planning occur without energy planning? Continue reading “It’s all About that Base: Baseline Data, Energy Planning, & Economic Development”

Who’s on the Front Lines of your Economic Development?

130828-Front-LinesI’ve always been a huge believer that customer service is one of the most valuable pieces of brand development. Companies who have superior customer service are recognized as a stronger brand and tend to have better sales numbers than those without. Associations who put customer service first tend to have a greater number of members than those who do not. The fact of the matter is that sales are directly proportional to customer service. The same can be said for economic development.

So, how are you manning the front lines of your economic development efforts? 
Continue reading “Who’s on the Front Lines of your Economic Development?”

Social Media Blackout is a Failure of Power


As of this exact moment, I’d like to welcome back the students of Harrisburg University, who are now allowed to read blog and social media posts, such as this one.


Last week, Harrisburg University flipped the switch and turned the lights out on their students…at least when it comes to social media. The University turned off all access to social media sites to encourage a “healthy balance of social media” use. The University first conducted this experiment last year, where they determined that five percent of their student body spends between 15-20 hours on social media sites in the course of a week.

Such a stunt is off the mark.

While I can understand and appreciate the value of such awareness campaigns, and I am sure, naturally, people classified their time “offline” as productive, I tend to believe that actions like these send the wrong message to students. By treating social media as an evil, which takes grasp of our time and our lives, the University is spinning social media in a bad light. It’s the job of the University to prepare students for the outside world. I, as a member of this outside world, can ensure the University, that there’s social media out here…and it’s a lot more than chatting with friends, planning keggers and helping raise barns on Farmville.

Social media is a valuable and proven learning tool. Online communication and collaboration is growing. Think I’m wrong? Look at what Indonesia universities are doing to support digital media. Did you notice the part that said “everything in Indonesia is on a rise, especially the number of start-ups within the country”… attributed to social media. Seems like the creativity and collaboration that social media offers is being rewarded.

And this blackout goes for the campus faculty and admiration as well. The official University Twitter account has been inactive for a week, as well. That can’t be good for recruitment.

Eric Darr, the University’s provost, suggested that his hope for the blackout is that students will experience life. And today, after a week, they finally will. There’s a lot going on here in the outside world…sorry you’ve missed it this past week, Harrisburg University.



Do We Need the FTC for Social Media Transparency?

The following is a post from our team’s former blog: Economic Architecture, active from October 2009 – September 2010. While we have elected to re-share this information, some details and links may be a bit outdated. While it’s still a good read, you’ve been warned.  🙂

An article released yesterday by the Pittsburgh Business Times disclosed a number of local businesses who are adopting corporate policies relative to social media efforts and online activities. With the FTC including “new media” as part of their application of the FTCA as of December 1 in an ongoing effort to push corporate transparency coupled with Bayer Corporation‘s Twitter news feed and social media policy launching shortly after the birth of 2010, the relevancy of this topic is, again, forced to the headlines.

In the article, Bryan Iams, head of strategic and external communications for Bayer, keeps their social media policy very simple, stating:

“It’s not as if there are brand new guides or instructions to employees, but this is another vehicle that, if they are representing the company, they need to be mindful of what proper behavior is.”

Simple enough. I wonder if this is corporate shtick or if the employees feel the same way. Without actually reading the 13 pages of guidelines, it’s hard to understand the severity of these new policies. But, with this quote, it appears that Bayer has established guidelines for social media and online use when representing the Bayer corporate entity. Seems fair. Kudos to any company or organization using social media and understanding enough about it to further monitor their online reputation and enforce policy to keep their name clean. Less headaches that way (pun intended).

In the same article, Richard Cleland, assistant director of the Federal Trade Commission’s division of advertising, states that the FTC’s new media guides for companies are simply restating old advertising policies and applying them to social media:

“What we are doing is applying the same rules that apply to advertising and media to advertising in the word-of-mouth and social media area. Those rules relate to truth in advertising and transparency, and that simply because this is a novel format, that doesn’t mean different rules apply.”

Again, this seems reasonable. Disclosing endorsements, corporate connections and the like are a reasonable way to keep things, dare I say, transparent. You can see evidence of this transparency all over social media. In fact, it’s what keeps it alive.

Developing your online marketing strategy requires a presence of community. Without community, the social network would fail. The community relies on a foundation of trust. Without trust, the community would fail and the network would fail. If your online presence exists merely to hock your wares…people are going to see through your scheming and your community will be a community of one.

However, if you are a trusted and contributing member of a community, people will find value in what you say, what you do and what you share. From this aspect, the FTC guidelines are really only a safety net. Chances are that most companies and individuals who do not disclose their endorsements, connections and partners will be discovered quickly and called out by those valued members contributing to online communities.

FTC…I don’t think we need it for this. Do you?

Case Study: A Match Made in Energy

About the Energy Alliance of Greater Pittsburgh

The Energy Alliance of Greater Pittsburgh increases the scale of the region’s energy industry, creating and retaining jobs and attracting investment across a portfolio of energy-related assets, while continuing to advance our global leadership in improving the environment. A joint initiative of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development and Innovation Works, the Energy Alliance is a strategic partnership of traditional and alternative energy companies, global leaders in material science and intelligent building technologies, academic, corporate and government researchers, and supply-chain providers in 32 counties across four states.


As one of the managing partner organizations of the Energy Alliance, Innovation Works realized a pattern of disconnect between professionals across the greater Pittsburgh region’s energy sector and sub sectors. Since collaboration is vital to ensuring the success of the regional energy sector, this trend was worrisome. . Innovation Works needed to connect the dots among energy professionals, while measuring the successes of these connections to ensure future funding and support of the Energy Alliance.


The Energy Alliance, through Innovation Works, partnered with Fourth Economy Consulting to provide strategy development, project management and regional collaboration to the organization. A piece of this partnership included assistance for bridging disconnect amongst professionals across greater Pittsburgh’s energy sector. With third-party partners of World-Class Industrial Network (WIN) and SMaSh, Fourth Economy brought to life the EnergyMatch event. EnergyMatch is a networking event designed for industries, entrepreneurs, university and industry researchers, and the funding community to connect, develop new products, form research and development teams, collaborate on grant opportunities and seek investment capital. EnergyMatch is an “anti-conference.” Rather than speaking to participants through keynote addresses and breakout sessions, the event focuses on action-oriented networking intended to make real connections that produce real projects with tangible action items, next steps and follow-up. An online profiling form was developed by Fourth Economy and WIN to analyze a professional’s needs and assets, as well as the needs and assets of their employer or organization. These profiles were then analyzed and matched with one another with each attendee being matched to four to six fellow attendees. At the event, attendees received a personalized list of individuals to seek out throughout the evening. Attendees could also make matches on their own through general networking at tables labeled by energy sector (wind, coal, solar, distribution, etc.) throughout the venue. When a match was made, each person texted the follow-up for that match to a SMS texting system developed by SMaSh. A counter projected throughout the evening kept track of the number of connections generated as a result of the event.


EnergyMatch event. Those individuals created a total of 439 “matches” as recorded by the texting technology. The average number of matches made by an attendee was 6.6 (with a median of 4) and the most matches made at the event was 39, by an individual who also won an iPad for their superior matching efforts. In a follow-up event survey, all participants rated EnergyMatch very highly:

  • 96% were either “satisfied” or “extremely satisfied” with the overall event.
  • 94% are “likely” or “extremely likely” to follow-up with at least one of their matches.
  • 97% said they would likely attend another EnergyMatch event.

Another EnergyMatch event is in the early planning phases for Fall 2011, with subsequent events to follow. Additionally, an online collaboration tool used to mimic the activities of the event is in development.

Quotes From Participants

[I liked] the opportunity to meet a variety of people from different backgrounds. I also liked that the point of the match was to introduce yourself to people – that is, that you didn’t have to know people ahead of time or be “connected.” Great atmosphere. Well organized. Nice mix of people. Texting contact info was good. [EnergyMatch] was a new/unique spin on traditional networking. Well intentioned and well organized. I liked the idea of being able to network with others who are in the energy/cleantech/green sectors, and I appreciate the opportunity to meet with so many different companies in one place, and learn about mutual interests. I spent my whole career on that problem…it must be why they matched us.

Also, check out Imagine Pittsburgh’s recap of the EnergyMatch event, featuring all of the event videos!

Poll Results: The Fourth Economy Index

While we continue to develop this idea, we asked you to provide your confidence level in some broad economic categories. These categories impact areas of the Fourth Economy Index. As you can see from the image above, the overall confidence level in our economic state is less confident, or neutral, than confident in where the economy is heading. There doesn’t appear to be much that we are “very confident” about. Let’s examine how we determined this overall confidence level… Here are the broad categories we asked about… As you can see, the areas of most confidence include the U.S. economy, private sector leadership and innovation investment. The remaining four categories lagged behind greatly, with our educational system having the least amount of backing, considering all neutral attributes. We also asked you to tell us what other economic categories we should measure. The responses were great and included: environmental protection, workforce capacity/ability, collaboration, access to capital, natural resources, U.S. utility patents issued, U.S. technologies licensed, U.S. new high tech products introduced, U.S. R&D investment in technologies, State investments in TBED activities, U.S. manufacturing sales, U.S. exports, U.S. manufacturing jobs created, ROI on federal R&D investment, private funding of tech-based companies, job growth in tech-based sectors, and new ratios such as energy per dollar and productivity in manufacturing sectors. What else should we be measuring to determine the overall state of our Fourth Economy? Use the comments below… Take this month’s poll: Rank the top energy innovations in the last 100 years…

Poll Results: State Economic Development Budgets

Last month, we asked the question, “what do you think of your state’s economic development budget?” Responses returned represented eight different states with a varied mix from those states. However, as shown above, most individuals indicated that they were scared of what will happen with their state’s budget.

The responses were not surprising to our team. Are they surprising to you?

The Fourth Economy Team will be launching a national Fourth Economy Index in the coming months. The Fourth Economy Index will be a first of its kind, designed to measure a variety of indicators important to the modern economic development landscape. So, this month’s poll is a precursor to this index where we are gauging confidence levels in several economic categories.

Be sure to take this month’s poll: Rate your confidence level in several economic categories…

Poll Results: Greatest Economic Challenge Over the Next 20 Years

Last month in our Economic Architecture newsletter, we started a poll series where we ask important questions facing economic development community. Our first question was “What do you think our greatest economic challenge will be over the next 20 years?” One thing never defined was the word “our.” Some participants may have viewed the question as a regional question, others may have viewed it as a global question…or anywhere in between. We were pleased that one area the Fourth Economy team is focusing on — water — was selected as one of the two highest-rated challenges. Our team has constructed two reports on the topic: “Capturing the Storm: Profits, Jobs, and Training in Philadelphia’s Stormwater Industry” for SBN Philadelphia and “Pittsburgh’s H2Opportunity” for the World Environment Day Partnership. What’s also interesting to note is the large number of individuals who selected “other” as a response to the question. We asked those who selected the “other” option to qualify their response with the item they feel will be the most pressing issue over the next 20 years. Here’s a few of the additional thoughts we received on “other” economic challenges over the next 20 years:

  • Educating and empowering our youth, so that America can regain worldwide respect
  • Increasing scarcity of resources (rare earth metals, fossil fuels, etc.)
  • Reducing the national debt
  • Energy Prices/reliability
  • Lack of cooperation and collaboration

All great responses! Did you forget to respond or have some additional insight on what YOU think should be on the list? Leave a note in the comments below. Out first poll saw responses from all across the U.S. and we are excited to keep asking questions to drive the fourth economy. Be sure to take this month’s poll: What do you think of your state’s economic development budget?