Friday, July 10, 2009

Green Energy Diaspora Project

Cross-posted with Greater Youngstown 2.0

(Blog reference
Chris Briem at Null Space) Political boundaries, such as the one between Ohio and Pennsylvania, often starkly delineate economic fortunes. Geography matters. But strength on one side of the boarder can improve prospects on the other side:

More regional collaboration is seen as one solution to help economies on both sides of the state line. It's relatively common for residents who live near the border to commute to the other state for work if needed.

Altmire and Ohio Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan, whose districts abut each other, have collaborated to promote a "Tech Belt'' in western Pennsylvania and northeastern Ohio that they hope creates jobs in advanced services and industries.

"We want to use all the resources that we have. Let's all work together,'' Altmire said in a phone interview. "When I say, 'Silicon Valley,' you know what that is. We want to develop that 'Tech Belt' in the same way."

The Sustainable Energy Forum represents the greatest opportunity for the Tech Belt to thrive. Yesterday's news demonstrates Ryan's ability to push this agenda forward:

A pair of federal spending bills contain nearly $6 million for Trumbull and Mahoning county projects, including more than $2 million to continue development of a business incubator in downtown Warren.

The funding now allows Warren Redevelopment and Planning the freedom to begin determining a location for the incubator, which will be used to hatch and expand businesses focused on clean technology, alternative energy and green building materials, its director says.

The project already received nearly $500,000 in money from Ohio.

''Technology of some type was really the direction of most of the successful incubators, specializing, that's why the YBI (Youngstown Business Incubator) has been so successful,'' WRAP director Anthony Iannucci said. ''This is a real step that would move us forward.''

The incubator project has shifted focus from one that would develop retail enterprise to energy sustainability, which help secure the federal dollars for the project.

I propose that what we are doing for the YBI we can do for the Warren green technology incubator. We can connect Tech Belt industry with Cleveburgh Diaspora talent, particularly in the Front Range of Colorado. I've been mapping out a strategy that I think would be an excellent compliment to the green sector of the Tech Belt.

The YBI is part of a larger economic development success story and connects Youngstown to my neck of the woods:

Interest in business incubators has exploded in the United States as recession-hit communities from New York City to Youngstown, Ohio, search for ways to revive their moribund economies. Already, well over 1,000 of these typically nonprofit organizations (more than 7,000 globally) shepherd local entrepreneurs through the beginning stages of business development with resources and services in the hope they’ll one day create local jobs.

They may be onto something. A 2008 study by the Economic Development Administration (EDA) found that, per dollar invested, incubators created more jobs than any other economic-development efforts – more than industrial parks and 10 times more than highway and other transportation projects (see chart). But not all incubators are created equal. As cities rush to embrace this hot economic-development strategy, they run the risk, economic-development experts say, of wasting lots of money.

“An incubator is only as successful as the labor market around it,” says Amy Glasmeier of the urban studies and planning department at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge. “If it doesn’t have a connection to the local economy, it’s just cheap real estate.” ...

... Just as entrepreneurs have varied needs, incubators go about supporting them in different ways. They have flourished in unlikely places like Youngstown and Toledo, Ohio, by focusing very narrowly. (Youngstown, for example, only incubates business-to-business technology firms.) Other cities, like Boulder, Colo., have nurtured successful companies, only to see them leave town because of a lack of long-term strategy, says Dinah Adkins, president of the National Business Incubation Association (NBIA).

Read again the part I put in boldface. Over the last six-months, I've come to appreciate how green innovation is connected to the local economy. However, the local labor market is lacking. We at Greater Youngstown 2.0 can address that shortcoming.

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