Monday, May 10, 2010

Tale Of Three Overlapping Regional Initiatives

Northeast Ohio (aka Team NEO) is the Cleveland-centric regional program. Power of 32 is the Pittsburgh-centric attempt at multi-county collaboration. The heart of the TechBelt is Youngstown. Team NEO has been a public relations disaster. From what I'm hearing, Power of 32 is already seeking a second chance. That leaves the TechBelt:

Last week, NorTech received a $300,000 federal grant to craft global business strategies for companies involved in energy storage, smart grids, electric-powered transport and biomass/waste-to-energy.

NorTech also joined an application filed Thursday by a "TechBelt" -- extending from Cleveland to Pittsburgh to Morgantown, W. Va. -- that hopes to land $130 million in federal money for bringing energy-efficient building technologies to market, NorTech President Rebecca Bagley said.

Large-company partners in the application include Alcoa Inc., Eaton Corp. and Sherwin-Williams Co., Bagley said.

I read the above as NorTech moving from Cleveland+ to TechBelt. At the very least, Team NEO is redundant. I'm more inclined to write that it is vestigial. Team NEO has always been regional in name, but parochial in deed.

Where does that leave the Power of 32? A day late and a dollar too much. If the steering committee ever rights the ship, then they will have to contend the TechBelt momentum:

Pittsburgh's appeal is its rebirth over the last two decades, as well as the fact that officials there and throughout Pennsylvania have united with their counterparts in Ohio and West Virginia to work together from a tri-state standpoint, Quick said.

Pittsburgh, in particular, has dealt with a lot of issues that are now facing Lexington and Louisville, he said. Kentucky's urban areas especially need to work together when it comes to dealing with the state legislature, which is controlled more by smaller cities and counties, he said.

The tri-state could refer to both the Power of 32 and the TechBelt, save that the former also includes Maryland. I doubt any officials would tout the Power of 32 to outsiders. There's nothing to share. As for the TechBelt, today is awash in news:

Northeast Ohio and Southwest Pennsylvania together constitute one of the 20 megapolitans Lang Nelson have identified. They call this region the “Steel Corridor,” a name that evokes its proud past but unfortunately does not point to a promising or particularly innovative and prosperous future. In 2007 Ohio Congressman Tim Ryan (OH-17) his counterpart in Pennsylvania, Congressman Jason Altmire (PA-04), tired of the continuing reference to the industrial past, coined the term “Tech Belt” and , in October 2007″ convened the first “Tech Belt Summit, inviting the region’s business and civic leaders to meet at Youngstown State University and begin to explore the shared future of this region. ...

... Youngstown and its political, academic and business leadership have been in the center of each effort, providing both thought leadership and a “third place” to meet and discuss the future of geography know, in earlier times, as the “Steel Belt” and the “Rust Belt” but now defining itself as the “Tech Belt.” We will discuss each initiative in greater detail in subsequent posts.

Youngstown is the center of this megapolitan, where Pittsburgh can honestly meet Cleveland. Team NEO and the Power of 32 should cut bait and follow NorTech's lead. Swallow your civic pride and get behind Youngstown.

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