48 Hours in Pittsburgh with the Consulate General of Canada

Bernard-Blog-20160405To many Americans, Canada is our friendly neighbor to the north, known for an affable attitude, a passion for pucks and a penchant for strong beer.  What is perhaps less known is how critical trade with Canada is to the economy of the United States.  Consider:

  • Nearly 9 million U.S. jobs depend on trade and investment with Canada
  • Canada is the top export destination for 35 states
  • Canada is the number one supplier of crude oil, refined petroleum products, natural gas,
    and electricity to the U.S. as well as a
    leading supplier of uranium
  • 400,000 people cross the Canada–U.S. border daily

Source: http://can-am.gc.ca/can-am/index.aspx?lang=eng

Continue reading “48 Hours in Pittsburgh with the Consulate General of Canada”

Request for Information: Fourth Economy Seeking Information for Current Client’s RFP Directory

Burgh-BridgeFourth Economy Consulting announces posting of a Request for Information for a current client project. Submitting firms will be included in a one-stop-shop resource directory of best-in-class urban-regional + economic development planning firms. This directory provides client with stocked resource for direct RFP solicitation to leading firms.

Fourth Economy Consulting (FEC) is soliciting company information from urban-regional and economic development planning firms to be used in directory resource for a current client. FEC is presently working with a Midwestern client on the research and developmental stages of a large, multiphase statewide initiative. The client’s ambitious project has requested FEC to perform a preliminary expert study of successful regional economic and quality of life transformations in metro areas throughout the US. Continue reading “Request for Information: Fourth Economy Seeking Information for Current Client’s RFP Directory”

A Fourth Economy Work Product with Legs

131122-Transit-ReportOne of the regular questions asked of our firm is “what Fourth Economy projects or reports have been implemented?”  While we think all of them have added value and are implemented to some degree, one project stands out.  In 2009 Fourth Economy teamed with Clear View Strategies and URS Corporation to conduct a study on Transit Oriented Development (TOD).

The client was the Southwestern Planning Commission in Pennsylvania.  The product entitled Future Investment in TOD (or FIT) was a first of its kind report that not only documented the success factors for a TOD but also provided a predictive model for planners and economic developers to determine where and how a TOD development would have the greatest economic impact and success. Continue reading “A Fourth Economy Work Product with Legs”

Fourth Economy Organizations

Fourth-Economy-OrganizationsAs I’m getting settled in at my new position at Fourth Economy, I have been thinking about how I can blend my experiences into the team’s current projects and approaches. I have known some of the Fourth Economy team for many years, and I’m certainly someone who has promoted and supported their brand of progressive innovative growth strategies / economic development, and regional development. At the same time, I’m someone who has worked for many years promoting the strategic value that sustainability principles (triple bottom line) bring to companies, organizations and collaborative initiatives. So, I’ve been thinking about the sustainability side of the fourth economy and the organizations we’ll find there. Continue reading “Fourth Economy Organizations”

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.
Continue reading “The Best of the Top of the Greatest”

Fourth Economy Works to Advance Water Economy Network 2013 Action Plan

Pipe-Rustiq-TemplateAs part of a growing organizational development practice area, Fourth Economy is continuing to help build and advance the Water Economy Network’s (Network) 2013 agenda and action plan. Several major initiatives were announced in the first quarter of this year designed to expand Greater Pittsburgh’s water sector market opportunities. “Since our inaugural board meeting in November 2012 we have moved very quickly to analyze the market opportunities, define clear objectives for our organization, create a governance structure and move forward on several fronts,” said Network Chair Sam Johnson, director of water asset management for CONSOL Energy.“

“Our aggressive first-year plan includes spearheading a water innovation challenge program, coordinating work plans with several national water innovation collaboratives, co-hosting a major international water innovation conference in Pittsburgh and continuing to identify water sector challenges and the market opportunities they represent,” Johnson added.
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Poll Results: Cap & Trade

What do you think about cap and trade systems? That’s the question we asked in our last newsletter after discussing the waxing and waning of support for cap and trade after the past couple of decades.

And the survey results reinforce the fact that this is a confusing, messy issue. On the issues of whether or not they provide positive environmental benefits or whether they are effective at reducing the cost of regulating the environment, respondents were pretty much split.

Furthermore, while the majority of people felt that we should go ahead and implement new programs despite a poor economy, because they would promote innovation and job growth, many disagreed. And just to secure the point that there’s a lot of variables to consider, several of you offered comments about the viability of a carbon tax instead, how we decide what to cap and where the cap is set, and how cap and trade could be applied globally.

One thing everyone agreed on, however, was that we need more evidence on the effectiveness of cap and trade programs. Unfortunately, with waning political support for national cap and trade and uncertain futures for regional initiatives, we aren’t likely to see that evidence any time soon.

Regional Innovation Clusters: The TechBelt Initiative (a best practice)

If you work in economic development or are in a business that thrives on innovation you have probably heard about regional innovation clusters or some version of the theme. With the White House promoting Startup America with a focus innovation and entrepreneurship from coast to Cleveland and looking to regions as partners you soon may have a regional innovation cluster map drawn over your workplace.

The core model of economic clusters is not new but the approach has evolved over the years. For a unique approach and a best practice I recommend the TechBelt Initiative. TechBelt has been linking economic development activities in the Cleveland, Youngstown and Pittsburgh corridor for several years now.

 

In full disclosure I am biased to proclaim the TechBelt Initiative a best practice since my firm is staff the effort. I do have objectivity as my team works with innovation-based economic development groups throughout the country. There are a lot of great efforts underway and all can learn from one another. What TechBelt can share is the following:

First, the TechBelt Initiative operates under an approach of what Ed Morrision calls Strategic Doing, which is simply explained as a “learning by doing” model. The TechBelt relies less on overproduced studies and more on instinct and ‘just in time analysis’ to understand the best direction to take and investments to make.

Second, the TechBelt has chosen an approach that limits formality and bureaucracy to allow for rapid team building and responsive decision-making. This allows over three-dozen organizations to work together collaboratively and not get hung up on who is in charge.

Third, the TechBelt has regional leaders of organizations that care deeply about their communities and organizations they serve – but also see the value of building the larger regional community.

Finally, that last word in the preceding sentence, Community, is why the TechBelt region is different. The work that is being done at times is proactive and other reactive but in both cases we are bringing together individuals who are sharing their vision, their ideas for the region and are getting to know one another. As the world begins to recognize the value of open innovation, this TechBelt community is what matters most. The friendships that are being built will support the accomplishment of great things both now and in the future.

I invite others to share their ideas about what is working in their regional innovation clusters and together we will help define the next phase of innovation-based economic development strategy.

Igniting Innovation

Steven Johnson, author of Where Good Ideas Come From:  The Natural History of Innovation, provides a fascinating tour through the history of innovation and along the way he exposes some of the lessons that we can apply for the development of cities and regions.  Johnson alternates between different disciplines but leans heavily on biological and ecological allegories to demonstrate the principles.  The mistake we are making too often is to protect ideas (incubators) or wall off innovation (research park, university, incubator) but he points out that nature seeks new combinations and connections to ignite growth or reinvigorate the ecosystem.

We’ll be talking more about igniting and sustaining innovation on this blog.

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.