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I’m back August 31, 2006

Posted by Tom in Housekeeping.
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Just wanted everyone to know that I’m back online after a brief hiatus due to my relocation from northeast Indiana to central Ohio. Convergence will continue as before.

In addition, I hope no one was too deeply offended by the spam attack that the blog received in my absence. I did my best to rectify the situation.

It’s great to be back!

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Indiana WIRED update August 23, 2006

Posted by Tom in Community, Economic Development, Education, Innovation, WIRED, Workforce.
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From Purdue University, administrator of the North Central Indiana WIRED grant (courtesy of Kevin Thompson at the Employment & Training Administration):

Purdue to advance regional economic development efforts

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Purdue University’s efforts to support regional economic development and high-skill employment opportunities in north-central Indiana will be coordinated by a new Workforce Innovations in Regional Economic Development project administrator.

Mark C. Smith of Muncie, Ind., will work directly with Purdue’s Center for Regional Development to manage the project, known as WIRED, that is designed to transform north-central Indiana into a high-performance production economy. Smith will work on collaborative ventures with business, education and government officials to create new economic opportunities and high-paying jobs.

WIRED serves 14 counties in north-central Indiana. The counties will work together to implement projects related to entrepreneurship, industry clusters, talent networks and civic collaboration. Smith will maintain a primary office at Inventrek Technology Park in Kokomo, Ind.

Examples of regional approaches to economic development include efforts of the Central Indiana Corporate Partnership, which is an alliance of Indiana businesses and universities that collaborates on projects related to issues facing central Indiana. Issues include encouraging high-growth, high-wage economic clusters and expanding capital formation.

Another regional alliance of public and private leadership established the West Gate at Crane Technology Park, which is the only multicounty technology park project in Indiana. More than 4,000 scientists, engineers and technical professionals are now employed at the military base and park.

Smith said he is eager to coordinate new projects and develop long-lasting relationships.

“I look forward to establishing a collaborative framework among a wide range of stakeholders that includes local, state and federal officials, civic and industry leaders, financial investors, philanthropists and experts from higher education, work force and economic development fields,” Smith said. “While this initiative is broad in scope, our ultimate goal is to expand employment and advancement opportunities for regional workers throughout north-central Indiana and spark the creation of high-skill and high-wage jobs.”

Before joining Purdue, Smith served as vice president of community development for Meridian Services, a mental health facility in Muncie. Previous experience includes a 13-year tenure with Ontario Corp., a privately held operating company based in Muncie. Smith graduated from Purdue in 1985 with a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts and received his master’s degree in business administration from Ball State University in 1992.

Victor L. Lechtenberg, Purdue vice provost for engagement and Center for Regional Development co-director, said Smith brings extensive knowledge of how to operate in the new global economy.

“Mark provides more than 16 years of experience in government, community and corporate relations during which he worked with top leaders in public, private and non-profit sectors,” Lechtenberg said. “This experience is a strong asset as we continue our efforts to further integrate economic development with education at the regional level.”

WIRED, which is part of President George W. Bush’s Competitiveness Agenda, is funded by a $15 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor Employment and Training Administration. The grant is administered through the Indiana Department of Workforce Development.

Back-To-School …. Convergence-style August 21, 2006

Posted by Tom in Community, Education, Innovation.
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The concepts of economic development and workforce development have crept into nearly every corner of our culture.  As evidence – the local Sunday newspaper’s “back-to-school” story, titled: “Educators experiment as globalization sets in – Goal: Students who can compete for jobs.”  (PDF version)

Kudos to northeast Indiana’s public school systems, who are incorporating the uncompromising world of No Child Left Behind into their larger world view – not the other way around.  The more schools that take this approach, one that combines rigor, relationship and relevance – the better.

WIRED updates August 19, 2006

Posted by Tom in Community, Economic Development, Innovation, WIRED, Workforce.
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I’ve wanted to give more attention to the Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration’s WIRED (Workforce Innovation in Regional Economic Development) program than I have, so please permit me to offer a few links to WIRED-related news from the regions around the country that have appeared over the last couple months as a catch-up post:

This school gets it – again August 19, 2006

Posted by Tom in Community, Economic Development, Education, Technology, Workforce.
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Steven Infanti, Communications Director at the Harrisburg University of Science and Technology offers a smart op-ed regarding the role of education (and, presumably, workforce) in economic development. (You may recall, I profiled this brand new higher education institution in an earlier Convergence entry.) This is a great piece, one that I don’t want to lose into the Internet ether, so I’ll reprint it in its entirety:

Susan Gvozdas’ article (“High-tech workers gain an edge,” July 30) is further evidence that our state’s competitiveness is linked firmly to our ability to develop and educate the most competent and adaptable workforce.

Employers in the region are participants in a global economy that values college graduates that bring a combination of specialized technical aptitudes, adaptability, and business skills to the workforce. As the only four-year comprehensive university in the city focused on the production of technology-educated graduates, we see first-hand the advantage those students receive by majoring in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics — known as the STEM disciplines — when they begin their careers.

There’s a clear link between education and economic development. By offering innovative science and technology degree programs developed with a changing business world in mind so students can start careers before they graduate, future graduates can move into “gold collar” careers.

Doing so, however, requires a learning environment that combines technology with communication, teamwork and practical application. That’s why members of regional industry are playing a role by developing our course curriculum and participating as corporate faculty and program advisory team members. In addition, we link every student with a business mentor upon enrollment and have a mandatory multi-year internship program.

In the near future, Harrisburg University’s SciTech Innovation Center will foster regional entrepreneurial ventures, as well as attract new technology companies to the region.

This piece makes so much sense on so many levels. I will not be surprised by the success of Harrisburg University, its SciTech Center nor its graduates. If they are practicing what they preach, they are building an impressive foundation for the future. There’s a lot to admire at this institution, and probably a lot to emulate.

The death of manufacturing may have been exaggerated August 19, 2006

Posted by Tom in Economic Development, Opinion, Research, Workforce.
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Governor Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania and his staff released the results of a study that indicates that manufacturing is growing nicely in the Keystone State, thank you.

Of the more than 350 Pennsylvania manufacturers sampled, the survey found nearly three quarters experienced increased sales over the past two years, and 88 percent generated a profit in 2005.

Manufacturing contributes almost $73 billion to Pennsylvania’s annual gross state product, or more than 17 percent of the total. More than 682,000 Pennsylvanians earn good family wages in direct manufacturing jobs in the commonwealth.

I would venture to guess that similar studies in other historically manufacturing-based states would largely reveal the same results.  Other than domestic auto suppliers, I’m hearing positive news from northeast Indiana’s manufacturers.

Yes, manufacturing requires fewer people to operate in the 21st century.  Efforts like automation and process improvements (Lean, Six Sigma, etc.) have made growth in manufacturing productivity possible without ballooning the workforce.

At the same time, the workforce that remains requires a skill set that more resembles a computer programmer than a 1970’s assembly line worker.  If states and communities are really serious about  retaining (never mind building) their manufacturing bases, they must invest in new skill sets.  A great example of this realignmen of manufacturing skills is the forthcoming Ivy Tech Community College Center for Manufacturing Excellence, which was funded through the Northeast Indiana Strategic Skills Initiative.  Another good Strategic Skills Initiative effort toward manufacturing was developed in the Northern Indiana region, which focusses on developing a skilled workforce for the lucrative and successful orthopedic industry.

Leveraging infrastructure to achieve alignment August 19, 2006

Posted by Tom in Community, Economic Development, Education, Workforce.
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Here’s an interesting development from Arizona State University, who is building a downtown Phoenix campus to accompany their larger campus in neighboring Tempe:

Geared toward city-minded students attracted to service-oriented careers, the ASU Downtown Phoenix campus offers degree programs that focus on serving the city, whether it’s improving its citizens’ health, addressing the community’s social and economic needs, teaching the youth or informing residents on key issues.

‘We’re creating something that has not existed in Arizona, which is a truly urban university environment that lets students and faculty experience the educational process in the midst of an active city,’ says Mernoy Harrison, vice president and provost of the downtown campus.

To open the first phase, ASU relocated several colleges downtown, including the College of Nursing & Healthcare Innovation; the College of Public Programs (comprising the schools of Public Affairs, Social Work and Community Resources and Development); and University College, which serves the university’s exploratory majors and working adults.

I had a chance to spend some time in the Valley of the Sun back in January, and Phoenix is clearly a city on the move. By getting ASU to bring urban-relevant schools downtown (which is a nice downtown, by the way), the public sector is mobilizing all of its resources to the best advantage of the region.

This is a classic win-win-win situation, one that other communities can learn from. Phoenix continues its amazing growth and development, ASU gets an additional position of prominence and additional learning opportunities for its students, and the students will be better prepared to serve as the workforce of the future.

Sometimes, it’s not just the creation of new money – it’s reallocating existing money for maximum impact.

Young Professionals annual gathering August 11, 2006

Posted by Tom in Community, Economic Development, Events, Innovation, Workforce.
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YP Commons informs the world that their 3rd Annual International Young Professionals Summit will be in Madison, Wisconsin on September 29 & 30. A cooler town you will not find…if you are active in a young professional network in any of the many cities across America, try to attend.

And then consider swapping notes with your peers on the issues of young professionals, brain drain, lifelong learning, innovation and how all of that impacts economic development and the long-term implications for your communities. As young professionals, you have perhaps the largest stake in this type of dialogue.

Major SATS development August 10, 2006

Posted by Tom in Community, Economic Development, Technology.
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Following up on my earlier post on the Small Aircraft Transportation System (SATS) initiative in Indiana, I learned from EdPro that Honda will be building its new, small HondaJets in Greensboro, North Carolina.

I suppose that one shouldn’t be greedy about these things, and I’m excited that Honda is investing in America. Still, I know that Indiana’s INSATS leadership is doing everything it can to make the state a SATS hub on both the manufacturing and operations fronts. And, of course, Indiana did just get a huge investment from Honda.

Good for the SATS program, good for North Carolina.

Digital literacy – Still a huge issue August 10, 2006

Posted by Tom in Education, Research, Technology, Workforce.
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The Charity Blog Network reports that a World Report on Digital Literacy indicates that 62% of all countries participating in this particular study felt that the lack of digital literacy in their population was one of the top five challenges facing their countries. 13% said it was the number one challenge. The blog continues:

Bridging the digital divide has become a most crucial element in today’s global workforce – in bridging that gap the universal workings across borders and other barriers will incrementally become smaller and smaller until the difference is imperceptible. Government leaders are taking notice and are implementing ways to educate their kids and adults and this has made digital literacy one of the top-five priorities in confronting “education and literacy, development of public services and infrastructure, economic development and global competitiveness and, finally, empowerment of underserved populations.”

No question in my mind – digital literacy should be a top priority of every workforce planning professional.  Without a computer-literate workforce, what does an economic developer have to sell in this day and age?