Ready, Set, Survey…

Survey-Tailgate

As summer BBQs turn to fall tailgates, how often do you find that neighborly backyard burger flipping leads to discussions on how great your town is or how much better it could be.  Sure there is always room for improvement, but ever wonder how those opinions and impressions sync-up with the facts.  Sometimes we are too hard on our own community when it may really be doing quite well, while other times it is heading for a cliff that nobody seems to notice or care.  In either case, gaining a better understanding of how impressions align with the facts is a good starting point for long-term strategic planning. Continue reading “Ready, Set, Survey…”

New Economic Realities for Communities Mean New (and More Sustainable) Approaches

Community-SustainabilityBy Joanna Nadeau, Director of Community Programs
Audubon International

For better or worse, many towns and cities are experiencing new economic realities. Around the country, communities that historically depended on manufacturing or farming for jobs are suffering, as those sectors continue a long term decline. Fourth Economy and Audubon International have a shared interest in assisting cities and local governments in addressing the challenges they face through sustainable solutions.

To be sustainable, a local economy must be two things: 1) diverse—that is, based on a wide range of profitable sectors—and 2) making the most of natural assets while protecting them for the future. Continue reading “New Economic Realities for Communities Mean New (and More Sustainable) Approaches”

Cultural diversity in the “fourth economy”

Diversity-Fourth-Economy

Building the “fourth economy” is all about combining traditional economic development tools with creative solutions to ever-evolving challenges.   The Fourth Economy Index is our framework for thinking about what sets communities and regions up for success: investment, talent, sustainability, place, and diversity.

Elements of these indicators came up again and again throughout three “21st Century Cities and Global Leadership” discussions at the recent Thrival Festival, focusing on questions like what might attract and retain talent in Pittsburgh and how to ensure that economic growth is sustainable.  And while diversity can mean many different things (and does as a metric in the Fourth Economy Index), one element of diversity that had an undeniable presence throughout the discussion was cultural diversity. Continue reading “Cultural diversity in the “fourth economy””

Inside International Immigration in Pittsburgh: A look at High-Skilled High-Paying Occupations

Pittsburgh-ImmigrationRecently we were working on a grant about how to better prepare our workforce for the jobs available to them. During this process, I was asked to investigate H1-B Visa applications. What I found altered my perception about the nature of the highly-skilled, highly-paid immigrant worker population in Pittsburgh. Between October 2012 and March 2013, one thousand five hundred and twenty-four (1,524) immigrant visa applications were approved through the Department of Labor. All 1,524 H1-B Visa are for highly-skilled, highly-paid, and hard-to-fill positions. The H-1B is a non-immigrant visa in the United States under the Immigration and Nationality Act, section 101(a)(15)(H). It allows U.S. employers to temporarily employ foreign workers in specialty occupations. Continue reading “Inside International Immigration in Pittsburgh: A look at High-Skilled High-Paying Occupations”

National Fourth Economy Community Index Lists Top 10 Large-Sized Counties for 2013

Fourth Economy Consulting announces the latest release of its national community index, listing top counties from across the nation. The Fourth Economy Index highlights those communities ideally positioned to attract modern investment and managed economic growth within the fourth economy.

PITTSBURGH, PA – The latest release of the “Fourth Economy Community (FEC) Index” was announced today listing the nation’s top 10 large-sized Fourth Economy Communities. These communities are those ideally positioned to attract modern investment and managed economic growth.

The “fourth economy” characterizes the most recent phase of our nation’s economy, reflecting a combination of the previous three to include agrarian, industrial, and technological. This new index is intended to serve as a dashboard for community stakeholders to gauge their capacity to attract and retain modern investment.

“There has never been a more important time for economic and community developers to rethink how we measure economic success,” said Rich Overmoyer, CEO of Fourth Economy Consulting, the economic development firm that created the index in 2011.  “Recent articles in the New York Times and The Atlantic on the use of state incentives to lure big companies reinforces that an outdated model of economic development needs to be evolved to one that considers a broader set of community investment opportunities. The Fourth Economy Index is an attempt to highlight what makes stronger, economically viable communities,” Overmoyer added. Continue reading “National Fourth Economy Community Index Lists Top 10 Large-Sized Counties for 2013”

Eds, Meds & Feds: The Innovation Economy in the DC Metro Region

Although governments have been reluctant to resort to New Deal-style direct job creation, agencies at all levels are seeking ways to accelerate the current economic recovery. One of the most reliable formulas researchers have identified for private-sector growth has been the regional innovation cluster model. Regions build upon their existing university programs, industrial capacity and technology strengths to develop a competitive advantage that promotes export-driven growth with high-value jobs. Some regional planners proudly report that their innovation clusters provide “5% of the companies, 10% of the jobs and 20% of the payroll.” Continue reading “Eds, Meds & Feds: The Innovation Economy in the DC Metro Region”

Rethinking the Same Old: 4 Trends Shaping New Economic Development Models

Many traditional approaches and methods for economic development are failing to keep up with the changing nature of job creation and investment in our communities. We submit that even those traditional measures, jobs and investment totals, that have been sacrosanct for the last 50 years, are losing relevancy. Why? Here are four key observations that are creating the urgency to rethink traditional economic models, tools and measures. Continue reading “Rethinking the Same Old: 4 Trends Shaping New Economic Development Models”

National Fourth Economy Community Index Lists Top 10 Small-Sized Counties for 2012

Fourth Economy Consulting has launched a new index, listing top counties based on key attributes and sizes from across the nation.

PITTSBURGH, PA – The “Fourth Economy Community (FEC) Index” was released today listing the nation’s top 10 small-sized Fourth Economy Communities. This category features counties with between 100,000 to 150,000 residents that are ideally positioned to attract modern investment and managed economic growth.

“The ‘fourth economy’ defines our nation’s current economy, reflecting a combination of the previous three: agrarian, industrial, and technological,” said Rich Overmoyer, Fourth Economy President and CEO. “This new index is intended to serve as a dashboard for community stakeholders to gauge their capacity to attract and retain modern investment.”

Continue reading “National Fourth Economy Community Index Lists Top 10 Small-Sized Counties for 2012”

National Fourth Economy Community Index Lists Top 10 Mid-Sized Counties for 2012

Fourth Economy Consulting has launched a new index, listing top counties from across the nation. The Fourth Economy Index highlights those communities ideally positioned to attract modern investment and managed economic growth within the fourth economy.

PITTSBURGH, PA – A newly created “Fourth Economy Community (FEC) Index” was released today listing the nation’s top 10 mid-sized Fourth Economy Communities. These communities are those ideally positioned to attract modern investment and managed economic growth.

The “fourth economy” characterizes the nation’s current economic condition, reflecting a combination of the previous three to include agrarian, industrial, and technological. This new index is intended serve as a dashboard for community stakeholders to gauge their capacity to attract and retain modern investment.

“We have worked with numerous communities and economic development organizations across the country and are witnessing first hand the ways communities are responding to the new economic reality,” said Rich Overmoyer, Fourth Economy President and CEO. “We are using these experiences to launch the Fourth Economy Community Index.”

“It is not surprising to see the leading fourth economy counties blend both rural and urban character, offering their residents diverse living and working options,” said Stephen McKnight, Fourth Economy Consulting Vice President of Community and Market Assessments.

“Another common attribute is a geographic association with institutions of higher education, which are the modern engine in the fourth economy. As a result, these communities can provide the talent and place-based strategies that address housing, recreation and amenities for smaller, high-value businesses to thrive,” McKnight added.

About the Fourth Economy Community Index

The Fourth Economy Community Index considers several county-level measures within five areas: 1) Investment, 2) Talent, 3) Sustainability, 4) Place, and 5) Diversity. These five areas serve as a foundation for future economic success to include wage and employment growth, education levels, drive times, home values, minority business ownership, agricultural capacity and population density. The measures are weighted based on the level of influence they have on both internal and external investment decisions.

The FEC Index scores for this listing ranged from 0 to 4.5. They included only mid-sized counties (population of 150,000 to 300,000) with education attainment above 25% and average travel times less than 20 minutes. Beyond the initial FEC Index measures, the analysis also considers the capacity for a community to support innovation. The FEC Index expresses an innovation capacity score as a letter grade, determined by the online source Stats-America. This grade considers factors such as human capital, state policy context and productivity. Fourth Economy Consulting will periodically produce additional Index listings for micro, small and large counties.

The Top 10 Mid-Sized Communities for 2012

#1: Fayette County, Kentucky

  • FEC Index Score: 4.5
  • Innovation Capacity: A-
  • Population: 295,000

Topping the inaugural list for mid-sized counties is Fayette County, Kentucky. Fayette is home to the City of Lexington and is the self proclaimed “Horse Capital of the World.” Recognized as a top bike-friendly location, Fayette offers both high quality place-based amenities along with critical resources to support innovation.

“Lexington-Fayette County’s economic success can be attributed to a vibrant, diversified economy, an entrepreneurial focus, a signature public research institution, and one of America’s most educated workforces,” said Robert L. Quick, President of Commerce Lexington. “Its blend of advanced manufacturing, high-tech transfer efforts, a quality P-16 educational system, innovative health care options, and a strong equine industry help the area to grow and prosper,” Quick added.

In recent years, Lexington has seen major downtown development driven by both the private sector and the University of Kentucky. New housing options and urban amenities are attracting young professionals to the urban core. This trend is bolstered by a “green perimeter” surrounding Lexington. “This is space set aside for horse pastures and agricultural development,” Quick added.

Adding to Fayette County’s attractiveness is a high level of efficiency in its economic development service delivery. “Within the last decade, Lexington’s economic development efforts have been streamlined, with a focus on the customer through a simplified process from start to finish,” Quick noted. “This decision to create a partnership between Commerce Lexington Inc., the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government and the University of Kentucky has helped accelerate the process for relocating and expanding companies. “

#2: New Hanover County, North Carolina

  • FEC Index Score: 4.4
  • Innovation Capacity: A-
  • Population: 202,000

Home to the City of Wilmington, New Hanover County effectively blends beach with business. New Hanover is flanked by the Atlantic to the east and the Cape Fear River to the west. Thanks to a quaint downtown, improved air access and educational assets including the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, the resident population has skyrocketed by 21% since 2000.

#3: Sarpy County, Nebraska

  • FEC Index Score: 3.1
  • Innovation Capacity: B+
  • Population: 159,000

Home to the U.S. Strategic Air Command, Sarpy County is just south of Omaha, Nebraska. While the smallest county by area in Nebraska, it’s the third largest in terms of population. Nestled between the Platt and Missouri rivers, Sarpy serves as an attractive bedroom and small business community to neighboring Omaha and the University of Nebraska.

#4: Brown County, Wisconsin

  • FEC Index Score: 2.3
  • Innovation Capacity: B+
  • Population: 248,000

Yes, this county boasts an NFL team, cheese and infamously brutal winters, but beyond being home to NFL football team Green Bay Packers, Brown County and its largest city Green Bay continues to expand its economic opportunities and urban development projects. While paper and cheese manufacturing remain the key economic drivers, the economy is diversifying. It is a key port town to the Great Lakes and a center for research thanks to the University of Wisconsin.

#5: Greene County, Missouri

  • FEC Index Score: 2.1
  • Innovation Capacity: B-
  • Population: 275,000

Located in the southwestern region of Missouri, Greene County is home to the City of Springfield – “the Gateway to the Ozarks.” In recent years Greene has seen considerable economic growth due to local expansions from majors like Kraft and Expedia. Expedia recently required a local Springfield company called TravelNow.com and merged it with their Hotel.com brand. The firm added 500 new people in the last year making its Springfield location their largest outside of their headquarters in Bellevue, WA.

Rounding out the Top 10…

#6: Greene County, Ohio

  • FEC Index Score: 2.0
  • Innovation Capacity: A-
  • Population: 161,000

#7: Brazos County, Texas

  • FEC Index Score: 1.9
  • Innovation Capacity: A+
  • Population: 195,000

#8: Lancaster County, Nebraska

  • FEC Index Score: 1.8
  • Innovation Capacity: A+
  • Population: 285,000

#9: Lubbock County, Texas

  • FEC Index Score: 1.8
  • Innovation Capacity: B-
  • Population: 279,000

#10: Pitt County, North Carolina

  • FEC Index Score: 1.7
  • Innovation Capacity: B-
  • Population: 168,000

Is Your Community Ready for the Fourth Economy?

This past year, the Fourth Economy Team members worked on various community and economic development projects across the country. We have witnessed firsthand the ways that communities and organizations are responding to their new economic reality. We continue to learn a lot about how and why competitive communities attract sustainable investment in the “fourth economy.”

As we welcome the start of our second year, we are using these experiences to launch the Fourth Economy Community Index. This is not another stale “best places” ranking. Rather, this index will serve as a high level dashboard for community stakeholders to gauge their capacity to attract and retain sustainable investment.

The Fourth Economy Community Index will examine both statistical and qualitative factors at the County level within five areas: 1) Investment, 2) Talent, 3) Sustainability, 4) Place, and 5) Diversity.

How will it work?

First, the index will consider statistical measures we have identified as a foundation for future economic success. Each measure will be weighted based on the level of influence they have on both internal and external investment decisions.

Next, we will examine qualitative factors. These can include factors, such as character of development, recent business expansions, commitment to sustainability, unique incentives, regional collaboration, awards and recognition, state policy influence, infrastructure planning and other key assets in place that can support investment in the fourth economy.

The Result?

Based on the composite score, each County will be placed as one of the following Fourth Economy Community Index categories: 1) Champion, 2) Accelerator, 3) Emerging, or 4) Potential. Whether you are a Fourth Economy Champion Community or demonstrate the Potential, the index will help to identify areas to improve and/or assets to leverage for continued growth. Throughout the year we will release a Top 10 Index report for each category. Every month we will also feature a Fourth Economy Community in our newsletter.

How Can You Participate Now?

Remember, statistics are only part of the story. The most important assets and trends are often not reflected in statistics alone. We need to hear your side of the fourth economy story. Please feel free to contact me directly via email and/or join our Fourth Economy Communities Linked-In Sub-Group. Send news articles or other community happenings that you feel make your community a competitive place for investment in the fourth economy.

We look forward to launching this exciting new project and learning more about how the fourth economy is developing in your town.