Nostalgia: Community Development Friend or Foe? Pittsburgh as a Case Study

Mabel-NostalgiaRecent podcasts about the benefits and drawbacks of nostalgia got me thinking about this human experience, its influence on communities, and what this means for community developers. I believe nostalgia can help create community, but prolonged nostalgia can be detrimental to a community’s ability to adapt and thrive. Community developers should recognize the value of a community’s collective nostalgia, but they should also work with communities to build upon this legacy and develop an inclusive story of the future. Pittsburgh, like many communities across the U.S., may benefit from this approach. Continue reading “Nostalgia: Community Development Friend or Foe? Pittsburgh as a Case Study”

How Bikes Build Communities

Bike-InfrastructureIf you build it…

These days it seems that new bicycle infrastructure appears every few months in Pittsburgh (a.k.a. Fourth Economy’s home) such as new signage, new bike lanes, and a brand new bike share program. In 2014, Pittsburgh was selected as a PeopleForBikes Green Lane Project city, and Mayor Peduto has called for a multi-modal approach to building out infrastructure. The City even has a 10-year plan to create a network of bike lanes through city neighborhoods. As a cycling commuter, I enjoy Pittsburgh’s 25 miles of off-street bike trails, and am excited about increased infrastructure for bicycles along city roads.

With limited budgets and a never-ending list of capital projects in the City, many Pittsburgh residents wonder whether these investments are worthwhile. Will all this bicycle infrastructure actually impact ridership and help the community? Continue reading “How Bikes Build Communities”

Too Cool for School? Think Again.

141103-Higher-Ed-UEDAFourth 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). Continue reading “Too Cool for School? Think Again.”

Made in [insert state name]

Made-in-insert-state-hereDuring our projects across the United States this past year, Fourth Economy has come across a number of initiatives for supporting local manufacturers and boosting the local economy. One approach gaining popularity is the state-based “Made In” branding and associated database of the state’s manufacturing businesses.

Continue reading “Made in [insert state name]”

ChemCeption incubator to launch April 2014

140303-Chemception-LaunchThe 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. Continue reading “ChemCeption incubator to launch April 2014”

Declining Higher Ed R&D Expenditures: A Crisis or an Opportunity?

131220-University-RD-BudgetA 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. Continue reading “Declining Higher Ed R&D Expenditures: A Crisis or an Opportunity?”

Planning: a Futile Exercise or a Critical Tool for Community Development?

131023-Community-PlanningAs an urban planner and a former finance consultant, I am always on the look-out for good planning advice. It seems that a lot of planning guidance is inspiring, but rather inconsistent. Burnham’s famous “Make no small plans,” is often cited during this period of recovery to encourage big ideas. In a session at the April 2013 American Planning Association (APA) conference, however, Joe Nickol of Urban Design Associates recommended that communities “Make no many small plans,” to take advantage of localized, innovative and incremental opportunities for community development. Both approaches are reasonable and valuable, but I am left wondering how communities negotiate between the two, particularly when it comes to aligning with the broader community vision, adapting to market changes, collaborating with stakeholders, and delivering results. Continue reading “Planning: a Futile Exercise or a Critical Tool for Community Development?”