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Welcome to the latest edition of EntreWorks Insights, a quarterly newsletter that reports on business trends, policy developments, and other issues affecting the business of economic and workforce development. You’re receiving this note because you’ve asked to subscribe or because you have some previous interest in the work of EntreWorks Consulting. If you wish to subscribe or be removed from this list, please send an email to info (at) entreworks.net. If you’re interested in the newsletter, please read on. Please feel free to share with friends, family, colleagues, and other loved ones. Comments and constructive criticism (and praise) are also welcome. You are also encouraged to visit the EntreWorks blog at http://entreworks.net/blog. Thanks for your interest.
Erik R. Pages
Volume 19, Number 3
HIGHLIGHTS: Thanks for 20 Years!
What’s New at EntreWorks Consulting?
Thanks for 20 Years!
The end of December marks the 20th anniversary of EntreWorks Consulting. It’s been a fun and rewarding ride, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to engage in such interesting work. I want to especially highlight and thank some of our lead partners, most of whom have been working with us for the entire 20-year period. This group includes the Center for Regional Economic Competitiveness (especially Ken Poole and Sean McNamara), LOCUS Impact Investing (Deb Markley), BDA (Ellen Harpel), Camoin Associates (especially Jim Damicis and Christa Franzi), Innovation Policy Works (Cathy Renault) and many others.
Thanks also to all of our friends, partners, and most importantly, customers who have supported us along the way. But, instead of “thanking the academy” or whatever you do on a big anniversary, I want to highlight some of our current and former customers and some of the cool things that they have been doing. In some cases, EntreWorks Consulting supported a small component of the highlighted efforts, but the real work and credit belongs with our customers and partners who do the hard work of economic development every day.
Some of these projects might be considered “award winners” that get recognized by the International Economic Development Council (IEDC) or other trade associations. But most are not that sexy or revolutionary. Instead, they are examples of the good things that happen when smart and committed people invest time, resources, and heart into building better communities and better places. This is the real joy of working as an economic development consultant: watching how communities evolve and transform themselves. Below are vignettes on a few locations and programs that have inspired me over the years.
Appalachian Regional Commission: Back in late 2002, ARC was operating with an annual budget of around $75-80 million; today, they support funding levels that have exceeded $1 billion. But, even in the earlier days, ARC was doing great work to transform Appalachia. And, it was a pioneer in promoting entrepreneurship. In fact, ARC’s Entrepreneurship Initiative, which operated from 1997-2003 (we evaluated the program in 2004), was one of the first federal programs that sought to promote entrepreneurship-led economic development. Today, ARC remains a leader in promoting new ideas and approaches to community building. For example, it has led federal efforts to address the opioid epidemic and to support capacity building rural regions.
Berks County (Pennsylvania): I grew up in Berks County, and worked for the local Member of Congress for many years. So, working on a county strategic plan (The Ride to Prosperity) was both a treat and privilege. Since that work in the early 2010s, Berks County has developed other strategic plans and programs. More importantly, the County’s economy remains relatively strong and diversified. If you want to see examples of supporting the manufacturing workforce or engaging an increasingly diverse community, Berks County offers some good models and lessons.
Maine Department of Economic and Community Development: For many years, EntreWorks Consulting was part of a team that produced an annual evaluation of Maine’s economic development investments. While we are no longer engaged in this work, we remain impressed by Maine DECD’s (and the Legislature’s Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability) continued commitment to regular and rigorous program evaluations. These publicly-backed efforts are further supported by related initiatives such as the Maine Development Foundation’s annual Measures of Growth analysis (running since 1994). Maine’s Legislature has passed laws requiring—and funding—regular evaluations, offering a model for other states and localities.
National Association of Community College Entrepreneurship: In 2002, few community colleges taught entrepreneurship. A few schools, such as Springfield (MA) Technical Community College were testing new approaches, but they were isolated early pioneers. These visionaries knew that they were onto something and that community colleges could and should become key hubs in regional entrepreneurial ecosystems. They created NACCE to support this vision. I was pleased to speak at NACCE’s first ever conference and to support the development of NACCE’s first strategic plan. Today, the team’s initial vision has come to fruition as entrepreneurship is now a core part of community college programming across the US. EntreWorks remains a long-time member of NACCE, and we continue to support excellent entrepreneurship programs such as the RISE program used across Indiana and in its Ivy Tech community college system.
North Carolina Rural Economic Development Center: Way back in 2003-2004, we worked with the Rural Center to establish the Institute for Rural Entrepreneurship. At that time, this effort was unique. Today, North Carolina is full of great resources for rural entrepreneurs, and the Rural Center supports a host of small business financing programs, including Thread Capital, Corner Square Community Capital, and many others. And, it’s not alone—thanks to excellent ecosystem resources available throughout the state.
The Pantheon Business & Innovation Theatre: For much of the 20th century, the Pantheon Theatre was the hip and happening place in downtown Vincennes, Indiana, attracting famous acts like Duke Ellington, the Marx Brothers, and local boy Red Skelton. But, like many small-town theatres, the Pantheon fell on tough times in the 1960s and was shuttered. However, community leaders had a longtime vision to restore the theatre as a community hub and incubator/coworking space. In 2019, EntreWorks assisted Vincennes and Knox County with a feasibility study for the Pantheon Business & Innovation Theatre, which opened for business in 2020. Today, the Pantheon is thriving and an exciting entrepreneurial community is emerging in Southwest Indiana. In addition to offering office space and business support, the Pantheon team has developed close partnerships with groups like the Purdue Foundry program, AgriNovus Indiana, and Elevate Ventures.
Rapides Foundation: For many years, EntreWorks has supported regular evaluations of economic and community development investments made by the Alexandria, LA-based Rapides Foundation. I’ve been consistently impressed by the Foundation’s commitment to innovative workforce development programs, and it’s now clear that others are getting the message too. In September 2022, the Foundation received a $14 million investment from philanthropist MacKenzie Scott that will help to ensure that this important work continues.
Roanoke-Blacksburg Innovation Blueprint: In the early 2010s, EntreWorks worked with the Roanoke-Blacksburg (VA) Technology Council and other partners to produce a regional innovation plan. At the time, the region already had tremendous assets in place, including Virginia Tech’s main campus in Blacksburg and Roanoke’s Fralin Biomedical Institute. Since that time, the region has continued to innovate and a strong entrepreneur ecosystem is in place. Newer innovation assets include the Verge innovation network, the RAMP business accelerator, and a regional entrepreneur hub for accessing needed business services. This region is a national model for supporting innovation and entrepreneurship as a core economic development strategy.
Wayne Tomorrow. Wayne County PA (population 51,431) is located in Pennsylvania’s far northeast corner. It is a beautiful and community-minded place. Back in 2013, local leaders formed Wayne Tomorrow as a vehicle for conversations about the County’s future. (EntreWorks assisted Wayne Tomorrow with planning efforts in 2018-2019) Today, Wayne Tomorrow serves as the region’s umbrella organization to address pressing community issues, supporting volunteer task forces addressing local challenges such as housing, transportation, agriculture, and community health and well-being. This effort has been a huge success, fostering a strong community spirit and generating many successful projects. Examples include the Stourbridge Project, a community incubator and coworking hub, a County-backed small business fund, a transformed Wayne County Community Foundation, and attraction of major funding to support a recovery-to-work treatment, rehabilitation, and training center.
What’s New at EntreWorks Consulting?
We’re looking forward to the next year—and the next decade–of work at EntreWorks Consulting. We’ve recently finished up large projects in Appalachia, the US Virgin Islands, and Danville VA, and we’re continuing with ongoing work in Indiana and Virginia. We’re also kicking off a new effort with our partners at the National Association of Counties: The Building Resilient Economies in Coal Communities (BRECC) initiative. BRECC will work with a host of coal-reliant communities to help identify and develop new economic engines that will diversify regional economies and assist in a smooth and just economic transition.
You can find reports and other great resources at our website; we encourage you to check it out. The website also includes access to all past issues of the EntreWorks Insights newsletter and the EntreWorks blog at http://entreworks.net/blog. In addition, you can still access blog updates at our Facebook and LinkedIn pages. We look forward to connecting in person in 2023. Happy holidays!December 6, 2022
From the Blog
During this past month, new Governors and other elected officials took office around the US. This is typically a time when Governors announce new ideas, programs and initiatives, so it’s an interesting time for all policy wonks. (SSTI offer an excellent summary of these items in their “Tech-Talkin’ Govs” reviews). This year, I’m intrigued to see what happens in Pennsylvania with new Governor Josh Shapiro’s recent announcements to create a New Office of Transformation and Opportunity within the Governor’s also new Economic Development Strategy Group. This effort is designed to create a new high-level one-stop-shop for business and to ensure better coordination and higher-level attention to key economic development issues facing Pennsylvania communities. I’ve got high hopes for this effort and I’m hoping that it’s not just another agency reorganization. If it works and is adequately supported, it should help the Commonwealth better serve business and embrace truly transformational economic development initiatives. Watch this space for further updates as these initiatives move forward.January 31, 2023