Economic and Community Development
Road Reports - Bridging the Region
Road Reports – Part 3
I’ve been burning up the airports and highways over the past month visiting multiple ACCE member chambers across several states. I never fail to take away valuable tidbits and lessons from every visit. The third installment of this series is from Cincinnati.
Bridging the Region
Infrastructure is occupying the minds of corporate leaders in Cincinnati, specifically bridge building. I was in town in early May for a joint meeting of the boards of the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber and the Northern Kentucky Chamber. That meeting, in a recently opened restaurant and brewery adjacent to the Red’s Stadium, kicked off an education and outreach campaign to rebuild an expanded interstate bridge over the Ohio River connecting Northern Kentucky and downtown Cincinnati.
Kentucky Lt. Governor Jerry Abramson was an apt featured speaker for the joint board meeting. As Mayor of Louisville, he worked closely with Greater Louisville, Inc., One Southern Indiana and other in the business community on a two bridge project over the same river with a similar price tag. His words to the crowd last week: “It can’t and it won’t be built unless everybody’s pulling in the same direction.”
Coordination and cooperation will be crucial as this bi-state region works on a compressed timeframe to put together a financing plan to cover this $2.5 billion project that will fly in both Columbus and Frankfort. The full spectrum of options is on the table from public bonds to tolling. There is a strong likelihood that at least some of the final funding equation includes public-private partnership. Check out their coalition website: www.buildournewbridgenow.com/
Regionalism in action in greater Cincinnati.
Read more at - Bridge Can't Wait.
Road Reports - College Town, Boom Town
Road Reports – Part 2
I’ve been burning up the airports and highways over the past month visiting multiple ACCE member chambers across several states. I never fail to take away valuable tidbits and lessons from every visit. The second installment of this series is from Conway, AR.
College Town, Boom Town
One state university and two significant liberal arts colleges are contributing tremendously to growth in Conway, Arkansas. The University of Central Arkansas graduates more health professionals every year than the state medical school and in total roughly 4,400 students graduate with bachelors and higher degrees from institutions in Conway each year. Many of those graduates are staying in town, lured by new jobs at recently located firms like Hewlett Packard. The population has more than tripled in less than 30 years and the constant infusion of recent graduates perpetuates a young, energetic, even hip feel. The chamber staff go business causal every day with an emphasis on casual.
Growth and development were evident across town as the Conway Chamber’s Brad Lacy, CCE took me on a tour after breakfast on a Wednesday earlier this month. The city has launched a street-by-street sidewalk and beautification effort. Downtown is full of vibrant retail and restaurants and there is a large new mixed use retail-housing development going up near one of the college campuses. Yes indeed folks, there are places in the country where new home construction is still happening.
The Conway Chamber is going strong too. The chamber, economic development, and convention and visitors bureau are managed and staffed like a single entity. A separate downtown council is also housed in the chamber’s recently renovated downtown building. In addition to their impressive economic development successes, advocacy is also a strong focus, particular on shale gas related interests. The Chamber netted impressive sums from their annual meeting and grossed more than $1 million on last weekend’s Toad Suck Daze, an annual festival that supports scholarship funds.
Conway is a model example of a smaller community focusing on and building from key assets. If you’re in Arkansas drop in on Brad and check the place out, just don’t expect to see him in a suit and tie.
Road Reports - Built to Last
Road Reports – Part 1
I’ve been burning up the airports and highways over the past month visiting multiple ACCE member chambers across several states. I never fail to take away valuable tidbits and lessons from every visit. The first installment of this series comes from Kansas City:
Built to Last
Kansas City’s Country Club Plaza is a case study in the sustained economic viability of well-designed, well-positioned mixed used urban development. The planned, open air, retail-dining-hotel-residential project opened in 1922 but looks and feels as vibrant as the newest high end entertainment district in the country. The 15 block district was packed with shoppers and diners when I visited on a Wednesday in April. Many suburban strip malls are still suffering high vacancy rates, but the Plaza is evidence that with insightful planning, quality management and attention to trends, a retail space can weather many storms.
Lest you think KC is resting on its urban development laurels, during my visit I also saw the new 285,000 square foot glass-enclosed Kauffman Performing Arts Center home to resident organizations, the Kansas City Ballet, Lyric Opera, and Symphony. The Center is positioned to bridge downtown with the hotels and corporate offices in midtown at Crown Center – home of Hallmark’s world headquarters.
Downtown, the 8 block, Cordish developed Power and Light District, which opened in 2008, has become a destination for conventioneers, sports fans and locals alike. Sandwiched between H&R Block headquarters and a new arena, the Power and Light District is great for lunch crowds but made for weekend parties.
All across town, Kansas City is building and building to last.
Strive, a Model for Education Cooperation
Education and workforce work was a reoccuring theme at the Metro Council meetings this winter. That was no surprise, talent has been a top issue for chambers of commerce for decades and the business community has poured lots of time and resources into various initiatives all along the education pipeline.
What I’m learning, however, is that leading work on education and workforce issues increasingly comes from alliances between business, schools, universities, foundations and civic groups that adopt a holistic, cradle to career approach. One or two groups collaboring on a narrow set of issues just isn't moving the needle. This broader approach is essentially regional stewardship thinking applyied to the challenge of skilled workers.
The Strive idea is that once multiple players in a region come together, sharing information and insights, they can pull back and see how the education system functions as a whole — and then set targets ranging from early childhood education to college graduation.
It’s not an easy formula. It means active, ongoing engagement by mayors, city and county city governments, foundations, businesses, social service agencies and others — plus teachers, administrators, university faculty. It’s a call for no-excuses collaboration. It means groups performing the tough act of putting their personal educational theories to the side.
Read the full column here: Communities Setting Audacious ‘Cradle to Career’ Education Goals
Learn more about the Strive Partnership at: http://www.strivetogether.org/
Our friends and partners around the economic development world produce some great content. Here's a sampling of recent items worth reading:
The Startup Act
Progress Report: Job Growth in U.S. Metros
Entrepreneurs' Resource Center
Oklahoma MSA’s Set For Economic Success
Signs of Growth, Really!
ACCE Economic and Community Development Division, Chairman's Message from February 2011
How many times have you heard 'green shoots' mentioned relative to the US economy since 2008? Too many to count I'm sure. But many regions actually saw signs of growth in 2011. Here in Lexington, expansion and relocation projects added 1,300 new direct jobs and millions in new investment to the Bluegrass Region. A $17 million dollar global headquarters expansion by Tempur-Pedic that created 65 new jobs was a particular bright spot.
I'm cautiously optimistic about 2012, and after talking with colleagues across the country, I know many other regions are also seeing signs of growth. This good news can't come soon enough for our friends and neighbors who've lost a job during the downturn, but we know economic development is measured in years, not days. Today's investment announcement began years ago as careful planning, good strategy, and effective marketing led by a chamber or EDC. And more than ever, economic development success comes less from industrial recruitment and more from building a vibrant community with talented workers and a pro-business climate. This is work every chamber in the country can, and should, lead.
The ACCE Economic and Community Development Division's core goal is to provide chamber leaders access to the information, individuals, and ideas that will help them build more competitive, prosperous regions. The role has never been more difficult or more important. Over the coming year the Division will organize and produce webinars, convention speakers, magazine articles, a benchmarking survey, and new information office content all focused on helping you drive economic growth in your community.
Lone Star Clean Tech
An article in this week’s Time highlights the emergence of Austin, Texas as one of the nation’s premier alternative energy and clean tech hubs. While the author plays up the political angle in this story – green tech in a red state – I read a shining example of smart economic development. Austin’s clean tech story is a lesson is effective cluster strategy, public private partnership, talented workforce, strong community and building off existing assets. Here are key excerpts:
For Austin, high tech had to come before clean tech. The city has long been a science-and-technology hub, thanks to the presence of the sprawling main campus of the University of Texas, with a student body of 50,000. In the mid-1980s one of those students was Michael Dell, who founded his eponymous computer company in a University of Texas dorm room before moving Dell to a sprawling campus north of Austin. Around the same time, the federal government and U.S. semi-conductor manufacturers launched a research consortium — based in Austin — called Sematech, pooling public and private investment to compete with Japan, which was threatening to dominate the semiconductor industry.
Sematech and Dell helped create a high-tech boom in Austin through the 1990s, luring tens of thousands of talented engineers who came for the jobs and stayed for the Austin lifestyle … So as clean tech began to heat up in the early part of the past decade, Austin was a logical place for start-ups and entrepreneurs to set up shop. An experienced technical workforce was already available, ready to shift from manufacturing computer chips to building solar panels.
"We like the entrepreneurial ecosystem, and there's just a ton of talent here that you can't get in Illinois," says Joe Scarci, SolarBridge's vice president of marketing. "It's a great place to recruit."
Of course, none of this is news to the economic development team at the Austin Chamber of Commerce. Clean energy is one of their focus industry segments. They know that growth in the clean tech cluster is as much about smart strategy as good luck. And they’ve been getting good press coverage about this for years. Check out all the great info on their Clean Energy webpage, pay special attention to the Pecan Street Project.
Critical Census Findings
No other trend in public policy, technology or industry will have as much impact on economic prosperity of your region over the coming decade as demographics.
Analysis of the 2010 Census done for Brookings’ State of Metropolitan America report shows that the country is growing slower, growing older, and becoming more diverse every year. Those trends may not surprise you, but the report also finds that we’re less mobile and that the median household is also less rich.
While some of the census findings may be exaggerated by the economic downturn, all of these demographic trends are interconnected. Understanding the connections and developing strategies to adapt to an older, more diverse population and workforce will likely widen the divide between prosperous regions and struggling ones over the coming years.
For a quick and dirty digest of key census findings, check out Five Things the Census Revealed About America in 2011 from the Brookings Intuition.
Merger…Or the Opposite
Frequent ACCE blog readers may recall several posts from me last fall noting multiple examples of chamber and economic development entities merging forces. (For reference see HERE and HERE) In those posts I did everything but proclaim a national trend of chambers and economic development entities merging. There is a flip side to every coin.
Last week the Bradenton Herald reported that the Manatee Economic Development Corp. is no longer under the Manatee Chamber of Commerce umbrella and has become its own separate entity. While it will have a new separate board and its own separate budget, the EDC will still be located in the chamber’s building, and the two organizations will still cooperate closely.
Regrouping and Refocusing in Nevada
In November, the Brookings Institution released an intriguing economic development report for Nevada titled Unify, Regionalize, Diversify.
The study highlights Nevada’s economic challenges, chiefly that it has been over-dependent on consumption sectors like tourism and home construction. But it also notes that Nevada’s key asset is an “overall business-friendly environment, including low taxes, relatively low costs, light regulation, and ease of business start-up/permitting.” I believe this is a testament to the ongoing public policy work of the Las Vegas Chamber.
After performing a full SWOT analysis and examining strong potential growth sectors, the study’s authors identify three primary recommendations to boost growth and economic innovation in Nevada:
- Unify: Install an operating state-wide system for 21st century economic development
- Regionalize: Support smart sector strategies in the regions
- Diversify: Set a platform for higher-value growth through innovation and global engagement
Sounds easy, right?
Digging deeper into the report, Kristin McMillan and the Las Vegas Chamber are already tackling many of the workforce and infrastructure challenges outlined in the report. They also plan to help feed the regionalized “bottoms up” approach recommended for a reworked economic development structure.
Brookings has done similar business plans for the Puget Sound, Northeast Ohio and the Twin Cities. If you’re not familiar with this work you should take a look.