The Fourth Economy team has been assisting the Chemical Alliance Zone with re-establishing a chemistry-focused business incubator in the West Virginia Regional Technology Park in South Charleston, WV. The incubator will be a key part of the West Virginia, regional, and national innovation economy. It will assist local and national chemistry-related entrepreneurs by facilitating access to strategic lab facilities, specialized commercialization expertise, and other regional resources.
As chairperson of the Workforce Development, Jobs, and Human Capital Subcommittee of the Economic Development Transition Team assembled by our new Mayor, Bill Peduto, I had the opportunity to meet with some of the high-level leaders driving workforce development in Pittsburgh and Allegheny County. While our short time frame prevented me from interviewing all the persons of interest, executives at UPMC, the Allegheny Conference, TechShop, the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh, the Coro Center for Civic Leadership, the Workforce Investment Board, the Youth Policy Council, the Small Business Development Center at Pitt, the New App for Making it in America, and others were able to make time to meet with members of our sub-committee on extremely short notice. Beyond the executive level input we received from the community, our subcommittee was highly qualified to make recommendations to the administration on the merit of our own qualifications. We were made up of small business owners, consultants, labor union executives, student researchers, and native Pittsburghers. From my experiences interacting with this collection of experts, three segments of workforce development opportunities emerged that are dominating the market today and into Pittsburgh’s future.
New ideas fuel the fourth economy. But they need the right talent, money and a market ready to greet them. There are few market opportunities that need new ideas and innovation than those within the water sector. In 2012, Fourth Economy helped to launch the Water Economy Network (WEN). A key goal for WEN and its industry members is to encourage new water related technology development and deployment. To help WEN achieve that goal, Fourth Economy and WEN joined with Idea Foundry (a Pittsburgh-based non-profit that specializes in innovation acceleration and commercialization) to launch a water technology acceleration program called Innovate H2O. Innovate H2O is a program aimed at identifying and accelerating breakthrough solutions that address global water challenges.
The news out of California so far in 2014 is raising serious questions about the future of the Golden State.
Strike 1: The most pressing issue is the drought which is widely impacting a state that is home to 1 in 8 Americans. Search California and drought in your favorite browser and you’ll get a long list of articles that should strike fear in all of us and images of what empty reservoirs looks like. Over 17 communities will run out of water in the next 60 to 120 days – 40,000 people left dry. A quick look on the state government homepage Ca.gov seems to disagree with news reports that leaders are taking the issue seriously as not one note on the homepage or the ‘alerts’ tab mentions the situation. In the past year or so climate change or maybe just damn climate has impacted millions (Sandy, AtlantaSnow2014, wildfires and the list grows) yet somehow we are not understanding that these impacts may not be random. And maybe that we should start planning for the worst and celebrating our best.
A recent National Science Foundation (NSF) report revealed that R&D expenditures among U.S. higher education institutions remained flat in FY2012 compared to FY2011, and, when adjusted for inflation, declined by 1.1 percent. “This represents the first constant-dollar decline since 1974 and ends a period of modest growth during FYs 2009–11, when R&D expenditures increased an average of 5% each year.”
While this statistic is newsworthy, it may not be as much of a crisis as it first seems.
Universities make huge contributions to the US economy annually. However, understanding and communicating those contributions is not always realized nor easily demonstrated. Over the years, I’ve conducted multiple economic impact studies and helped many universities understand and communicate their economic impact results. However, not all universities have completed an external economic impact study or been afforded the opportunity to learn about avenues to communicate their economic impact. And as an impact analyst I’m always interested in learning about new ways to help universities more effectively assess, utilize and communicate their economic impact.
Colleges and universities are a critical driver for regional and national development. They are critical to the well being of our nation and the communities that they serve, as much as these institutions depend on vibrant communities and a strong nation for their own success. Deregulation of banks and utilities have weakened the traditional economic development partnership, leaving colleges and universities as the one viable partner that shares and shapes community goals. Colleges and universities have been strong job creators, adding more than 341,000 jobs in the last ten years.
One of the regular questions asked of our firm is “what Fourth Economy projects or reports have been implemented?” While we think all of them have added value and are implemented to some degree, one project stands out. In 2009 Fourth Economy teamed with Clear View Strategies and URS Corporation to conduct a study on Transit Oriented Development (TOD).
The client was the Southwestern Planning Commission in Pennsylvania. The product entitled Future Investment in TOD (or FIT) was a first of its kind report that not only documented the success factors for a TOD but also provided a predictive model for planners and economic developers to determine where and how a TOD development would have the greatest economic impact and success.
In recent months our Fourth Economy team has been hard at work on several town-gown development projects. It’s time to share a few lessons learned. First, if you live in a smaller town and are fortunate enough to have an institution of higher education close by, don’t squander the opportunity to build upon this high value asset – embrace it, leverage it, and cultivate it.
While the many positives associated with town-gown partnerships may be obvious to most of us, surprisingly those positives often need to be clearly identified, communicated and tactically acted upon.