Under both the Bush and the Obama Administrations, Washington pushed hard in encouraging state and local governments to consider regional approaches to key issues such as workforce training, transportation planning, and economic development. In the Obama Adminstration, it now seems like every new grant programs requires a regional component.
Now, the states are starting to get in the act. Many are doing it to save money by forcing consolidation, but others are doing it because they see regional strategies as more effective and consequential. Some recent examples include New York where Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo is making a big splash with his plans for ten regional councils that will create regional strategic plans and serve as the key stewards of state economic development dollars. In Pennsylvana, Governor Tom Corbett has presided over major cuts in state economic development programs. The Partnerships for Regional Economic Performance are one of the suggested replacements that will consolidate operations of the state’s Ben Franklin Partners program, Small Business Development Centers, and several other key business support efforts.
Here in Virginia, Governor Bob McDonnell is taking a more cautious approach and is primarily opting for the carrot over the stick. This week, he announced the first winners of the state’s Building Collaborative Communities program. This program provides small grants for innovative regional projects and has been a very well-received tool for promoting regionalism. Among the first time winners is the Region 2000 Partnership, an EntreWorks Consulting client, who will deploy the funding to support creation of a new regional Higher Education Consortium, designed to improve both for-credit and non-credit programs that help students and local residents learn about entreprneeurship and to pursue entrepreneurial opportunities.
These states are among the early adopters of these regional concepts. Look for others to follow in the future.