Education Innovation

Remake-LearningI think that few among our readers would argue that fostering an innovative K-12 education ecosystem plays a critical role in economic development. Employers and economic development officials from any industry will tell you that the critical skills for a modern workforce begin at the K-12 level. They will also tell you that attracting and retaining their current workforce means creating a community in which employees want to live, and education is a major factor in creating livable communities. However, influencing K-12 education to ensure that it’s creating an intelligent and creative next generation workforce often feels like an overwhelming challenge given the systemic barriers. Continue reading “Education Innovation”

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”

Market Opportunity Networks: Advancing Economic Development Strategy

130906-Market-Opportunity-NetworksOne of the most influential and widely pursued theories in economic development has been the use of industry clusters, or simply clusters, to focus services in a regional economy. This approach allows communities to consider the needs of interconnected firms and define a focus. What it fails to do though is to contemplate potential impacts on these clusters, both positive and negative, by market dynamics. As a result, the practice of using industry clusters as an economic development strategy is an approach that has run its course.

The Fourth Economy team has long been involved in developing and implementing cluster strategies and we have come to appreciate the advantages and disadvantages of the cluster approach. Along the way, we have developed methods, tools, and best practices that we believe can help regions to more effectively leverage their potential for economic prosperity. In this article, we first review the pros and cons of clusters and then discuss a modern approach that we call Market Opportunity Networks, which retains the advantages of clusters and reduces the disadvantages. Since 2006 members of the Fourth Economy team have been developing this methodology and demonstrated success with a number of clients. Continue reading “Market Opportunity Networks: Advancing Economic Development Strategy”

A Look at the Bluster About Clusters

As a current planning student, I’ve spent much of the last year reading comprehensive plans and have noticed a few trends along the way. One such trend is the popularity of nodes and clusters. Known by many names, a node or cluster is exactly what it sounds like – areas of higher density that are generally home to commercial, retail, and residential activities, often times in the same buildings and certainly within a defined geographic area. The idea is that this type of development is more efficient. People can live and work within walking distance to the things they need for their daily lives thereby reducing gas expenses; maximizing existing infrastructure and reducing the need for costly road and sewer expansion; and protecting the agricultural and natural heritages of our communities. Continue reading “A Look at the Bluster About Clusters”

Innovation Networks and Economic Growth

Here at Fourth Economy, we’re always looking for opportunities to identify and build upon local assets. This often takes the form of bringing together various stakeholders to advance specific technologies and sectors. We’re currently working on building more robust sectors around both energy and water here in the greater Pittsburgh region and beyond. Even though this work is challenging, a dense network of universities, technology intermediaries, economic development partners, and private sector businesses aids our work. But what happens when you leave the “big city” and those players are spread further across a region?

Continue reading “Innovation Networks and Economic Growth”

Regional Innovation Clusters – Old wine in new bottles?

Bruce Katz and Mark Muro from The Brookings Institution explained the revival of clusters. Brookings is co-hosting a big event on September 23 at the Mayflower Hotel on Regional Innovation Clusters. The cluster concept has suffered from too many souls on the bandwagon with too little understanding of the contribution that clusters can make to economic development. Clusters are not about targeting industries or finding the next bubble, but an approach to develop a more grounded and sustainable path to prosperity.

Katz and Muro provide a simple outline for leveraging the power of Regional Industry Clusters. You can also get a copy of their full report or just the executive summary. They aren’t just re-packaging old concepts in new bottles. This report provides valuable guidance for economic developers at all levels.