As part of our ongoing efforts to engage with the sectors that drive economic development, Fourth Economy joined the Pittsburgh Arts Research Committee (PARC)—an advisory committee to the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council. The PARC worked with the Heinz Endowments and the Pittsburgh Foundation to review and comment on their study of small and mid-sized arts organizations in and around Pittsburgh, PA. On October 28, the Heinz Endowments and the Pittsburgh Foundation rolled out the final report with a daylong event including panel discussions, breakout sessions and networking called The Unsung Majority.
After hundreds of hours speaking with the leaders of America’s transformed cities, analyzing data until our eyes crossed and summarizing all of our findings in an action oriented report, I am ready to provide you with the cliff notes. To summarize, we found that there are nine key themes to consider if you are looking to transform your community.
It has been a busy year here at Fourth Economy. Many projects have kept us hard at work, traveling across the country and meeting great folks. A theme among these projects has been a growing desire and recognition for all places, communities and towns to reinvent themselves – transform, reimagine, pivot – all in order to attract new investment and the talent that fuels it. And within this theme is a common recognition that without quality options to live, sleep and interact, it is tough to attract that talent. Housing and the context that surrounds a community’s housing stock is (or should be) a cornerstone to any competitive and sustainable economic development strategy.
Fourth Economy has been immersed this year in conversations about higher education’s role in economic development. Over the summer we worked with a major research university to identify ways for improving their business engagement practices. This effort involved hosting a roundtable discussion with university-based economic development practitioners from around the country.
In October, Fourth Economy team members managed the 2014 University Economic Development Association (UEDA) Summit in Santa Fe, New Mexico, which brought together more than 230 economic development representatives from higher education, economic development organizations, consulting firms, federal agencies, and many other groups (you can view the agenda and presentations here). Conference participants shared and discussed best practices, including initial thought leadership from UEDA’s Body of Knowledge Committee, developed in conjunction with representatives from the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU).
Fourth Economy Consulting announces posting of a Request for Information for a current client project. Submitting firms will be included in a one-stop-shop resource directory of best-in-class urban-regional + economic development planning firms. This directory provides client with stocked resource for direct RFP solicitation to leading firms.
Fourth Economy Consulting (FEC) is soliciting company information from urban-regional and economic development planning firms to be used in directory resource for a current client. FEC is presently working with a Midwestern client on the research and developmental stages of a large, multiphase statewide initiative. The client’s ambitious project has requested FEC to perform a preliminary expert study of successful regional economic and quality of life transformations in metro areas throughout the US.
Fourth Economy is on the move in more ways than one. One of the big moves is our new space at 1501 Preble Avenue on Pittsburgh’s North Side. While this move is only 2.5 miles in distance, it represents a major milestone in our company’s growth as we move from our startup space into an expansion space. We are also on the move around the country, working in Providence, RI; Fargo, ND; Detroit, MI; and Buffalo, NY, in addition to working intensely in our home base of Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia.
The answer is Higher Eds use economic and social impact studies for a lot of different reasons. Underlying is the desire to showcase their good work and demonstrate the value their work creates. And they want to communicate that value in terms that will resonate with internal and external audiences. Audiences may include: public officials, policy makers, community residents, investors, and Higher Ed faculty, staff, students and alumni. Economic and social impact studies help Higher Eds compete for state funding, maintain their tax-exempt status, help defend against criticism and help increase fund-raising.
There is a potential big deal brewing in the world of trails. The FEC team always challenges our clients to identify their unique value proposition. What sets your community or region apart from all others? A major destination trail envisioned for an abandoned portion of the Pennsylvania Turnpike would do just that for Bedford and Fulton Counties.
An Article About the 4th Annual Pittsburgh Community Reinvestment Group Community Development Summit
Collaboration is more popular than ever. It is also more necessary than ever as our most pressing problems continue to increase in complexity. Our problems are challenging and they spill over geographical boundaries and jurisdictional political lines that are sometimes arbitrarily or historically created. The people that form the economies of our region often don’t understand those boundaries in the same way that economic developers and community organizers do and that increases the need for collaboration across boundaries.
Pittsburgh is a community that talks a lot about collaboration. There are several organizations focused on increasing collaborative efforts and using those collaborations to increase the competitiveness of this region. Even at the highest levels of the cities leadership—the Mayor’s office—collaboration has become a central focus. This year, at the 4th Annual PCRG Summit, Fourth Economy moderated a panel of four leaders that offered practical advice to participants on how to make partnerships more productive.
6 Key Priorities Shape the Economic Development Agenda
Regional industry, especially homegrown industry, must be an integral stakeholder in the development of strong and effective regional economic development partnerships. It cannot be said enough. This was emphasized once again in Fourth Economy’s recent engagement with our friends from the Red River Valley in North Dakota and Minnesota.
By far the Valley Prosperity Partnership (VPP) is one of the strongest industry-led efforts we have seen, both in terms of time and money. In addition to industry, it included two of the region’s regional economic development organizations and, oh yeah, two states. For those who have worked in regional efforts like this, you know it is no small task.
Spurred by the encouragement and investment from Forum Communications, Inc. business owner Bill Marcil, the VPP is comprised of private sector business leaders, economic developers, and college and university presidents who are collaborating and leveraging resources to develop a unified, vision for high value and sustained economic growth for all Red River Valley residents. The Red River Valley region encompasses 13 counties Eastern North Dakota and Western Minnesota including the cities of Grand Forks, East Grand Forks, Fargo and Moorhead.
This month, Fourth Economy joined the VPP Steering Committee in releasing an action-oriented economic development strategy identifying six focus areas for high value and sustained economic growth in the Red River Valley.
“Our region needs talented people, great places, sensible public policies, good ideas, and a diverse economic base. The Valley is in a position of prosperity. This action plan isn’t a response to an economic downturn; rather, it is one that seeks to build on our strengths.” said Tammy Miller, committee co-chair and CEO of Border States Electric.
“The VPP is unique for a couple of reasons. First, we believe this is the first time a Valley-wide group of this nature has formed to affect economic development. Second, the VPP is, by design, comprised of businesses, our research universities, and technical colleges. Third, our input and impact will be felt on both sides of the river,” Miller added.
Fourth Economy, in partnership with the VPP, undertook an extensive outreach effort to gather input and collect background information. Hundreds of interviews and focus groups with regional stakeholders along with hours of research culminated in the plan that aims to improve the economy up and down the Red River Valley region.
The strategic plan identifies six key areas for action:
- Workforce attraction, development and retention
- Water security and management for the Valley
- University research capacity and relevancy
- Entrepreneurial activity and output
- Infrastructure development and capital improvements
- Perceptions of the Valley
Each priority area includes detailed strategies and actions that build on the Valley’s unique assets. For instance, the Valley has industry and research strengths that are built upon in the Research and Entrepreneurship priorities, including unmanned systems (aerial and ground-based), big data (home to one of the largest Microsoft operations outside of California) and precision agriculture (crop management through unmanned and IT-based systems). In the Workforce priority, strategies and actions build upon the Valley’s unique cultural, environmental, and physical assets to target potential boomerangs and veterans.
“With each of these priorities we hope to inspire business leaders and residents throughout the Valley to engage with the VPP to turn this vision into action,” said Steve Burian VPP co-chair and CEO of AE2S. “We have worked to balance ambitious goals and vision with a realistic action plan to sustain prosperity in the Valley,” Burian added.
Fourth Economy has been fortunate to work on several economic development collaboratives in recent years. While some focus on a particular regional strength or market opportunity, the two key factors common to their success are: 1) Industry leadership (both time and money); and 2) Initiating the planning effort during times of economic strength. It is always most effective to work to sustain and manage existing growth with a thriving industry base than trying to rebuild when times are tough. With its commitment to regionalism, action-oriented thinking and deep industry engagement, the VPP offers a model for diverse cross-border engagement.
Congratulations to our friends in the Valley Prosperity Partnership on these key steps forward. We will be in touch with them going forward and hope to share their experience on a national scale.
For more information visit: www.valleyprosperitypartnership.com