Talkin’ Recovery

I just got back yesterday from a whirlwind 36 hours in DC, where I was attending a Brookings Institute event highlighting “emerging innovations in recovery-inspired initiatives” as well as barriers to successful implementation. A couple of observations:

First off, good to go back to my former town (I worked on the Hill from ’98-’00), and good to meet folks from around the country working on taking full advantage of the Recovery Act. Happy to say that our region tied Chicago for the biggest delegation (myself, along with folks from the City of Seattle and King County), but there were representatives from as far as San Francisco, Kansas City, Memphis, Flagstaff and Philadelphia.

Second, Brookings’ findings on “innovations” are absolutely in line with what we’ve been preaching in this region since the beginning, that the best projects and approaches:

…embody one or more of five key traits of 21st-century high-performance organizations and initiatives, as identified by Brookings’ Blueprint for American Prosperity effort.  In this regard,
each of the innovative ARRA initiatives surveyed in this report reflects one or more of the following characteristics:

    • Reflect a long-term regional vision
    • Adopts a multi-jurisdictional or multi-sectoral approach
    • Embraces integrated solutions
    • Catalyzes market and private investment
    • Employs information management, data, and benchmarking to maximize performance

Third, a lot of this region’s ideas on barriers to implementation were pretty universally shared.  If you’re interested, you can read my memo on barriers, but a couple rose to the top:

  • The way that funding silos (how different funds for the same or complementary purposes are littered throughout different agencies and programs) get in the way
  • The fact that regional organizations aren’t being fully utilized as direct applicants, recipients or passthroughs of funds
  • The need for more focus on small business and commercialization
  • The need for the broadband program to recognize different needs than just laying copper in rural areas
  • And the need for more information about who’s getting funded

In addition to all of us regional folks, there were plenty of representatives from the Administration and the various departments, and they all seemed opened to changes both in the short term (remaining ARRA funding announcements) as well as longer term reform of how the federal government invests in metro regions and 21st century infrastructure.  We’ll see if anything comes of it, but definitely time well spent.

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