The Latest in Economic Development – 2.9.12

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This week’s blog entry showcases a successful approach to regional collaboration, highlights a proactive program for workforce development, explores a community-driven strategy for urban development, and makes the case that small businesses should be open to exporting. Comment below or send to common@nlc.org.

Get last week’s blog here.

Regional collaboration is usually big on ideas, but devoid of action due to the inherent competitiveness of regional geographies. The Federal Regional Innovation Cluster Initiative – unveiled in March 2010 – is trying to lower traditional barriers to collaboration. Where has this been apparent? Steve McKnight says that the Techbelt Initiative, a regional collaboration scheme involving the previously booming industrial corridor from Cleveland to Pittsburgh, has effectively used partnerships, grants, and cross-state resources to attract new investment. Not all regions have the industrial fortitude of the Rust Belt, but lessons can still be learned with regard to its regional focus. (4th Economy) via (Innovation Daily)

Unemployment continues to be a huge burden on the economy, but under the surface, the bigger problem may be the overall lack of qualified job candidates. Vermont is lucky enough to have a low unemployment rate, but “more than 15% of the state’s workforce is discouraged and underemployed.” Amid rhetoric of entrepreneurship and startups (both of which are noble causes), workforce development sometimes gets lost in the shuffle. But not everyone is cut out to be an entrepreneur, and startups usually require highly skilled, tech-savvy employees. So Vermont’s Department of Labor partnered with the Community College of Vermont to develop a “career readiness” program to sharpen students’ professional skills, from computer aptitude to professional etiquette. (VT Digger)

There seems to be two broad approaches to urban revitalization; the first involves high-cost, large master plan projects, the other calls for smaller, modest, “place making” projects. With the current economic climate continuing to strain city budgets, the second option – small scale, grassroots approach – may be the more prudent option. According to Alan Pullman, smaller scale project usually end up being more community-driven than finance focused, and they also lack the bureaucracy and red tape of a large scale project. (Buildipedia) via (Planetizen)

“For large American corporations, exporting – especially to booming markets such as China, India, and Brazil – is often seen as a logical part of their growth.” Why is this not the norm for small and medium sized businesses? Often, because of their limited time and resources, they feel like exporting abroad is not in the cards. But in the current era of e-commerce, exporting products and services to huge markets like China has never been easier. The Obama administration is helping to increase trade financing for smaller US companies, and the private sector is doing its part as well, with numerous firms offering translation, customer service, and currency conversion services. (USA Today)

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