Higher Eds use Economic Impact Studies for what?!

University-Economic-Impact-StudyThe answer is Higher Eds use economic and social impact studies for a lot of different reasons. Underlying is the desire to showcase their good work and demonstrate the value their work creates. And they want to communicate that value in terms that will resonate with internal and external audiences.  Audiences may include: public officials, policy makers, community residents, investors, and Higher Ed faculty, staff, students and alumni. Economic and social impact studies help Higher Eds compete for state funding, maintain their tax-exempt status, help defend against criticism and help increase fund-raising. Continue reading “Higher Eds use Economic Impact Studies for what?!”

What’s New in Economic Impact

131022-What's-New-in-Economic-ImpactHaving personally conducted and written more than 75 comprehensive economic impact studies using linear cash flow models for higher education and health care clients over my 16+ year career, I thought it would be interesting to look more closely at how the focus of economic impact reports has changed over the years.  Continue reading “What’s New in Economic Impact”

Innovation Clusters: Water is Gold

Forget the gold rush.  A “water rush” is underway and water rich states are well positioned.

Just a few short years ago businesses expanding or relocating were likely to cite broadband and transportation networks among the most important factors in their decision process.  The Southwestern U.S. has been targeted for the majority of this investment activity. But with below average snowpack, higher temperatures, growing consumption, and extreme drought appearing to be the new normal, water has quickly become the new gold.

Continue reading “Innovation Clusters: Water is Gold”

PA Governor’s Proposed Budget Cuts Millions from Economic Development Programs

Today in Harrisburg, Governor Corbett revealed his proposal for the 2012-2013 budget. We wanted to provide a quick summary and high-level observations to members of the economic development community. The bottom line is that there is little to be excited about if you work in the economic development or related communities in Pennsylvania.

First, this budget continues and in some cases adds to the cuts that have been faced by almost all of the Department of Community and Economic Development programs. The chart below illustrates the impact over the past 12 budget cycles on the economic development initiatives in the Commonwealth.


Commonwealth of PA Economic Development Funding

Source: Fourth Economy Consulting


This year’s budget further reduces economic development spending by $3.6 million from 2012-2013 figures.

This is a total of $60.9 million from the end of the previous administration with several programs consolidated or eliminated in the past two years. The chart provided also breaks out Commonwealth Financing Debt service as this funding is going to pay off previous commitments rather than being available for new investments.

The larger cuts are in the areas of Pennsylvania First (decreased by $2.5 million) and the Marketing to Attract Tourists (decreased by $1 million).

Programs such as the Ben Franklin Technology Development Authority which supports the Ben Franklin Technology Partners ($14.5 million), the Life Science Greenhouses ($3 million), and the newer Discovered and Developed in PA program ($9.9 million) are level funded in the Governor’s proposal. It remains to be seen if the Corbett administration will continue to support the Keystone Innovation Zone program. Previously those funds were provided as part of the BFTDA funding but in the past year the appropriation went to support the regional Ben Franklin Technology Partners.

One major blow to the state’s colleges and research universities that are performing health research is a redirection of all funding for the Health Research Priorities otherwise known as the Commonwealth Universal Research Enhancement program (CURE). Last year the CURE program supported $55.8 million in research funding and if the Governor’s proposal passes they will received no funding.

The budget negotiation process begins today and the Governor has made his recommendations. We will keep you posted about the conversations. If you have any questions or information to share please feel free to ask and comment.




Inovation-Based Economic Development vs. State Budgets

Before we get too far into the new fiscal year, we thought we’d go back and look at how the innovation-based economic development (IBED) world fared in the last round of state budgets. Tax credits continue to be a favored tool to spur growth and investment in the IBED world. Even though budgets are tight, many states have maintained or increased funding for IBED-related tax credits, and a few, such as Nebraska and Virginia have introduced new ones. Supporting commercialization efforts was also high on the list this legislative season. Ohio’s Third Frontier, for instance, has a new Commercial Acceleration Loan Fund worth $25 million. With waning investment from traditional venture capital firms, several states are stepping in to fill the gap. Maryland’s new InvestMaryland program allocates $70 million for venture capital in the innovation economy sector. And though it was developed back in 1989, Economic Gardening has only recently started to catch hold on the regional and state level. Nebraska, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Michigan have all introduced new initiatives this year. The trend of the year, though, seems to be the restructuring of state-level economic development efforts, with a particular emphasis on engaging the private sector. Many of these efforts are currently facing some controversy, but we wouldn’t be surprised if once the wrinkles get ironed out, this is a trend that’s here to stay.

 Download the complete White Paper:
Perspecitves – Innovation-Based Economic Development vs. State Budgets


And…don’t forget about our poll this month…


Think we missed something? We’d love to hear from you. Share your thoughts in the comments below…



The Future of Community Development: Throw Out Your Textbook

Last November I packed my bags and moved to Pittsburgh to begin my career in community development. Given my background and the number of community-based organizations (CBOs) tucked within the city’s neighborhoods, I assumed that I would end up working directly for a CBO. However, those jobs were few and far between, as CBOs across the city, and the nation, are in the midst of great changes.

Most CBOs depend a great deal upon government-funded programs, such as Community Development Block Grants. In these times of fiscal austerity, however, government funding for community development, like everything else, is dwindling. And what remains, is often a whole new beast. The Pennsylvania Main Street program, for example, now determines funding eligibility based on the principles of partnerships, performance based metrics, and competition. Foundations are encouraging similar changes, as a way to decrease duplication of services and increase efficiency. For example, the local funding collaborative, Pittsburgh Partnership for Neighborhood Development, announced last year that they would begin directing the majority of their funds into multi-neighborhood clusters with the goal of developing concentrated areas of expertise. These trends are visibly pushing the community development world towards greater collaboration, and often, smaller organizations.

Due to the changing dynamics within the community development field, my job search ended, not at a CBO as I had originally anticipated, but at Fourth Economy Consulting. Now, as the Community Development Strategist, I am able to help CBOs here and across the country figure out how to navigate these changes. At Fourth Economy, we’re working with CBOs to help them think creatively, strategically, and realistically about their goals, programming, and revenue sources.

The basis for this work often boils down to helping a CBO understand three things: their niche, their social impact, and their market. In order to adapt to this new climate, organizations are taking a step back to clarify what it is that they do better than anyone else, how to quantify their work in terms of social impact, and where the market is presenting opportunities or necessitating change. Several organizations in Pittsburgh are currently trying to answer those questions and as a result, new CBOs are being born, and old CBOs are reorganizing or closing their doors for good. It’s still too early to know exactly what the new face of community development in Pittsburgh, or across the nation, will look like, but one thing is certain – if you’re looking to begin a career in the field, organizations are looking, not for textbook solutions, but for flexible, innovative ideas to push community development forward into the future.