Survey on Trends in Appalachia

I’ve written several recent blog posts on our ongoing work on the Appalachian Regional Commission’s new strategic plan.  ARC is working on multiple ways to gain input from local residents and stakeholders, including a new on-line survey which was released yesterday.  If you live or work in Appalachia, please take a few minutes to complete the survey.  You can access the survey here and it will be open until June 19.  It is short and can be completed in 5-10 minutes.  Your feedback is needed.

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Transitioning Economies: New Web Resources

I spent a good share of last week in Pikeville, Kentucky at the first meeting of the Coal-Reliant Communities Innovation Challenge, sponsored by the National Association of Counties and the National Association of Development Organizations.  During our session, seven community teams, hailing from Colorado, Kentucky, Virginia, and West Virginia, developed new regional strategies to help diversify their local economies away from their current heavy dependence on coal.   This is the first of three planning sessions, with later meetings planned for the fall in Colorado and West Virginia.  The project has also unveiled an excellent new web resource:  This site contains a host of excellent resources for communities seeking to support local economic diversification.   It was designed to help project teams dealing with coal transitions, but the resources are relevant to any community seeking to become more resilient and to develop new local engines for economic prosperity.  Watch this space for more details on the Innovation Challenge project and new resources for economic transitions.

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Appalachian Regional Commission: Your Input Needed

This spring, I’m working with a team of colleagues to assist the Appalachian Regional Commission in the development of is five-year strategic plan.   This is a massive undertaking and we deep in the midst of obtaining feedback and community input via surveys, focus groups, expert panels and the like.   ARC is aggressively reaching to get input and feedback on how it can best invest its resources to help bring prosperity and economic opportunity to Appalachia.  As part of this effort, ARC is also sponsoring a series of listening sessions to get input and suggestions from a wider array of interested parties and regular citizens.   Five sessions are planned for the next two months, and will occur in a variety of sites across the region:

Listening Session Dates and Locations

Forest City, North Carolina: Friday, May 15; Carolina Event and Conference Center
Starkville, Mississippi: Thursday, May 21; MSU Hunter Henry Center
Morehead, Kentucky: Thursday, June 4; Morehead Conference Center
Altoona, Pennsylvania: Thursday, June 11; Blair County Convention Center
Morgantown, West Virginia: Tuesday, June 16; Morgantown Event Center

I encourage you to consider participating if one of these sessions is convenient to you.  You can learn more and register here.  We hope to see you at a session this spring.

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Fish 2.0: Innovation in the Seafood Supply Chain

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.

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The Knight Cities Challenge: Cool Urban Innovations at Work

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!

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EntreWorks Insights, April 2015, Now Available

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.

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Supply Chain Innovation 101

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.

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Global Entrepreneurship Congress 2015

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.

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Love Where You Live: A Mini-Review

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. 

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What Works: The Appalachian Regional Commission

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.

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