Communities undertaking strategic plans are increasingly approaching them through the lens of the innovation economy.
Aware of the role that tech-led development can have in driving sustainable and broad-based economic growth, regions are considering how to shape innovation ecosystems that drive a virtuous cycle of R&D, commercialization, entrepreneurship, and job creation. More and more, these are not just major metros looking at creating traditional innovation districts like Silicon Valley. They’re communities of all sizes, rural, urban, and suburban.
For example, Camoin Associates recently worked with a collection of towns and cities in New York’s rural Southern Tier that is positioning itself for an innovation-focused future as the “I-86 Corridor”. The area is home to hundreds of manufacturers, the headquarters and R&D center for Corning, Inc., and two colleges, but the key challenge was determining how to mitigate gaps in its innovation infrastructure—for example, the lack of a research university and significant untapped potential in leveraging Corning’s presence and retiring workforce.
Through a collaborative design process, these communities in Steuben and Chemung Counties developed a number of projects that will address those gaps. One key project, the Center for Technology Infusion, will be a consortium of corporations in the transportation equipment supply chain that will undertake both proprietary research and shared pre-competitive research. The center will have its own multi-disciplinary researchers, working in collaboration with Binghamton and Alfred Universities. In this way, the plan infuses the missing element of industry-related academic research into the corridor, with a focus on the region’s most strategic manufacturing industry sector.
Leadership is key to the implementation of any strategic plan, and even more so when a plan is as transformative and ambitious as the one the I-86 Corridor designed.
One outcome of the plan is therefore a commitment to create a new leadership organization to champion and guide the plan’s execution. The plan also includes modified or new governance arrangements related to the intersection of workforce development and economic development; to the regionalization of water and wastewater issues; and to the non-profit organizations that support various aspects of community development.
Leadership and governance are therefore recognized by the communities as the core of their strategy—the political, business, institutional, and civic leadership that is necessary to foster and create all of the other necessary underlying ingredients of the Innovation Corridor. The subsequent strategy layers concern sources of innovation, human capital, vibrant communities and built environment, and promoting the area’s innovation identity. Each strategy area is supported by an action plan, with specific projects prioritized and assigned to lead implementers.
The final product is an actionable strategy that the Corridor’s stakeholders are implementing in a spirit of exceptional and sustained collaboration.
In December, the region got a big boost to several initiatives featured in the plan. The Center for Technology Infusion, the Corning Health Education Complex, and a revitalization of downtown Elmira driven by a new higher education partnership will all become realities with the support of funding from the Consolidated Funding Application process and the region’s winning $500 million proposal to the Upstate Revitalization Imitative competition.