Big Ideas of (the First Half of) 2011

June 17, 2011

I promised in my last post that I would do one final entry on the Prosperity Blog before I leave the PSRC. And, since today is my last day, there’s no time like the present to make that happen. I also promised that this last post would be entirely self-indulgent and nostalgic, and I can think of no post that fits the bill more than the annual Prosperity Blog Year In Ideas feature – the yearly tradition in which I point out to you all how good my thoughts on economic development are, in Top Ten format.

Since it’s only halfway through the year (June 30 is less than two weeks away!), I’ll cut that Top Ten down to Top Five. And so, without further ado…and with no more ado ever again by me on this blog…here are the best practical proposals for improving our region’s business climate and competitiveness (and the most impractical, sky’s-the-limit ideas) I’ve had so far in 2011.

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A Word About Prosperity Partnership

June 9, 2011

One of the nice things about leaving the Prosperity Partnership is I get to wax nostalgic and poet about my five years on the job. So, this post and the next one are going to be an entirely self-indulgent trip down memory lane…but you just might learn something too!

For this post, I want to tackle the all important question that’s probably been in the back of your mind over the past six years…maybe keeping you awake at night or sitting back at your desk and feeling that annoying itch in your brain. It’s a question that’s both shockingly simple and straightforward, yet annoyingly complex and elusive. No, it’s not “How did Eric get to be such a hilarious yet insightful blogger?”

The simple question is this: What is the Prosperity Partnership?

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Schinfeld Goes International

June 9, 2011

We’ve done our fair share of hellos and goodbyes over the years here at the Prosperity Blog. We acknowledged our former Director of Economic Development taking flight to Boeing and welcomed our new Director of Economic Development to the fold. We even said farewell to one of our team members in the last paragraph of a Weekly REDEW post.

But this sendoff post is the hardest because, well, it’s for me! After five long years at the Prosperity Partnership – and 383 posts (!) on the Prosperity Blog – I’m off to a new, um, “world of adventure.”

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Weekly FWSR: Fast Cars, Fun Games and Meat-related Typos

May 16, 2011

It’s time once again for my personal favorite feature at the Prosperity Blog: Fun With Search Referrers! It allows us to talk about the issues we care about in a concise, poignant and sometimes hilarious way. How is that different than every Prosperity Blog post you ask? Well thank you for the compliment! Did I mention that you look like you’ve lost some weight?

Anyway, here’s the latest Fun with Search Referrers, featuring fast cars, fun games and meat-related typos.

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“The Goal of Business isn’t to Create Jobs.”

May 6, 2011

Yesterday was the kick-off meeting of the Regional Economic Strategy Technical Advisory Group…or, as I like to call them, the RESTAG (you already know from things like B-MOW and REDEW that I’m terrible at acronyms). For those of you who have been reading about our preparations to start developing a new Regional Economic Strategy, you’ll be happy to hear that we’ve moved from talking about doing it to actually starting!

And start, we did. With about 50 people packing the PSRC Boardroom, we introduced our consultants – TIP Strategies of Austin, TX – and got people thinking about the major issues that are going to frame our thinking about the strategy: things like the increasing divergence in economic opportunity between people with and without college education, the impacts of our aging workforce and trends (both positive and negative) with regard to manufacturing.

But what stood out the most from the TIP Strategies presentation wasn’t any of those, but rather a point so simple yet fundamental that it was almost revolutionary to hear. And, with full attribution to them, I wanted to share it with all of you: “the goal of business isn’t to create jobs.”

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Economic Development Through Tax Incentives

April 8, 2011

Often, us in the Washington state economic development world mention the challenges that we have in not being able to engage in traditional economic development incentives. Because of our state constitution, we can’t do a lot of the direct financial offerings to companies that other states do, as it violates our “lending of credit” provision.

But this article in the trusty New York Times points out that using incentives to lure companies across state borders can be a tough way to do economic development“:

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One More Post about the Puget Sound and Cars

April 8, 2011

So I was on the treadmill at the gym this morning at 6 am (who’s the man!) watching SportsCenter, and on comes a commercial for Callaway golf clubs. I mean, it’s the Masters this weekend in Augusta, so no surprise, right? Except, the Callaway commercial opens with a picture of a Lamborghini and starts talking about their major strategic partnership between the sports car and the driver (ha! double entendre! but I’m referring to the golf club.) What, you may ask, is the connection?

Composite materials, of course. And where is Lamborghini developing their composites? The University of Washington. In fact, it’s mentioned in this Seattle Times article: “…the lab is a sort of hub for Lamborghini to work with the school, Boeing and other partners, including golf-club manufacturer Callaway and Intel.”

And so I’ll say it one more time. Our region has a secret automotive industry cluster that no one talks about!

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A Tuna Salad Company, A Seafood Company or a Canned Goods Company?

April 2, 2011

That’s the old Branding 101 example of “you are what you say you are.” The idea being that Starkist or Bumblebee will be most successful expanding their product offerings if it fits in with a defined brand that people understand. You might be open to buying Starkist brand canned salmon or even Bumblebee fresh tuna steaks. Conversely, you probably wouldn’t want to buy tuna fish from a motor oil company, just because they branded themselves as a business that “makes things in containers.” So there are limits to everything.

We see a lot of that going on in our region. Boeing isn’t an “airplane company,” but rather an aerospace company and so you’re open to buying their tankers, and satellites and missiles. Microsoft is very much in the middle of defining themselves as a “platform company” that provides the tools upon which you create – whether that be word documents, video games, mobile apps or building energy management software.

These are the things that I thought of when I saw this article about BMW investing in IT start-ups as a way to facilitate defining themselves as a “mobility company.” Is this more Chicken of the Sea canned salmon or Pennzoil tuna?*

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Prosperity Blog on Citytank

March 30, 2011

Many of you in the blogosphere know Dan Bertolet, formerly of hugeasscity then Publicola: urban thinker and writer extraordinaire. You may or may not know that Dan has started a new blog, Citytank, which “believes that cities are the solution. Our mission is to propagate ideas that help fulfill the promise of cities to both expand the human spirit, and sustain a thriving planet.”

In particular, he’s started this “C200 Series” that attempts to explain “why cities matter. In 200 words. By a bunch of wicked smarty pants authors.” And your Prosperity Blog is nothing if not smarty pants.

So here’s our contribution. Which is a distillation of an older post we did on that same topic back around the time of the NYT Magazine Year in Ideas. And you know how we feel about the Year in Ideas.

Anyway, enjoy our Citytank post!


Weekly B-MOW: Seattle Chamber Intercity Study Mission

March 26, 2011

Every year, the Seattle Chamber does an “intercity study mission,” bringing regional business, government and community leaders to a peer city for a three day exploration of similarities, differences and, most importantly, the best practices that we can take back and copy in our own region. This past week, a group of us traveled for this year’s trip to San Jose for an Intercity Study Mission to Silicon Valley.

The reason to do a study mission to Silicon Valley is obvious: as much as we fancy ourselves as a leading region for innovation, we pale in comparison to the sheer breadth and depth and magnitude of what has come out of that region – HP, Google, Adobe, Apple, Yahoo…the list goes on and on. So, what are those things that we can take from them?

Here are my top three takeaways:

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Money for Metropolitan Business Planning

March 22, 2011

One thing that we’ve lost focus on during the two years of the Metropolitan Business Plan process is that it’s not just about BETI. Yes, yes, we love our idea for the Building Energy-Efficiency Testing & Integration Center and Demonstration Network, and its proposal to catalyze our local energy efficiency IT cluster through validating these technologies in real-world settings. But although we identified the idea of BETI through the Metropolitan Business Planning process, the MBP goals are much broader.

And the exciting thing is that one of the big goals – funding of regions through Metropolitan Business Plans – may be coming to fruition!

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OMG! NYT Loves Seattle!

March 9, 2011

You know that you’ve built yourself a good brand as “a blogger on regional economic development issues” when you start getting emails with the subject line “Good article for a blog post?” or with messages like “Hey, did you see this article? You should blog about it!” In fact, my brother in New York sent me an email last week entitled “Good Stuff (Blog-worthy even?)” with an link to this Tech Crunch article.

So, when the New York Times yesterday had an Economix article about how “Seattle adapted as the world changed and provides lessons for other cities,” you know that I got several notes about it. Of course, that means I should probably do my trademark brilliant and insightful commentary about the content of said article, and so here it is: “I agree.”

Except for one thing.

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DIY Economic Development – The Tourism Industry Way

March 8, 2011

We live in an interesting time for the public sector. Local and state governments are struggling to allocate scarce tax dollars to a variety of important programs and needs, and often short term issues (public safety, social services) are winning out over long-term investments like higher education and economic development. Whether you think that’s the right way or the wrong way to approach it, that’s what’s happening, and so it’s interesting to see how economic development organizations are dealing with the new reality.

And one of the most interesting reactions that we’re seeing is “Fine, if you won’t help me, I’ll do it myself.” Like the tourism industry is proposing to do.

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Three Interesting Economic Development Findings in the GAO’s “Government Duplication” Report

March 2, 2011

It’s time for everyone’s favorite game show, “Pretend that the federal budget problems can be solved by eliminating waste!” And by “everyone’s favorite,” I’m referring to the “60 percent saying the federal budget’s problems can be ameliorated by eliminating waste, fraud and abuse.” Which is right up there for me with “government should be run more like a business” on the list of things that people who don’t understand government like to say.

IMHO.

Which is not to say that there aren’t opportunities for streamlining and improving government, like the ones pointed out in this new GAO report, poignantly named “Opportunities to Reduce Potential Duplication in Government Programs, Save Tax Dollars, and Enhance Revenue.” Among the many parts of the federal government examined, there’s a section about how “Efficiency and Effectiveness of Fragmented Economic Development Programs Are Unclear” (starting on page 42). Here are three interesting things about that section:

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Two Words That Go Great Together: “Innovation” and “Summit”

March 2, 2011

The Prosperity Blog doesn’t usually shill for events. We like to keep our integrity so that you see us as an unbiased observer of the regional economic development scene. (Except for all that shilling we do for our own initiatives and priorities, but hey, man’s gotta eat.)

So, given that general practice of restraint, you will hopefully take it with some seriousness when we step out of that restriction and tell you that you probably don’t want to miss the 2011 Washington Innovation Summit on March 18. Seriously.

There’s two reasons we’re encouraging you to attend. First, the presenters – leading technology, business and policy experts like Crossing the Chasm author Geoffrey Moore and Larry Smarr, Founding Director of the California Institute for Telecommunications & Information Technology – plus a who’s who of panelists from the region and state: Steve Davis, Bruce Kendall, Ed Lazowska, Rick LeFaivre, Rogers Weed, Kim Zentz and a ton more (including our own Bob Drewel). By the way, note that I didn’t tell you who that last list of people are…if you don’t know, then you definitely need to attend!

The second reason you should probably go, is that it’s all about the issues we care most about here at the Prosperity Blog:

  • How the state is fusing support for innovation into its overall economic development strategy;
  • How emerging information technologies are dramatically changing our economy, presenting our state with new challenges as well as exciting new opportunities;
  • How the very nature of the enterprise is evolving, and how we should respond; and
  • How our industries can grow exports and strengthen global relationships.

As we’ve said before, innovation is like coolness, so be there or be square. And, as an added incentive, if you find me at the event and mention this blog post, you’ll get a sincere handshake from me…and if you’re lucky, I might even touch your shoulder with my left hand while shaking with my right. That’s how real economic developers do it.