Big Disruptions – Water

121102-WaterWhile research and data can often predict trends in our economy, large, disruptive changes can have signifiant impacts on how we live our lives. The economy is changing rapidly, growing more interconnected and dynamic. Now more than every past trends do not indicate future performance. Unfortunately, the tools of economic analysis are much better at predicting stable patterns than at predicting significant inflection points and transitions. The data and methods of economics tells us about the past, so even when we do it well, it helps us to predict the stable patterns – it does not predict big disruptions like the housing collapse of 2008. In a recent webinar for the University Economic Development Association (UEDA), I discussed three areas of disruption that will have a major impact on most of our communities. 1) System Disruption, 2) Environmental Disruption, and 3) Cultural Disruption.

You can view the webinar here. This blog post is the first in a series that will explore how a specific community is preparing for one of these disruptions. Milwaukee has taken the issue of water head on. In 2009, a group of Milwaukee-area businesses, education and government leaders formed The Water Council as a 501(c)(3) organization with a mission of aligning the regional freshwater research community with water-related industries. The Water Council links global water technology companies, innovative water entrepreneurs, government, nonprofits, and researchers with a shared commitment to finding innovative solutions to critical global water issues.
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Keystones from the Keystone State

Keystone-Blog-ImageThe Fourth Economy team completed several client engagements this year in our home state of Pennsylvania.  The Commonwealth’s economic character remains diverse, anchored on each side by first and second-class cities with just over 50 smaller third-class cities dominating the remaining landscape.  While Pittsburgh and Philadelphia are realizing steady gains, in many ways the greatest opportunities and challenges remain in the smaller more rural communities.  The good news is that increasingly shifts in resident preferences and the deployment of new technologies are placing these smaller, authentic communities in the bulls-eye for new investment in growth.

Among our Pennsylvania projects, the team worked with the City of Lebanon to develop a new economic development plan and downtown reinvestment strategy.  We also worked with the Armstrong County School District just outside of Pittsburgh on a school building highest and best use analysis.  And finally a project with the Butler County Community College (BC3) focused on developing an innovative new system for the delivery and promotion of its economic development services.
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Three Ingredients to Support Market Opportunities – Moving Beyond Industry Clusters

ProvidenceBlogImageFourth Economy recently concluded a Cluster Development Strategy project for the City Council of Providence, RI. The analysis, conversations and excitement that was demonstrated during the process underscores the need to think beyond traditional Industry Clusters and be open to identifying emerging sectors that may still require definition.

The City of Providence is an example of many communities throughout the country, especially in the Midwest, Northeast and New England, where economies that once were led by industrial dominance are still searching for the right mix of legacy and emerging businesses and organizations to regain strength. While finding an easy strategy to replicate in these communities remains elusive if not impossible, I offer 3 ingredients that must exist in order to advance an approach that embraces Market Opportunities.
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Regional quality of place and the fight against blight

BlightBy now, the costs of blight and vacancy are well-documented in terms of unpaid local and school taxes, drained municipal resources, further disinvestment, and/or declining adjacent property values.  We have also seen in from our clients the key role that quality of place plays in retaining and attracting talent – a key driver for economic success.  No matter the size, competitive communities create places where people want to live and work, and blight can be a major blow in that endeavor.  Continue reading “Regional quality of place and the fight against blight”

Which Trend is Your Community Experiencing?

Number-Five

Fourth Economy Consulting has turned five and has topped over 200 client engagements in that short period.  And by engagements, I mean that we have had the great fortune to partner with community leaders all over the country as they work to strengthen their organizations and communities. This experience has provided me with yes you guessed it, five notable trends that I wanted to share with you.  Continue reading “Which Trend is Your Community Experiencing?”

Increasing the Economic Impact of Trails

Economic-Impact-Trails

Across the country, communities are beginning to understand the economic value of developing trails. Though trail advocates and economic development organizations still often speak different languages, they are beginning to speak a shared language of talent attraction, tourism, and business development.

Different types of trails offer different economic opportunities. Continue reading “Increasing the Economic Impact of Trails”

Fourth Economy Releases 2015 County-by-County Competitiveness Analysis for Pennsylvania

PA-County-Competitiveness-Analysis-FEC-IndexNew analysis highlights the economic competitiveness of counties across the Commonwealth.

HARRISBURG, PA – Fourth Economy Consulting today announced the release of the 2015 Pennsylvania County Competitive Analysis, an assessment of how counties across the Commonwealth are performing economically. At the core, the analysis is based on the company’s Fourth Economy Community Index, which examines both statistical and qualitative factors at the county-level across the U.S. within the economic factors of investment, talent, sustainability, place, and diversity. Continue reading “Fourth Economy Releases 2015 County-by-County Competitiveness Analysis for Pennsylvania”

Trends in Town-Gown Collaboration

Trending-Town-GownToday’s economy elevates the value of higher education institutions to the highest degree of public awareness ever demonstrated. Higher education institutions impact their community in a host of very obvious ways, such as:

  • Supporting the development of 21st century talent armed with skills to drive modern business;
  • Employing a range of professionals in a sector often recognized as the largest in many small communities;
  • and Initiating research and development initiatives supporting the advancement of technology and improved economic performance.

These examples speak to the common ways nearly every institution engages. Yet, what does it mean for a campus to be truly connected to its community? Continue reading “Trends in Town-Gown Collaboration”

9 Themes Identified in Transformed Regional Cities

141106-Transformative-Cities

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.

But first… Continue reading “9 Themes Identified in Transformed Regional Cities”

The Best of the Top of the Greatest

Photo-Rustiq-TemplateFor economic and community developers, a new “best of” and “top places” ranking season is underway.  While it may not be as popular as basketball’s March Madness, there is no doubt that economic and community performance rankings attract a lot of attention. They are of great interest to the media, elected officials, the business community and residents at-large.

But rankings are only one part of a very complex economic performance story. Compounding their use and reliability is the fact that not all adopt the most rigorous, relevant or transparent methods.  And positive or negative scores do not impact all business investment decision-making in the same way.
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