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Notes from Innovation Policyworks
As we approach what may well be the end of this current economic expansion (we're eight years into the third longest expansion in modern times), we're experiencing extremely low unemployment, and shortages of labor. At the same time, a huge number of men of working age are permanently out of the workforce, primarily those with less than a college education. And, the fastest-growing jobs are in fields that are normally dominated by women.
What does this have to do with innovation? Everything, it turns out. One persistent theme is that innovation will eventually mean that no one has to work, and we should be prepared to pay subsistence wages to everyone, regardless of their activities. On the other end of the spectrum, innovation advocates are saying that past history suggests that technology will create opportunities that no one has ever heard of.  If the latter is true, and I tend to think it is, then how do we make sure that people don't get left behind? Many are now suggesting that the most important question of the day is, "How do we make economic growth more inclusive?" And, I add, how do we make sure inclusive includes white men? How weird is that?


Measuring the Intensity of Startup Ecosystems
The Progressive Policy Institute (PPI) has jumped into the fray trying to measure entrepreneurial ecosystems with a new approach: look for want ads that have the word "startup" in them. Using this metric, PPI finds that the much-heralded drop in entrepreneurship may be turning around, and indeed accelerating from 2014 to the present. They found that the top 5 Tech Hubs were the usual suspects: San Francisco, San Jose, Seattle, New York, and Boston. But the Next 25 were more interesting, with a wide geographic spread from Phoenix, New Orleans, Cleveland and Cincinnati, as well as Detroit and Charleston, Madison (WI) and Worcester, MA. PPI completes their analysis by reviewing policies that can accelerate startups, including loosening crowd funding rules, reforming corporate tax systems, increased federal and state investment in research and development, welcoming immigrants, reduced trade barriers and regulatory reform. Read it all HERE.

The Stage Where Most Innovation Projects Fail
It's not what you think. Most innovation projects don't fail because of lack of good ideas. They fail in the transition from R&D to implementation. That's because many companies have their innovation hidden in skunk works or separate departments. But, when those ideas have to be integrated with the "real world" of manufacturing and sales, things fall apart. Companies that are successful at innovation have all elements of the organization involved in new product development from the start, with appropriate accountability and incentives for success. Read MORE.

Free Tuition in New York State
New York State has become the first state in the nation to make college tuition free for middle class students at both two- and four-year public colleges. Tuition will be free for undergraduate students is their families earn no more than $100,000 a year, going up to $125,000 by 2019. Students will still have to pay for fees and room and board, and will take at least 30 credits a year. And, they must stay in New York after graduation for the same number of years that they received the credit. Tennessee, Oregon and the city of San Francisco have recently made tuition free at community colleges for all residents, regardless of income. MORE
Universities' Class Gap
Since the election, many universities have been struggling to understand the post-truth, anti-intellectual world. As evidenced by last Saturday's March for Science, the gap between educated Americans and their working class compatriots is as wide as ever. Various university professors have been trying to explain the phenomenon, and often have only succeeded in sounding incredibly elitist. Journalist Fareed Zakaria quipped, "If the primary sin of the right is racism, the cardinal sin of the left is elitism." Harvard's Robert Cole, long a controversial observer of the working class, has noted that in trying to overcome racism, we have overlooked the important role of class. And on elite campuses, working-class students are virtually absent. Read about Harvard's take HERE

New Names for Old Schemes
The Pew Charitable Trust has exposed a new version of an old economic development scheme, one that has been repeatedly been exposed as ineffective. Many state legislatures are ill equipped to understand complex financial schemes proposed in the guise of economic development, especially when the promise of jobs in rural areas is included in the pitch. Multi-layered subsidized lending programs - originally called certified capital companies - CAPCO- programs, have failed to deliver promised jobs and tax revenues. Now the companies that peddle these programs are going into states and piggybacking on the highly successful federal New Market Tax Credit (NMTC) programs. The twist is that they propose state level NMTC programs and, amazingly, write statute so that only the CAPCOs are eligible to participate. So, if this is happening where you are, read THIS piece. 

The Power of And
A common lesson for those seeking increased creativity is to embrace the improvisational strategy of always replying, "Yes, and..." to build on what someone has said to you. Now the word and, especially replacing the word but, is seen as having even more power as a source of competitive advantage, a way to engage stakeholders and reconcile difficult paradoxes. Eric McNulty suggests that and will open more doors than but because it eliminates the implied denial, and embraces the opportunity to mutually approach a problem. And subtly reframes everything. And, read MORE here. 
Tiny Business Villages
Perhaps you have heard of or seen tiny houses. But what about tiny businesses? This new idea for rural places has legs. In Tionesta, PA, standard outdoor storage sheds with false fronts were grouped together on a vacant lot in the downtown area. Short-term leases allowed entrepreneurs to try out their business ideas (like pop-up spaces), while also creating traffic for the downtown. Another similar effort was successful in Pascalgoula, MS, using former Katrina temporary housing cottages of 1,000 sq. ft. each. See pictures HERE.

In This Issue - April 2017

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Quote of the Month 
"A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty." 

States' Progress on Clean Energy
The Union of Concerned Scientists has found that the states leading the transition to a clean energy future are: California, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Hawaii, Oregon, Maine, Washington, New York and Iowa. My home state of Maine comes in 5th in renewable energy generation, 2nd in the increase in renewable energy generation, 5th in new renewable energy capacity and energy savings, and 3rd in carbon dioxide emissions reductions. Maine is also 9th in wind jobs per 1000 people.
More HERE.

Arts and Culture Also Drive Economic Growth
Since Richard Florida first started talking about the creative economy, advocates have argued that it's important to add Arts to our national obsession with Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). The Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) has just released its first report on arts and cultural employment, showing that 24 states had positive employment growth in these sectors in 2014. The leading states were Washington, Arizona, Utah, Nevada and Florida, with information services and design services as the largest contributors. MORE.

The US Cannot Be Run Like a Business
This article from the Harvard Business Review might be redundant if you watch the national news shows every night, but author Henry Mintzberg lays out the differences between being a customer and a citizen. He suggests, "The place of business is in the competitive marketplace, to supply us with goods and services. The place of government, aside from protecting us from threats, is to help keep that marketplace competitive and responsible." In fact, he suggests that there has been too much business involvement in government, and that we need to rethink this separation of powers. Read the article HERE.

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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 more than 25 years, most recently as science advisor and Director of the Office of Innovation for the State of Maine. Cathy is currently working with 
the University of Southern Maine, the Maine Venture Fund, and Loudoun County, VA.   For a list of selected projects, see www.innovationpolicyworks.com/projects.