Get Up to Speed with Tech

by Christa Franzi 14. August 2014 08:04

Last week when the U.S. military conducted an airstrike against Islamic militants in Iraq, there wasn't a press release or formal press briefing. The world found out about our "re-engagement" in Iraq through a tweet by the Pentagon Press Secretary.

   

Maybe you didn't catch John Kirby's tweet, I didn't, but media news outlets certainly did and reported on the breaking story immediately. This is just one, very important, example of how we all engage with social media on a daily basis. Even if you aren’t an active user, you're a consumer of information and news, you're a consumer of social media - we all are. AND, as consumers, it is important to have a basic understanding of how social media and various digital technologies work, even if we aren’t directly using every app, widget, gadget, or platform ourselves.

 

Economic developers, and specifically those of us in the northeast, are challenged to get up to speed on the use of social media and digital collaboration and communication. At the Northeastern Economic Developers Association (NEDA) annual conference in September, Anthony Capece, Central District Management Association, Inc., and I are leading a session Using Technology for Dummies Economic Developers and Business Professionals. We’re going to create an interactive learning environment at the conference, using web-based tools to learn more about “the cloud” and the future of internet and digital technology.

 

If you know you want to see this stuff work, you like the idea of it, but you need a Sherpa to get you there, this session is perfect for you. So register for #BuildNE in September, come hangout with us, and get in touch with your inner geek! 

 

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A New Approach to Community College: Wake Tech and the Future Forward College

by Jim Damicis 13. August 2014 09:27

The role of workforce development and education in supporting and growing local and regional economies has become a common discussion among economic developers. In my interviews with businesses on what factors are most important for their future success, attracting and retaining skilled workers is often cited as the top issue. In these discussions it becomes quickly evident that the workforce development and education system is no longer adequately meeting the needs of businesses seeking skilled workers and workers seeking meaningful employment. However, for the most part these discussions usually result in raising more questions than answers and more debate than actions. At Wake Technical Community College this is not the case. Wake Tech is taking action to transform community college education and workforce development and prepare itself for a future that looks very different from today and requires very different knowledge and skillsets.

 

This past April, as part of my work and collaboration with the Communities of the Future regarding the Creative Molecular Economy I had the opportunity to participate in “Without Borders: Exploring New Territories of the Future,” an adaptive planning initiative for Wake Tech Community College. Wake Tech is taking seriously the need to transform education to meet the demands of the future—so much so that starting from holding a “Futures Day” in 2009 for faculty and staff, the College has progressed from an annual retreat to on-going training for “Master Capacity Builders” who lead the College’s effort to embrace and implement transformational learning, to the development of what has been termed the “Future Forward College.” Within their initiative Wake Tech is extending the work of designing and implementing the Future Forward College to be inclusive of community and regional stakeholders including the economic development community.

 

Key concepts and principles of the Future Forward College include:

  • Trans-disciplinary Thinking – connecting disparate ideas, disciplines, and individuals for new ways of thinking and problem-solving

  • Understanding and Embracing Complex Adaptive Systems – including accepting chaos and unpredictability and being aware that we are all a part of large ecosystems over which we have no direct control

  • Adaptive Planning – the ability to assess then take risk and action in an environment where the future is mostly unknown and data provides context but not answers

  • Working in Parallel Processes – the ability to simultaneously act utilizing recent trends and “best practices” while also identifying weak signals of emerging ideas that may radically transform the operational environment

  • Master Capacity Building – taking the time to build capacity and leadership for thinking and acting in entirely new ways

These are new concepts to many of us in education, workforce, and economic development and as such require letting go of old ways of thinking and methods. Recognizing this, as part of the two-day session in April, Wake Tech developed a “game-approach” to their adaptive planning, entitled the “Wake Tech Game of Principles.” The game involved working and learning in teams on exercises that challenged traditional thinking and perceptions for the development of new and unique solutions. As a skeptic of games at the start, I can fully attest to the approach being very productive, worthwhile, and effective at engaging all participants. It by far exceeded results from traditional, linear strategic planning which focuses on trying to predict and explain through data, and static SWOT analyses.

 

Wake Tech continues to utilize outcomes from the April work session to build capacity for adaptive planning in the design and implementation of the Future Forward College. So, what does this means for workforce and economic development in terms of lessons learned?

  • Our economic system is transforming rapidly as we move further away from an industrial economy and toward an economy characterized by rapid change; digital systems; open and shared interactions such as crowdsourcing, open innovation, and crowdfunding; globalization; and multiple social, professional, and personal networks. A transforming economic system demands transformation in education and workforce systems. Continuing to tweak the existing practices will result in the same problems. Reform will not cut it, and a commitment to transformation is needed.

  • There are no magic bullets—no one method for skill and knowledge building, no one program or service, no one entity or institution, and no one organizational model that can be the solution. Rather, interested persons (professionals, students, citizens, and businesses) must become engaged, start and maintain dialogues, and develop adaptable processes and plans. This requires taking time to learn the context and skills for accepting complexity, working in networks, and learning and planning together. There are no quick fixes.

  • The education, workforce, and economic development communities must work together in the design and implementation of solutions. We are all part of the same complex system.

While federal, state, and local policies and programs are all a part of the workforce and education environment, regions and communities must not wait for political solutions or permission. Rather, they must take action given the resources at hand, make change, and be prepared to adapt as needed.

 

 

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Measuring the Performance of Your EDO

by Rob Camoin 13. August 2014 09:19

There is a host of reasons why measuring the performance of your EDO and its programs is becoming more and more important. Securing future funding, dedicating resources to programs that work, and simply understanding how to improve program outcomes are just a few of the reasons why EDOs have begun establishing performance monitoring and reporting systems. As we have written in prior newsletter articles, the Great Recession is significantly altering how many industries operate, including our very own economic development profession.

 

Federal and State funding sources, tax payers, and EDO Board members are increasingly demanding that the results of spending on economic development programs are measured and reported. Camoin Associates assisted CommerceRI with developing its newly adopted economic development performance metrics earlier this year. Michael Walker of CommerceRI and Marnie LaVigne, PhD, of Launch NY will be part of a small panel that will talk about why, how, and what they learned when they developed a performance monitoring system for their respective organizations.

 

Be sure to attend NEDA's Build Northeast Annual Conference on September 7–9 in Worcester, MA, to learn more.

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What You Should Know About the Defense Industry Adjustment Program

by Tom Dworetsky 13. August 2014 09:18

Like it or not, U.S. defense spending will decrease 34% between 2010 and 2015. This will have ripple effects throughout local economies as defense contractors draw back operations and reduce personnel. Communities with high concentrations of industries that supply directly or indirectly to the Department of Defense will be hardest hit. The map below highlights the counties with significant defense supply chain clusters. Southern New England with its multiple aerospace-related industries, defense software in Silicon Valley, and military ground vehicle production in the Houston area are just some of the areas that could be affected by these spending cuts.

To mitigate these potentially far-reaching impacts, the Federal Defense Industry Adjustment Program offers grants to states and communities for planning and assistance. A recent webinar hosted by the Northeastern Economic Development Association (NEDA) highlighted the benefits of these grants:

 

State Planning Grants

  • Anticipate industry contractions

  • Assist adversely impacted communities, businesses, and workers

  • Support local adjustment and diversification initiatives

  • Stimulate cooperation between statewide and local adjustment and diversification initiatives

Industry Adjustment Grants

  • Help states and communities respond to announced cuts and reductions

  • May be used for a variety of projects that can include elements such as supply chain mapping, SWOT analysis, diversification plans, staffing, economic data collection and analysis, workforce retraining, and others

  • To be eligible, communities must meet the following criteria:

    • Community inside an MSA – 2,500 jobs lost, or 1% of all jobs lost

    • Community outside an MSA – 1,000 jobs lost, or 1% of all jobs lost

    • Communities can band together to meet the eligibility threshold

 

This is just a short overview of what the Defense Industry Adjustment Program has to offer. For more detailed information on these grants, visit http://www.oea.gov/programs/dia/start.

 

Why is this important for Economic Developers?

Economic developers need to know whether the communities in which they work could be affected by defense spending cuts. Communities without an obvious military or defense contractor presence may be the most vulnerable because the impacts of spending cuts may be unexpected. Many companies that could be affected might not be first-tier suppliers of the Department of Defense but be positioned further back in the supply chain. As such, it may not be apparent that such companies could feel the impacts until jobs are already being shed.

 

In addition, because defense contractors have become more fragmented as industry, it has become less common for single companies to announce one-off, large-scale layoffs. More frequently, a couple of jobs are lost here and there at many different companies, but the cumulative effect is still substantial. Whereas large-scale layoffs are easy to recognize, this trend toward fragmentation makes it more difficult for communities to realize that they are in the midst of an economic downturn until it’s well underway.

 

To avoid being caught off-guard, economic developers need to anticipate the effects that these spending cuts will have on their communities. A critical first step is supply chain mapping, which allows communities to see which businesses are direct and indirect suppliers to the Department of Defense. Analysts can use www.usaspending.gov to find out which companies in a certain community have DoD contracts. Identifying second- and third-tier suppliers is more difficult but can be achieved through connections forged between economic developers and local businesses.

 

The Defense Industry Adjustment Program offers valuable assistance to communities undergoing economic restructuring due to defense spending cuts. Economic developers should be aware of this resource as they engage with communities that could be affected.

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Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act Signed Into Law – What to Know

by Dan Stevens 13. August 2014 09:06

Why is this important? 

 

In a rare display of bipartisan support, Congress passed the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), which offers a streamlining of the public workforce system. The old system was plagued by an inability to stay aligned with changing economic conditions. Signed into law on July 22, 2014 by President Obama, the new legislation aims to help job seekers find jobs, education, and training while matching employers with workers who offer the right skillset.

 

How does this all play out at the local level?

  • Trimming the Excess: What do you do with overlapping, sometimes-conflicting, and oft-unfunded federal workforce programs? Gone. 15 federal programs bite the dust.

  • Making Programs Accountable: All programs are subject to the same performance evaluation criteria, such as median earnings or receiving a secondary diploma.

  • Pay for Performance: How to ensure that programs are working the way they are supposed to? Pay only for the ones that show results. The new act lets the government contract with a program provider and pay only when results are achieved within a certain timeframe.

  • No Mismatch: No gap between worker skills and employer needs: State Workforce Investment Boards (WIBs) will need to submit a four-year strategy for developing a workforce whose skills match what employers are looking for.

How does this all play out at the local level?

  • Right-Sizing: Local Workforce Investment Boards (WIBs) are getting smaller (and giving more sway to local business leaders). The required number of members is dropping from 51 to 19 to strengthen relationships and get more accomplished.

  • New Functions: Boards must focus on employer engagement, strengthening connections among the core programs, spreading best practices, and promoting better use of technology.

  • No Guesswork: Local WIBs will have to create more comprehensive plans that align with the State Plan. Required elements include a regional economic and labor analysis including which skills regional employers are looking for and how the local board is going to help workers gain those skills.

Where’s the money?

  • Start applying: local boards are now able to solicit grants and donations. Bonus: local boards can operate as tax-exempt organizations.

  • States getting “more”: States have only been getting 5%–10% of federal funding because of the congressional appropriation process. Now states will be getting a full 15% from all three funding streams.

  • Restored federal funding: Federal programs no longer funded with “such sums as necessary” and will receive increased levels of funding each year—in theory. Actual funding levels will be determined through the annual appropriations process. We won’t hold our breath on this one.

  • Stay Tuned: With nearly a year to go before the law takes effect there are likely to be new developments. Keep an eye out for new grant opportunities and additional guidance.

Dates to know

  • July 1, 2015: Act takes effect

  • March 3, 2016: Deadline for state unified plan submission

  • July 1, 2016: WIOA state and local plans take effect

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Sometimes You Just Want A Reason to Get Dressed in the Morning - Co-Working Space Trends

by Rachel Selsky 13. August 2014 08:56

I work from home and have often considered whether a co-working situation would make me more or less productive. I’m not quite sure I want to give up my “commute,” and I do like my current early morning work routine, but I took notice when this article was bouncing around social media last month.

 

The article talks about the invaluable connections that can be made at co-working spaces and how successful co-working operations not only provide space but also promote a sense of community. The article cites a 2006–07 survey conducted by Laura Folano, an assistant professor at the Illinois Institute of Technology, who asked participants (independent workers, consultants, and entrepreneurs) why they chose to work in public places such as cafés, parks, and libraries. Some of the reasons the participants cited include:

  • Network of people to talk to

  • Found ambient noise to be helpful

  • Need to escape distractions at home

Operators of co-working spaces have found that reasons that workers cited in that study are some of the same reasons that draw people to co-working locations. The discussion surrounding this article reminded me of a webinar I took a few months ago that was hosted by the Northeastern Economic Developers Association (NEDA) that highlighted some successful co-working locations in Connecticut. The co-working locations that were highlighted include:
  • The Grove in New Haven, CT – The Grove features access to a variety of spaces ranging from The Study, which accommodates two people and is good for phone calls or private meetings, to The Clubhouse, which can fit 45 people and has a ping-pong table, interactive whiteboard, refrigerator, and flat screen monitors. The facility boasts bike racks, local coffee, a mailing address, storage space, reduced rates for downtown parking, fast WiFi, and other benefits. It also offers regular meet-ups, lunch-and-learns, and other types of social events.

  • AXIS901 in Manchester, CT – AXIS901 offers a variety of workspaces including private offices, a main co-working room with desks and tables, larger meeting rooms, and a break room. AXIS901 offers regular networking events and unique value-added services such as office hours with a “business pioneer, entrepreneur, and inventor” who can help co-working members advance their companies.

During the webinar the representatives of the co-working spaces offered some basic advice about how to create a successful space:

  • Good coffee: what else do small businesses run on?

  • Phone booth: no one wants to sit next to the guy shouting into his cell phone

  • Comfy chairs: for a change of scenery from the desks

  • Nice décor and furniture: to make it inviting and a nice place to spend your days

  • Automated management: to reduce costs and make it easy for users

Co-working space is often attractive to members of the knowledge economy, and offering access to these types of facilities can help regions grow this sector. There are many ways for economic developers to get involved in co-working locations including helping to find and finance the space, managing and/or operating the space, and helping to create social and educational events.

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Barbara Corcoran: Competitive, creative, confident…and cutthroat

by Christa Franzi 13. August 2014 08:49

One of my guilty pleasures is the television show Shark Tank, which is how I became a fan of Barbara Corcoran. Her startup story is great. The quick version is that she borrowed $1,000 in 1973 from a blue-aviator-shades-wearing boyfriend and started a real estate business. When that boyfriend left seven years later, he told her, “You know you’ll never succeed without me.”

 

Challenge accepted. By identifying hidden talents of her team members and making bold moves, Barbara battled to keep her business alive and grew it through several economic downturns. She sold the Corcoran Group for $66 million in 2001.

 

Barbara is competitive, creative, and confident with a “hit-me-again” attitude toward failure. The self-proclaimed “queen planner of bizarre fun” has some interesting advice, and even better stories, for anyone in business. Check out Barbara’s 8 Lessons for Entrepreneurs (video clips) where she discusses creative ways to generate a sense of demand, how to build a healthy business culture in a highly competitive sales environment, and why she cut the bottom 25% of her sales staff every six months….cutthroat!

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Featured Indicator: Top U.S. Airports

by Tom Dworetsky 13. August 2014 08:47

This month’s indicator looks at U.S. airports in terms of enplanements in 2013—the number of originating and connecting passengers at any given airport. Enplanement data is available from the website of the Federal Aviation Administration.

 

The chart below shows the top ten U.S. airports by enplanements in 2013. Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International (ATL), Los Angeles International (LAX), Chicago O’Hare International (ORD), and Dallas/Fort Worth International (DFW) round out the top four. Interestingly (but perhaps not surprisingly), the second-place position of LAX happens to correspond to the City of Los Angeles’s rank in terms of population among U.S. metros, O’Hare and Chicago are both number three, and DFW and Dallas–Fort Worth are both number four. First-place ATL, however, ranks way above the Atlanta metro’s ninth-place position in terms of population. This is largely because of Hartfield–Jackson’s role as a hub for Delta.

 

If we look at enplanements per capita by state, the picture looks a bit different. States with relatively low populations, but relatively high numbers of visitors rise to the top of the list. The popular tourism destinations of Hawaii, Nevada, and Alaska top the list. Only three states with populations ranking in the top ten make this list: Georgia, Florida, and Illinois.

 

Why does this matter?

A look at enplanement data is one way to track economic activity in a region or state. Given the importance of airports and the airline industry to the national and regional economies, an increase in enplanements over time is an indicator of a growing economy. More enplanements could signify an increase in both business travel (increased commerce creates a need for more employees to take business trips) and leisure travel (individuals have more disposable income to spend on travel).

 

While the data presented here focused on overall enplanements, data on passenger arrivals versus passenger connections by airport could provide further insight as to whether passengers are spending time in a region or just passing through. Enplanement data for the top 50 U.S. airports can be downloaded here.

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Rob’s Summer Read: Thinking, Fast and Slow

by Rob Camoin 16. July 2014 15:04

Thinking, Fast and Slow is a 2011 book by Nobel Memorial Prize winner in Economics Daniel Kahneman which summarizes research that he conducted over decades. It covers all three phases of his career in which he has studied the human decision-making processes. In his latest work, Kahneman theorizes that individuals use two modes of thought: fast and slow, or “System 1” and “System 2.” The former is considered to be more instinctive and emotion-based, while the latter attempts to be more logical. Through experiments, he illustrates that both modes are flawed. Through his work, the author suggests that people place too much confidence in human judgment suggesting that the decisions individuals, organizations, and governments make do not necessarily lead to optimal outcomes.

 

So what does this have to do with economic development?

Well, there is a low but growing murmur, mostly from outside our field, that happiness—not economics—is the future metric of community or regional success. Kahneman may help shed light on this theory. Thinking, Fast and Slow concludes by introducing the economics of happiness, the quantitative and theoretical study of happiness, well-being, quality of life, and related concepts. Happiness economics combines economics with other fields such as psychology and sociology and typically treats happiness-related measures—rather than wealth, income, or profit—as something to be maximized.

 

Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

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Jim's Summer Read: "The Pitchforks Are Coming... For Us Plutocrats"

by Jim Damicis 16. July 2014 15:03

For my addition to the summer reading list, I chose to share an article which has gained considerable traction nationally, given the recent debates over raising the minimum wage. The article is by Nick Hanauer, and it appeared in the July/August issue of Politico Magazine. It’s entitled “The Pitchforks Are Coming… For Us Plutocrats.” Nick is one of the nation’s top .01 percenters in wealth and made his money co-founding many companies, including Amazon. The premise of the article is that the inequity in wealth in the U.S. is threatening economic growth, and consequently, we must do more to increase the incomes of workers, for wealth and prosperity is driven by workers.  He states:

If we don’t do something to fix the glaring inequities in this economy, the pitchforks are going to come for us. No society can sustain this kind of rising inequality. In fact, there is no example in human history where wealth accumulated like this and the pitchforks didn’t eventually come out. You show me a highly unequal society, and I will show you a police state. Or an uprising. There are no counterexamples. None. It’s not if, it’s when.

He goes on to suggest that raising the minimum wage considerably is one of those things we must do.

 

I chose this article because of its relevancy to my interest in a need to expand the focus of economic development from narrow goals of business, job, and investment creation to opportunity and income creation across all classes of society. I recently had the opportunity to speak at the World Future Society 2014 Annual Conference on “Reconstituting the Middle Class” where I used the above quote for a call to action. In addition to Hanauer’s call for an increased minimum wage I add that we must make entrepreneurship and innovation pervasive throughout our culture and among all classes. To do so we must build skills for workers to operate in networks for learning and diffusion of knowledge and increase access to entrepreneurial resources. I will highlight this presentation in a future issue of the Navigator.

 

“The Pitchforks Are Coming…For Us Plutocrats” by Nick Hanauer

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About Camoin Associates

Camoin Associates is a professional service firm that utilizes its understanding of the public and private sector investment process to assist businesses and developers in capitalizing on funding, financing and tax programs established to encourage private investment. We also specialize in advising economic development organizations and municipalities in creating strategies, policies and programs that support investment and job creation.   [Click Here for More]

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