Blurring Boundaries: Creating Regional Competitiveness Through Collaboration

PCRG-Community-Development-Summit

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.

Continue reading “Blurring Boundaries: Creating Regional Competitiveness Through Collaboration”

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]”

Three Strikes and You’re Out or Still California Dreamin’?

California-DreamingThe 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. Continue reading “Three Strikes and You’re Out or Still California Dreamin’?”

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?”

A Fourth Economy Work Product with Legs

131122-Transit-ReportOne 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. Continue reading “A Fourth Economy Work Product with Legs”

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?”

Witnessing Collaboration Across the Nation

131022-Regional-CollaborationRight now, Fourth Economy is fortunate enough to be working in two communities on private sector-led regional economic development. The first is a group of self-organized group of private sector and higher education leader in the Red River Valley of North Dakota and Minnesota (the major metropolitan areas are Fargo-Moorhead and Grand Forks-East Grand Forks).  This group known as the Valley Prosperity Partnership is looking in to identify regional economic security interests and leverage the booming energy economy in Western North Dakota. The second community involves a group of private sector stakeholders convened by the Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation and the Rhode Island Foundation to inform both the Statewide Sustainable Communities planning and the work of the sponsoring organizations. Continue reading “Witnessing Collaboration Across the Nation”

3 Economic Development Trends that are Closer than they Appear

131022-Economic-Development-TrendsThe practice of economic development is like driving using only the side view mirrors – you can’t even see exactly where you’ve been, but you can see the edge of the path you’ve been taking.  We try to guide ourselves forward with tools that are built for where we’ve been. Part of this rear-view navigation results from using a lot of tools that were developed to fix the problems of the past.  But it is also because we have very little useful predictive information about the future.  The majority of economic data is old.  If we have any information about what happened even a month ago, it is somewhere between a guesstimate and an approximation of the actual conditions.  By the time we manage to collect and verify the best information we can get, it is still incomplete and its shelf-life is expired.  Despair.com makes a poster, “Economics:  The science of explaining tomorrow why the predictions you made yesterday didn’t come true today.”

So while we can’t do a very good of predicting where the economy is headed, there are some trends coming up in our side view mirrors that are closer than they appear, or already passing by. Continue reading “3 Economic Development Trends that are Closer than they Appear”

The TechBelt Initiative Receives Excellence in Economic Development Award from the International Economic Development Council (IEDC)

131016-IEDC-TechBelt-AwardA multi-state, economic growth accelerator, the TechBelt initiative has been recognized with a Bronze Excellence in Economic Development Award from the International Economic Development Council (IEDC).  Presented on Oct. 8 at the 2013 IEDC Annual Conference in Philadelphia, the award honors this virtual organization in category of “Regionalism & Cross-Border Collaboration” in communities with populations of greater than 500,000.

The TechBelt initiative is a network of technology and innovation stakeholders collaborating to accelerate economic growth in northeast Ohio, western Pennsylvania and northern West Virginia – states with contiguous borders and complementary industrial and academic assets.  TechBelt members are broad-based, representing the economic development organizations, foundations, researchers and chambers of commerce within the “mega region.” Continue reading “The TechBelt Initiative Receives Excellence in Economic Development Award from the International Economic Development Council (IEDC)”

Three Economic Disruptions Under the Radar

130823-3-DisruptionsAs Fourth Economy turns three years old it is a good time not only to reflect on the lessons of these past three years but also to think about what is next.  One of those lessons is that many surprises in the economy are things people should have known about, but didn’t get enough attention in the media.  Stories that lack sound bites or sizzle are ignored until they become a crisis.  Even then they may not get attention.  So here are three big economic disruptions that are flying under the radar:

3 – The Myth of the Self-Employed

2 – Catastrophe Losses and Insurance

1 – The Global Water Shortage Continue reading “Three Economic Disruptions Under the Radar”