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Notes from Innovation Policyworks
'Tis the political season, and this issue is devoted to the intersection of politics, policy and economic growth, whether it's how entrepreneurship can change the trajectory of immigrants in the US or contribute to foreign policy, or how net metering policy supports or hurts renewable energy jobs, or how broadband gets deployed. Having sat through a presentation by two local candidates for the House of Representatives, one who is proudly and loudly a "climate change denier," but argued for the importance of science, I'm struck by the loose connection between logic and political positions. I always liked the Daniel Patrick Moynihan saying: "Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts." Seems like we're in a fact-free zone these days!

High Speed Connectivity Essential
The former Mayor of Chattanooga was one of the first to recognize and act on the need for high-speed broadband connectivity as an economic development tool. By expanding the role of its municipal utility, Chattanooga offered its citizens access to 10 Gbps internet service. Now the US Court of Appeals has ruled that the FCC cannot stop states from setting limits on municipal broadband expansion. Many states are receiving intense pressure from the conventional carriers (e.g., AT&T, cable companies) that don't want municipalities to be able to compete with them, even in places where they don't want to offer such services. MORE
Interestingly, the local electric cooperatives that municipalities and rural areas are using to expand broadband have their roots in the rural electrification efforts during the Great Depression. Some call it the new New Deal. Back in the day, the private power companies said it was too expensive to electrify rural areas. So President Roosevelt established the Rural Electrification Administration in 1936, which led to the creation of thousands of small electric cooperatives that used federal funds to bring electricity to small towns across the country. Since the FCC declared last year that broadband was a utility (whew, that's pretty obvious!), the federal government has been funding a similar expansion of broadband. MORE

Albuquerque  (and others) Supporting Immigrant Entrepreneurs
Albuquerque is engaging its Spanish-speaking entrepreneurs by connecting them to places within its entrepreneurial ecosystem with the right resources. Using informal networking  and co-working spaces, as well as maker spaces and accelerator services, the city is encouraging innovators in its community. Over 11,000 immigrants in New Mexico are self-employed and employ nearly 25,000 people. MORE

In other places across the country, there's a growing sense that refugees and other immigrants have a lot to offer an economy. In small towns that are losing population, refugees and immigrants are bringing new vitality and new dollars to local economies. New statistics just released on Maine's immigrant community which is mostly Somali, show that immigrants are 56% more likely to have a graduate degree than native Mainers. Once these individuals get through the hurdles of learning English and being eligible to work, they have a huge capacity to transform a local economy for the better, while also diversifying the population. MORE

The Future of Solar Incentives
With the cost of solar energy reaching parity with fossil fuel-based energy, some states are considering whether or not subsidies are still required. In Vermont, long a proponent of solar power with an aggressive net metering program, the Public Service Board has proposed a restructuring of these incentives. In Nevada, all solar power incentives are being phased out, and energy providers like SolarCity and SunRun laid off hundreds of employees. Hawaii also has slashed solar incentives while California is retaining its high net metering rates. The key question is whether or not paying consumers who sell excess energy generated from solar back to the grid hurt ratepayers in general. The solar industry argues that distributed generation like rooftop solar reduces the need for expensive capital investments in new power plants and therefore helps ratepayers. MORE and MORE.

Entrepreneurship as Foreign Policy
Steven Koltai has written a provocative book called "Peace through Entrepreneurship: Investing in a Startup Culture for Security and Development," that was outlined in a recent Brookings blog (MORE). His key point is that entrepreneurship is low-, no- as well as high-tech, and all three types are vital to foreign policy. He argues that instability around the world primarily happens where young people can't find jobs (e.g., youth unemployment rates in the Middle East and North Africa top 40 percent), and joblessness is destabilizing. So, Steven says, "If jobs and economic growth are the foundation of peaceful, civil societies, then promoting entrepreneurship and supporting entrepreneurs should be a pillar of the US government's work abroad." 

In The News

We worked most of the summer to identify and recruit a new executive director for the Maine Center for Entrepreneurial Development. Nice article in MaineBiz. 


Coverage of our Newton-Needham Innovation District project was very favorable. This is just one of the articles.


Both the Missouri and Pennsylvania MEP Centers that we helped with proposal writing won their recompete bids for $2,207,873 and $5,280,576, respectively. Announcement HERE

In This Issue - September 2016

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Quote of the Month 
" Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love."
Mother Teresa

Get the Candidates' Views on Science and Technology
The folks over at sciencedebate.org have compiled an extensive list of questions and answers from all four presidential candidates on all things science, engineering, tech, health and environmental. This should be required reading. Some tidbits:
Donald Trump (R): "There is still much that needs to be investigated in the field of "climate change." Perhaps the best use of our limited financial resources should be making sure that every person in the world has clean water."
Hillary Clinton (D): Advancing science and technology will be among my highest priorities as President. ...the power of innovation [has] transformed entire sectors of industry, fueled economic growth and created high-paying jobs.
Jim Stein (G): The greatest challenge currently before us is climate change. We will place innovative breakthroughs in the science and technology associated with the mitigation of greenhouse gases and the building of a resilient society that can withstand current and future climate change at the very top of our research priorities.
Gary Johnson (L): We have made clear our commitment to reducing federal spending significantly. To do so, we plan to subject every program to close and fresh scrutiny. Our basic priorities will bend towards funding for basic science and limiting funding for applied science to that which has clear public benefit, but isn't feasible in the private sector. 

Envisioning Maine
Dr. Renault's essay talks about the importance of an innovation culture to support economic growth.  Buy your own copy at www.envisionmaine.org. 
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Innovation Policyworks enables economic development officials at state, regional and local levels make better, data-driven decisions by providing expert research, analysis and recommendations. Our clients see innovation and entrepreneurship as critical elements of their economic development strategy, and are developing new programs or policies, and/or evaluating existing ones. 

Dr. Catherine S. Renault has been delivering innovation-based economic development results in rural states for 25 years, most recently as science advisor and Director of the Office of Innovation for the State of Maine. Cathy is currently working with E2Tech, the Maine State Building and Construction Trades Council 
and iNBIA.  For a list of selected projects, see www.innovationpolicyworks.com/projects.