Economic and Community Development
Regional Cooperation in Waco
An historic announcement from central Texas this week…10 local and ethnic chambers of commerce across McLennan County announced the signing of an MOU to form an alliance. The McLennan County Chamber Alliance forges a closer working relationship (and cements board level cross-pollination) between the organizations on public policy, economic and community development, infrastructure and other key issues.
“We can do special things if we work together,” said Matt Meadors, Greater Waco Chamber CEO. Anyone who’s tried to build a regional coalition knows how many barriers and interests are overcome to get to this stage of cooperation. We’ll be watching as this group evolves.
Road Reports – Part 4
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 fourth installment of this series is from Northwest Arkansas.
Over the past few decades, few regions have experience more growth and prosperity than Northwest Arkansas. Wal-Mart’s expansion and vast supplier network has kept the region booming for years. But business leaders are now thinking about the next economic and employment engines, and they’re thinking regionally.
A strategic plan developed with Market Street Services is guiding the region’s next phase of growth. Infrastructure development (specifically roads) is a huge focus. Job centers are scattered across the region so the main artery, I-540, can get congested in either direction at any time. But quality of life and place-making issues like arts, cultural, bike trails and sports venues, are a big focus too. With the opening last year of the world class Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, they’ve quickly leapfrogged many competitor regions on the arts and culture front.
With continued strength of big corporate players, anchor institutions like the University of Arkansas, a growing airport, serious philanthropic dollars, and a new entrepreneurial focus, keep an eye on Northwest Arkansas.
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/
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.