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Rebuilding small towns through entrepreneurs July 28, 2006

Posted by Tom in Community, Economic Development, Technology, Workforce.
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Small Biz Survival shares a neat story about a young entrepreneur who returned to his (tiny) hometown to build his new company.  The article he quotes gives this as a partial rationale:

[The subject of the article] is one of a new breed of entrepreneurs who are able to gravitate toward rural venues because digital technology untethers companies from congested urban centers. If the American heartland is to survive in a global economy, it will need more like him, economists say.

This is a critical workforce notion, one that Richard Florida raises constantly and one that is playing out in communities of all sizes all over the globe.  As long as the community is wired (and now with satellite Internet technology, even being wired isn’t as critical), you can move there and conduct most any type of business.  In northeast Indiana, Pete Eschelman did the same with the little Town of Roanoke when he consciously chose to keep American Specialty Insurance there instead of leave for a larger community.

Economic development is not just luring the next big company to your community.  It also is a matter of growing your own – and recruiting those who will grow with you.  The workforce planning challenge is to stay nimble – to meet niche needs and constantly stay at the front end of societal and economic change.  You never know which company or industry will have demand for your people.


Developing a technopreneurship infrastructure July 26, 2006

Posted by Tom in Community, Economic Development, Education, Technology, Workforce.
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Silicon Gulf offers up yet another great piece on developing an information technology business cluster. Again, their focus is the Phillippines – but the organizing ideas are universal, and communities across the globe could benefit from their work.

This time, SG refers us to the Brain Gain Network, who suggests a number of areas that a group of IT professionals agreed needed to be focussed upon to develop what they call “technopreneurism” (combining technology and entrepreneurism) in the Phillippines. You should click on the link to read the whole article, but here’s the bulleted list:


Again, there is much to learn from their example.

Looking for real-world, relevant education? July 25, 2006

Posted by Tom in Education, Innovation.
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Then take a look at this InformationWeek article about what some business school students at Indiana University are learning:

At Indiana University, 25 students thought they were signing up for a standard class on business processes, redesigning workflows for a mock U.S. auto parts supplier using SAP software. Fifteen students at the Univer-sity of Brandenburg in Germany were taking the same course, doing the mock work for a German automaker. Around the 11th week of the course, the professors threw them a curve.

Students came into class to learn the German carmaker was buying the U.S. supplier. All the processes they had worked on had to be redone to meet the needs of the new company, and the two groups of students, who had never communicated before, had to work together. “They needed to streamline, and they were dealing with time zone differences, language and cultural barriers, and process differences,” says Ashok Soni, who helped teach the class as chairman of the operations and decision technology department of Indiana’s Kelley School of Business. “This was a real-world, global situation.”

Tell me that employers and economic developers wouldn’t love to have grads like these in their communities. They’ve already been forced to think fast and hard in a fluid environment…just like they will in the real world of work.

Kudos to IU, and to InformationWeek for publishing such a great article – which was only an add-on to their excellent “In Depth: How Businesses Can Attract The Next-Generation Of IT Workers” piece.

Education alignment info; Research on “Work” July 20, 2006

Posted by Tom in Education, Media, Research, Workforce.
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Thanks to Don Iannone at Economic Development Futures Journal, I came across the following two pieces of information that have the potential to tie the world of education into the emerging workforce-economic development spectrum.

First, the Partnership for 21st Century Skills released a new report, “Results That Matter: 21st Century Skills and High School Reform,” that details where a combination of business and education professional leaders feel that education must go in order to ensure ongoing competitiveness of our nation’s workforce. The real surprising piece to me is that the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers put their organization’s names on this – right next to some of the most powerful businesses in the country. This is a very, very strong piece that everyone interested in this topic should download and read.

Forbes online offers a wonderful, resource-rich collection of articles related to in-depth research that they did on the concept of work. Everything from the first jobs of some of our nation’s leaders to surveys of attitudes toward work to the jobs of the future…and the past. Great work. I hope that this collection of articles is available in print – I’ll have to run out to the bookstore to see if Forbes put this project in its latest edition. (UPDATE: I checked this week’s Forbes…the online content was referred to but not published. If you want to read it, I’d strongly suggest you read the content online soon because you never know when content will be pulled from a website!)

No filler today – just meaty information from people who know. Enjoy!

“England gets it” July 18, 2006

Posted by Tom in Community, Economic Development, Education, Media, Opinion, Technology, Workforce.
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In an op-ed for the Orlando Sentinel and picked up on the wire, John Bersia relays his favorable impressions of County Durham, England – a region with a tech park and a development strategy to propel it forward. It’s the strategy that Bersia likes, one that has themes related to the alignment of workforce and economic development:

In the 21st century, though, the fighting spirit emanates from a different source: pure necessity, namely, the revitalization of an ailing industrial region.

As for the planning, it starts with a mission that properly emphasizes prosperity, sustainability and quality of life. It continues with a realistic assessment of current and potential strengths. Instead of trying to reach in all directions, this region decided that its future beckons from a manageable cluster: health care and health science, energy and the environment, and process industries, such as chemical, pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies.

From that point, the strategy seeks to build the region in key ways. Some, such as welcoming new businesses and growing others through assistance and economic incentives, are common in many parts of the world. But others, such as a sweeping focus on learning, education, training and entrepreneurship, are refreshingly bold, not to mention vital to global competitiveness.

Perhaps most important, the view here is truly toward the long term. This region and the rest of England clearly are positioning themselves for a rapid, rough romp through the global economy, not merely to complete the ride but to arrive first.

A nice summation of what appears to be a strong strategy – one that any community could consider.

The whole notion of revitalizing (or transforming) an industrial society to become an information/knowledge/innovation/creative society is very interesting to me – some recent travel has prompted this line of thinking. I’ll post more on that topic later.

“Creative Class” post of the day July 17, 2006

Posted by Tom in Community, Workforce.
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Smart City Memphis posted a nice piece regarding the necessary tools to attracting and retaining young, creative/knowledge talent in their community. Their criteria, drawn from Smart City Consulting’s Carol Coletta in The Commercial Appeal, are pretty straightforward:

The study showed that despite what we all thought, it doesn’t take much to make them happy. First and foremost, they want to live in places that take care of the basics — that are clean, green, attractive and safe. Just like the rest of us.

Also high on the list of attributes they seek are qualities that let them live the lives they want to lead. A city that expects to attract and hold talent, then, must tout opportunities in all forms — personal, professional, educational and social.

Not surprisingly, talented young people also want to live in cities they can be proud of. Where once status was conveyed by where you work, now it is conveyed by where you live.

Why is this so hard for community leaders to fathom?

Google move highlights value of strong university system July 17, 2006

Posted by Tom in Community, Economic Development, Education, Media, Research, Technology, Workforce.
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Buried at the bottom of an earlier post is a mention about Google looking to open a major facility in Ann Arbor, Michigan. For the Midwest, where I am located, this is a very significant development. The President of the University of Michigan appears to agree with me. In a recent Detroit Free Press op-ed, President Mary Sue Coleman shares her perspective, offering up themes that we’ve been exploring on this blog – that workforce (presumably developed by a top education and training system) will end up being a significant driver of economic development activity. In her article, she states:

Google’s announcement marks an important turning point for our state, one that showcases the importance of collaboration and innovation as the economic model for Michigan’s future.

Knowledge is the currency of the 21st Century, and Google cofounder Larry Page recognizes the rich resource of educated employees that awaits him in Michigan. By locating near U-M, and less than an hour from Michigan State and Wayne State Universities, Google — and the spin-off companies it undoubtedly will generate — will benefit from a steady stream of talent and fresh ideas.

Research universities help generate the kind of synergy that is vital to our state’s turnaround as a hub for high-tech jobs. Our institutions are an impetus for attracting and nurturing talent, creativity and venture capital. We are a magnet for companies, large and small, that want to operate in communities that take risks and seek new knowledge critical for improving our lives, our society and our understanding of the world.

I admire her vision – actively positioning one of the Midwest’s top research universities as not just a component but a leader of a knowledge-based economic transformation in the Great Lakes State. She’s been at this level for some time, apparently, as this article about her larger vision for research driving innovation and economic development indicates.

The transformation of the automobile manunfacturing-driven economy has been wrenching for Michigan, and Google’s decision is an indicator that a move away from that economic model is indeed possible.

Secretary Chao talks about convergence issues July 14, 2006

Posted by Tom in Economic Development, WIRED.
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At the recent Workforce Innovations Conference, US Labor Secretary Elaine Chao spoke of issues near and dear to the hearts of those interested in aligning workforce and economic development:

America is transitioning to a knowledge-based economy, creating millions of new jobs in industries that did not even exist a generation ago,” said Secretary Chao. “Two-thirds of the estimated 18 million new jobs created in the next decade will be in occupations that require some advanced education. This can be a 4-year college degree, a 2-year degree from a community college or specialized training like an apprentice program. Completing some form of higher education is critical to building a solid, sustainable career path.

Solid comments from a person who is in a position to make a difference. DoL is backing her up with programs like WIRED, efforts that have the potential to revolutionize the way that workforce program delivery and economic development is accomplished in this country.

Key to staying on “the list”: Talented workforce July 14, 2006

Posted by Tom in Community, Economic Development, Workforce.
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The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette relays the results of a seminar where national economic development site selection consultants discussed what would help the Steel City rise to the top of the mythical “lists” of prime economic development target cities:

Panelists said the Pittsburgh area had improved its desirability as a business location in recent years by enhancing its image and diversifying its industries, but the region needs more young adults in the workforce to attract businesses.

Still, Pittsburgh has a reputation as an educational center and a good environment for research and development, [a consultant] said.

The area could take advantage of the educational environment and keep young graduates by soliciting industries that require high skill levels, such as high-end electronics, medical fields and advanced manufacturing, said Deane Foote, of Carter & Burgess Inc., of Phoenix.

I have been fortunate to spend a fair bit of time in Pittsburgh over the past couple years, and I can testify that it has turned itself into a neat, “creative” town.  But the retention/brain drain issue is one that it needs to deal with.

It’s interesting that with all of the civic improvements and activity going on in Pittsburgh, the young professionals are not staying in sufficient numbers.  If they won’t stay there, then it must be infinitely harder to retain young adult professionals in less attractive communities.

Regardless, the site selection consultants are paying attention.  If we want to lure the next Google skunkworks to our respective regions, we should, too.

Quick notes July 14, 2006

Posted by Tom in Community, Economic Development, Workforce.
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Another batch of Technorati links:

  • Recortes Texto shows that life for the global “overseas class” isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, and that the government of the Phillipines is encouraging their best and brightest to go abroad so they can send money home. Fascinating and tragic.
  • Judy Topinka, candidate for governor of Illinois, released her economic development strategy. She suggests a public-private partnership oversee all job creation efforts in Illinois and new tax credits for net new job growth and manufacturing workforce expansion. She is challenging Governor Rod Blagojevich, who is responsible for creating the Illinois Critical Skills Shortage Initiative.
  • The Cleveland Oil Sands Coffee Club tells us that if you’re looking for work, you might want to head to Alberta.  They project bring 100,000 workers short against next decade’s employment projections, and the anecdotes of how employers are dealing with today’s shortages are stunning.  Hiring 12 and 13-year-olds to run McDonald’s fryers…wow.