Tis the season for annual conferences – that chance each year for trade groups to tout their accomplishments and relevancy. The Fourth Economy team attended our fair share. What we find scary is that while the workshops and keynotes are conveying the seismic changes occurring in our economy, change on the street, in our communities and programs, appear to keep on keeping on as if it were, oh say, 1999. Many of the metrics for growth we heard remain focused on absolute land development, job creation (regardless of type and cost) and more office space. Continue reading “Inspire Yes, But Act As Well”
The following guest post is provided by Thomas P. Miller and Associates, a national workforce development consulting firm and partner with Fourth Economy Consulting on numerous projects to align workforce and economic development.
The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, or WIOA, was passed in July 2014 to reauthorize Congress to fund federal workforce and job training programs from 2015-2020. It is the first major workforce development legislation in over 15 years and replaces the Workforce Investment Act of 1998, or WIA.
Through WIOA, the U.S. Department of Labor is focusing its efforts on better aligning federal funding with the in-demand skills required by business and industry. States are required to identify workforce/economic development regions and coordinate planning efforts and service delivery strategies. Continue reading “WIA to WIOA – What It Means for Economic Developers”
In the words of Steve Wozniak, “If you’re that rare engineer who’s an inventor and also an artist, I’m going to give you some advice that might be hard to take. That advice is: Work alone. You’re going to be best able to design revolutionary products and features if you’re working on your own. Not on a committee. Not on a team.”
Micropreneurs are a unique breed of business owner who independently work in a niche market, are willing to accept the risk of starting and managing the type of business that remains small, strive for a balanced lifestyle and have the chance to do the work they want to do. Similar to the old-world model of the neighborhood butcher, cobbler and blacksmith, micropreneurs offer products that make a difference and provide amazing value to niche markets. Modern versions of micropreneurs include programmers/developers, writers, solo consultants and online boutique owners (think Etsy). These distinct business owners strive for little to no expansion, are happy to work alone with no employees and are willing to forego outside funding. One discernible advantage that modern micropreneurs have is access to the Internet which allows them to launch and offer their products or services to a world-wide audience.
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.
The Fourth Economy team has been busy with several planning and community evaluation projects. I find it very useful to step back for minute, take a few notes and share some observations. Here are four points that emerged from these recent projects to keep in mind if “winning” (attracting-retaining) new investment is a goal:
1) Remember the Human Element
Businesses are not robot-like monolithic entities (although we may feel at times some do qualify as such). They are people, working in a systematic approach to achieve common goals. The things that motivate each of us also influence business decisions. The human element applies to both physical connectivity (transit, parks, walking etc.) and social connectivity (social media, blogs, chats etc.). At our core, we are social beings – we like to share ideas, communicate, connect with others and move about a town. Facilitating these connections with smart infrastructure planning, amenities and through the use of social media encourages community building and civic engagement. Increasingly these factors are helping to attract new investment, making many communities more competitive.
2) Find Your Value
It’s not only about how much it costs to live and do business. It is about the value of a location. I have seen first hand businesses choose to invest in high-cost locations in order to ensure they have access to a qualified workforce, research support, quality infrastructure and customer base. Communities that can provide and promote high value resources, whether they take the form of a university research center, recreational amenities or existing industry network, can remain competitive despite a higher cost structure. This is especially true as companies become more technologically dependent, smaller and require less space.
3) Housing is Fundamental
Don’t confuse affordable housing with quality marketable housing. Without a solid and diverse housing stock (single family, condos, townhomes, apartments), it is very difficult to attract and retain a qualified and professional workforce. As a result, businesses may pass you by. Overall housing values, quality and availability are more important now to the potential buyer, renter or investor and will likely remain so for the foreseeable future, than the cost of housing alone. If your community has an older poor quality housing stock, take steps to reinvent, form public/private partnerships to prepare sites, rehab and reinvest.
4) Education – The New Natural Resource
The analogy = Talented people are to today’s businesses as coal was to the steel and railroad industry. Educational attainment levels as a percentage of the overall population continues to remain a top consideration in the modern investment decision process. If your community does not compare well in this category, it likely won’t change overnight. Look for concentrations of talent within your community or highlight the fact that you may be trending in the right direction. Promote any strategies you have in place to facilitate future change in this area.
We all know that competition for new business investment and residential base is fierce. It’s being played out on a global playing field. These four insights may serve as a reminder or a new tidbit of information to consider as part of a “winning” strategy development.