I am a big fan of business plan and innovation prize competitions. They help generate great new ideas and also help build a culture of innovation and creativity by shining a spotlight on new ideas and new companies. I’m not alone as the market place for innovation prizes is pretty crowded nowadays. But, every once in awhile, a cool and distinctive competition pops up and I think Fish 2.0 fits the bill. Fish 2.0 seeks to spur innovation and sustainability in global seafood supply chain. Fish 2.0 is a global competition so companies and individuals from all over the world are invited to participate; the completion also includes a unique track for Pacific Island businesses. The competition is seeking early stage and established businesses, as well as investors and mentors/coaches. The competition is now open for applications until April 27, 2015 and winners will be selected later this year.
This is the second iteration of this prize competition, and the previous winners were an exciting bunch. They included ten firms all pursuing new approaches to sustainable seafood development. The top winner, Blue Sea Labs, is developing e-commerce tools to better link small fisherman with chefs and other potential markets. Another top performer, Crycocyte, has developed new technologies to allow improved storage and transportation of fish eggs. The final top performer, Ho’oulu Pacific, uses aquaponics to grow fish and vegetables in Waimanloa, Hawaii. We are going to need these kinds of innovations if we hope to maintain a sustainable seafood industry into the future.
Last week, the Knight Foundation announced the winners of its Knight Cities Challenge, a very exciting and innovative competition to fund cool ideas for making cities more livable, prosperous, and successful. The 32 winners include a list of some very exciting and fun ideas. Here’s just a few of the more quirky and interesting:
- Operation Export Macon (GA): A project to send a one-man trailer and show to neighboring cities to showcase what’s great about Macon.
- Detroit Homecoming: A new digital community designed to engage former residents of Detroit in supporting the region’s revitalization.
- The Science Barge: A floating sustainable farm and education center designed to highlight the impact of climate change in Miami, FL.
- The Pop-Up Pool Project: An effort to create urban swimming pools in locations across the City of Philadelphia.
There are lots of great ideas in this crop—they tell us that good ideas can come from anywhere and that many good ideas can be done without major funding. The largest project on this list—a culinary incubator in Gary, IN—received $650,000. But, many of the projects received investments of less than $100,000. So, great ideas can come in small packages. The next competition starts in October, so, if you’re up for it, get ready to innovate!
The latest edition of EntreWorks Insights, our quarterly newsletter is now available. This issue examines potential causes for America’s recent start-up slump. You can learn more and subscribe here.
Like folks in most industries or business segments, economic developers go through fad cycles, where certain topics or initiatives get a lot of public attention and interest. Manufacturing supply chains are currently “hot” in our business. Via some recent national projects and some regional work across the US, I’ve spent a lot of recent time working on this issue. There’s a good reason why people are interested—major corporate decisions—and a large share of investments and innovation—happen in global supply (or value) chains. In the past, most activities occurred within the walls of a single firm, often a far-flung conglomerate like GM or US Steel. Today, those decisions occur within massive supply chains that connect hundreds (if not thousands) of firms all working to crank out world-class products, services, and technologies. (Here’s an excellent OECD introduction to mapping global value chains.)
Global supply chains are very complex, and thus very tough to understand. It’s even tougher at the local level, when you need to understand global value chains and your community’s place in them. That’s why this week’s new White House Report on Supply Chain Innovation is so timely. If you’re looking to understand the fuss over supply chain innovation, this report is a good place to start. It’s an excellent introduction to the issues and to some of the current initiatives designed to promote supply chain innovation. In many ways, supply chain innovation is the next generation of “just in time” or “lean.” If small manufacturers want to do global business in global supply chains, they will need to commit to becoming more competitive and more innovative. This will require investment along with support to make the case for why and how supply chain innovation matters. As the White House report notes, this is an issue being addressed in a host of developed economies—we can expect supply chain innovation to remain a hot topic here at home too.
If in the (lucky but unlikely) event that you happen to be traveling in Italy next week, let me encourage you to make a stop in Milan for the Global Entrepreneurship Congress (GEC) 2015. GEC is the world largest convening of entrepreneurship and start-up champions and is an event that shouldn’t be missed. GEC started as an annual convening of local organizations involved with Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW), a series of global events (held every November) that now promotes entrepreneurship in 157 different countries. While I will miss this year’s GEC, I attended last year’s Congress in Moscow, which was a huge success despite difficult political circumstances. More than 6,000 people (from 153 nations) attended—suggesting that support for championing start-ups crosses all political and cultural boundaries. GEC 2015 should be similarly packed. The event will feature a who’s who of start-up champions—from Italy and from around the world—as well as dozens of cool events and other happenings related to nurturing entrepreneurs. You can get updates here, and if you like to plan ahead, start thinking about attending GEC 2016 which will kick off in Medellin, Colombia, on March 13, 2016.
I’m in the midst of reading Peter Kageyama’s new book, Love Where You Live: Creating Emotionally Engaging Places. Kageyama is well-known in new urbanist circles for his 2011 book, For the Love of Cities, which argued that successful places are built on strong emotional attachments between people and place. Love Where You Live builds on that basic case, offering more pf a how-to-guide for building these emotional links. His claim is that successful places harness the commitment of co-creators, i.e. everyday citizens who are helping to make a community better. These folks could be artists, store owners, or just everyday people, but they all share a commitment to the community and, in most cases, they are already trying to build a better place. This new book offer lots of stories and tips for how to “activate your community.” It’s breezily written and chock full of fun ideas—such as Huntsville, Alabama’s Cigar Box Guitar Festival or Muscatine, Iowa’s River Monster project. It would be a good companion guide to Urban Acupuncture, another hands-on to community building. It would be especially well-suited for use by community volunteers–the co-creators of your own community. It’s a fun and inspiring read.
This blog regularly highlights programs and initiatives that work in promoting economic and community development. As a new study released last week suggests, we need to add the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) to our list. The study, led by my colleagues at the Center for Regional Economic Competitiveness and West Virginia University, examines the impact of ARC on Appalachia’s economy since the program’s inception fifty years ago. Appalachia Then and Now finds ARC investments have played a critical role in reducing the intense poverty that wracked Appalachia in the 1960s and which served as primary force in spurring the War on Poverty. Today, Appalachia’s economy looks like much of the rest of the US. Poverty rates have been cut in half, and the region’s residents have access to potable water, high quality education and health care, and essential infrastructure, especially via the Appalachian Development Highway System.
Despite this progress, not all is rosy. Much of the region, especially in the core of central Appalachia, remains economic distressed. In Appalachia, 107 counties are still deemed high-poverty. Like many rural areas, the region is also beset by high levels of youth out-migration and by a host of other economic development challenges. Moreover, new challenges are emerging—especially in communities who long relied on the coal industry as a primary economic driver. As this important historical analysis notes, great progress has been made, but there is much more work to be done.
I spent today’s lunch hour at the Kauffman Foundation’s Annual State of Entrepreneurship address. This was a well-run event, with an interesting focus on entrepreneurship rates among millennials and baby boomers. In addition to releasing new data on these demographic groups, the event included an interesting panel discussion on how best to support boomer and millennial entrepreneurs. The luncheon also included some new program announcements from Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker and SBA Director Maria Contreras-Sweet. Three ideas jumped out at me as particularly promising:
- New entrepreneurship data: The Census Bureau will now do annual updates (as opposed to current practice of five year updates) of its Survey of Business Owners. While this is not the most sexy issue, we need better data on what’s happening with entrepreneurs. This move will help a lot. You can learn more here.
- Exporting for Start-Ups: Most US export promotion programs deal with more established businesses, but start-ups need to think global from day one. A new Commerce pilot project, Start-Up Global, will bring export promotion tools to new businesses and will kick off later this year in four cities: Washington, DC; Arlington, TX; Cincinnati, and Nashville.
- On-Line Loan Matching: SBA is unveiling a new on-line marketplace for small business loans, SBA LINC. Like other online lending marketplaces, SBA LINC seeks to connect business borrowers to a host of potential lenders.
Over the past couple of years, EntreWorks Consulting has supported several studies of America’s rail manufacturing supply chain. In the late 2000s, the Obama Administration’s push for high speed rail investments triggered a growing interest in the rail industry, but this interest waned as federal funds and public policy attention wavered. That’s too bad, because the potential benefits of renewed investments in US passenger rail are massive. And, the benefits are not just about improving transportation options. The benefits will ripple out throughout American manufacturing sectors. Our own past research, and lots of other studies have already made this important point. And a new study from the Blue Green Alliance and the Environmental Law and Policy Center, adds further fuel to the fire. Passenger Rail and Transit Rail Manufacturing in the US provide the latest data on the scope and scale of America’s rail manufacturing industries, which, even with today’s limited public investment levels, pack a powerful economic punch. The study identifies 750 companies within the US rail manufacturing supply chain today—these firms operate in 39 states and employ more than 90,000 people. The report includes recommendations for advancing the industry and the bottom line is pretty simple. Steady, long term funding for rail is required—with the expectation of a longer-term market, firms can invest and plan for the long haul. This is the best—and perhaps only–way to sustain this important part of our manufacturing base.
Changing energy markets are having a big impact on communities around the country. Some regions, like South Dakota, have been booming (at least until recently) thanks to new shale energy resources. But, other regions are being challenged in new ways. Regions long dependent on coal, in Appalachia and elsewhere, are facing serious transition challenges as they seek to diversify their local economies. A new US Economic Development Administration-backed effort, led by the National Association of Counties (NACo) and the National Association of Development Organizations (NADO) will work with coal-impacted communities seeking to identify new economic engines and innovation opportunities. The project is sponsoring an Innovation Challenge competition that will provide technical support and other assistance to communities around the US. The Challenge competition is just underway, and project organizers are encouraging communities to consider participating in this important work. If you are interested in learning more about the Innovation Challenge, you should join a webinar being held tomorrow, January 22, 2015 from 2-3PM Eastern Time. You can sign up here and learn more about the effort here. (NOTE: EntreWorks Consulting will be providing consulting support for this project, and we will be offering regular updates on this work in the coming months).