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Accelerating Job Creation and Competitiveness from the Bottom Up

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This was a post on the Doing What Works project’s competitiveness blog.

Many thanks to the team at CAP for kicking off this important conversation. In addition to the smart ideas already offered by Ed Rendell and Rob Atkinson to refocus federal priorities, here are a few more low-cost, high-impact, and very bipartisan steps we can take to accelerate growth and competitiveness, detailed in “The Acceleration Agenda.”

First of all, it’s important to note that the news is not all bad. The Obama administration is leading a new robust set of long-term investments in education, broadband, and clean energy competitiveness through its unheralded “new foundation” program.

But we can go faster by rewiring our broken economic development system to better link entrepreneurs to financing and build nontraditional networks that connect innovators, suppliers, and customers across traditional geographies. At the core of this economic development strategy is a new emphasis on nurturing bottom-up economic growth rather than top-down government dictates. The reason: Different federal programs “siloed” at departments and agencies across Washington simply can’t deliver results based on a one-size-fits-all strategy to meet the challenges of 21st century global economic integration.

There certainly is good reason to consider how to revamp federal programs so that they work more collaboratively and more efficiently, as the CAP report highlights, but even still policymakers need to consider a bottom-up acceleration cookbook that features these ingredients:

Distributed federal engagement networks
An important finding in the Council on Competitiveness’s Collaborate report makes clear how trusted, on-scene “barrier busters” in communities like Louisville and Denver have been critical to building working alliances between governments, the private sector, and community leaders. To be blunt: We need to make sure that more interagency meetings happen in frontline communities, not in Washington, D.C. This is cheap to do, and we can measure the benefits.

Implementation partnerships with business
Bottom-up doesn’t mean just states, cities, or universities get more money. We need locally led, public-private partnerships to be the locus of competitive innovation, too. Here is where businesses and community foundations can step up. Government cannot build this last mile alone. Like the Welfare to Work Partnerships of the 1990s, this new generation of Jobs and Innovation Partnerships would engage businesses directly in problem solving.

Flexible finance mechanisms
Public-private partnerships are critical to picking the right local projects, but then we need to fund them. The clear message emerging from bipartisan and business-friendly competitiveness consortia across the country is the dire shortfall of small amounts ($2 million to $10 million) of flexible seed and risk capital to kick-start the first wave of new entrepreneurialism. Filling this gap is critical. We just need to lock the smart people in a room for a few days.

Implementation waivers
New governors on both sides of the aisle are eager to pursue federal waiver strategies for economic development and infrastructure, similar to past efforts around health and welfare implementation. An executive order strategy, as recommended by CAP, can include this acceleration win-win.

Name the big idea
Separate economic sectors, such as small business, clean energy, infrastructure, exports, skills, and entrepreneurship, need to be better linked under one integrated framework. The sooner we name it, the sooner we can get to work building it. We could call it U.S. Competitiveness Strategy, A Regional Race to the Top, 21st Century Infrastructure, or simply More Jobs Dammit. But we need to organize around a shared lexicon, both at the federal level as CAP has outlined, and at the local level as suggested here. Until we do, many promising initiatives from the White House and the different departments and agencies in the administration will move slowly in their own lanes, rather than speed along on a fast track we need to build together.

Dan Carol is a Senior Fellow for Innovation and Clean Economy at NDN’s New Policy Institute, a Washington-based think tank.

This was a post on the Doing What Works project’s competitiveness blog.

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Reader’s comments for this post:

  1. Michael F. Sarabia

    Accelerating Job Creation and Competitiveness from the Bottom Up
    Dec 07 2010 By Dan Carol, a Senior Fellow for Innovation and Clean Economy at NDN’s New Policy Institute
    Your words are perfect: “But we can go faster by rewiring our broken economic development system to BETTER LINK entrepreneurs to financing and build NONTRADITIONAL networks that connect innovators, suppliers, and customers across traditional geographies.
    At the core of this economic development strategy is a new emphasis on nurturing
    bottom-up economic growth rather than
    top-down government dictates.”

    This is great news, it is effective fast and can be implemented by any company that understands what Dan Carol wrote, most anywhere, with Federal, State and/or City help. Great News! Two examples where this applies and one where it has been applied.

    First, where it could be applied because of a large number of Low Income Workers, many of them unemployed.
    1. City of Oakland. A newly elected Mayor, Jean Quan, has been promoting changes in the school system to include Vocational Training which could be expanded to include the unemployed and the underemployed and improve their skills and earning potential.
    The Hon. Mayor Quan was in charge of the School District and was able to observe the problems and the funding limitations, this experience will help her navigate to a solution.
    Her concept is to make sure that ALL High School Graduates will either qualify for higher education or have the job skills they want and will need to get a job. She wants to stop the tragedy of a HS Graduate unable to go to college or get a job, the consequences are predictable and require higher investment in the police force.
    Her vision is to use funds from the state or Federal government to help pay for the cost of teaching the required courses. Her basic requirement is that a company be willing to specify the number of people needed and the specific skill requirement.
    If they include proficiency in computers, that could be done with existing equipment in night courses.
    If they include proficiency in some special equipment the company has, they will be expected to make such equipment available for specified times with dedicated supervision.
    In general, the business will be expected to help with equipment and the training of teachers that will be needed for the specified number of months -less than 9 months. Some company experts may be hired to teach a couple of hours at night, if necessary.
    ———————
    Two Likely Candidates:
    First: Oakland recently began its plans for use of a large Army Depot Site in an ideal location: Right next to docks, airport and highways to San Francisco and
    North: To Richmond, Sacramento and Oregon
    East: To Reno and cities to the East, and
    South: To Freemont, San Jose, and cities to the South.
    Oakland has a large number of Low Income Workers ready to be trained and provide low cost production of whatever is required.

    Second: Richmond. This city-port found itself with a large plot of land near the SF Bay shore that became available when a project of a huge casino became a casualty of the Recession.
    The city of Richmond has a large number of unemployed Low Income Workers eager to be trained to work in the new space.
    This city needs and would like to repeat the efforts of Intel in Vietnam and rescue hundreds of families on the edge of disaster.
    ——————————–
    Recent Application:
    Intel, the largest producer of computer components, opened last month a$1 Billion Hi Tech factory in Vietnam which, in some areas, doubled the production capacity of Intel.
    They applied the same concept:
    They hired the teachers, trained them and put them in charge of training all new employees in all the tasks each was expected to perform. Vietnam leaders were highly impressed by the result and not only gave them “nice tax benefits” but also gave them full access to the highest leaders, at any time.
    —————
    We are all well motivated but expert help is key. I am unqualified.
    Oakland City Council Member, Nadel, is in charge of the disposal of the Army Depot Site -friend of the new Oakland Mayor Jean Quan.

 

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