Volume 15, Number 2 – June 2018

What’s up in the States? 2018 Edition

American states are often termed the “laboratories of democracy,” where new policy ideas are designed and tested before they reach the national stage.   Now, this is truer than ever thanks to the gridlock in DC.  Our last edition of EntreWorks Insights took a quick look at interesting legislative ideas being considered on Capitol Hill.  You’ll likely not be surprised to know that none of these ideas has been enacted, but we can keep hoping.  Meanwhile, the good news is that state legislators from across the country have been testing—and enacting—some very interesting new approaches to economic and community development.   Below, we present a snapshot of some innovative and cool ideas that have recently been enacted by various state legislatures or introduced by Governors.  We welcome your inputs as well, so if you have other ideas to share, please send them to us at info (at) entreworks.net.  We’ll include them in our next issue.

Arizona:  Although it is gaining traction in Europe and Asia, the concept of a “regulatory sandbox” is relatively new here in the US.  Regulatory sandboxes are a means to allow entrepreneurs to test new ideas and products in the marketplace on a temporary basis with temporary rules and regulations in place.  They are designed for industries and technologies that are in the midst of massive transformations where regulatory regimes cannot keep up with the pace of technological change.  Fintech is a classic example and the sector where the regulatory sandbox concept has been tested.  Earlier this year, Arizona became the first US state to approve a fintech regulatory sandbox.  This shift should help make Arizona into a national leader in fintech innovation.  (You can learn more about the regulatory sandbox concept here.)

Colorado: Broadband access is becoming a critical component for rural development.  It’s much like the railroads in the 19th century.  Towns without rail access struggled, while their peers prospered.  A similar winnowing process may result for communities that can’t get good broadband services.  Colorado has decided to take aggressive action to level the broadband playing field for its rural regions.  In a series of bills passed in April, Colorado created a new $150 million fund to invest in rural broadband, and also opened up rural markets so that incumbent providers would face more serious competition for this business.  The package also set minimum standards for defining “high speed broadband” and created new mechanisms for communities that want to sponsor their own public broadband systems. 

Michigan: The Michigan Legislature is currently considering Governor Rick Snyder’s proposal known as the Marshall Plan for Talent.   Like its post-World War II namesake, Michigan’s talent Marshall Plan thinks big.  It proposes spending as much as $100 million on a series of talent development efforts, such as vocational training, scholarships, business-education partnerships and the like.   The basic concepts in the Marshall Plan are not necessarily new, but Michigan is seeking to tackle its talent development challenges in an inspiring, holistic, and comprehensive fashion.

Utah:  In 2017 and 2018, Utah has made a big push to promote rural development via its Rural Jobs Initiative, a plan to create 25,000 new jobs in rural Utah over four years.  This effort is now in its second year, and offers a variety of tools to stimulate rural development.  These include employment and training incentives, and the establishment of Rural Investment Companies (RICs) for specialized investments in the Utah’s rural entrepreneurs.

Vermont:   Many regions of the US are facing labor shortages, but Vermont is facing a worker shortage on steroids.   Vermont has very low unemployment, an aging population, and faces projections of continued population loss.  Something has to give, so Vermont has decided to get creative in attracting and developing new workers.  The Vermont Talent Pipeline is an effort to work with employers to identify challenge areas and to design new training programs to address these needs.   This pipeline model is being used in several other states, and is built on strategies first developed by the US Chamber of Commerce Foundation.  Meanwhile, the state’s Department of Tourism and Marketing is also trying to help, building on Vermont’s role as a tourism mecca.  “Stay to Stay” Weekends is an effort to encourage tourists to visit, and to stay! Visitors don’t just get to see the sights; they also get to meet with local leaders and get a flavor of what it might be like to make a new life in Vermont.

Wyoming:  We’ve blogged in the past about ENDOW Wyoming, which is promoting a whole host of new ideas to help diversify Wyoming’s resource dependent economy.   The Wyoming Legislature passed many ENDOW proposals this year.  Here, we’ll highlight Wyoming’s move to become a global leader in blockchain technologies.  In March, the Legislature passed a package of bills to ease regulation of these new technologies.  Among other things, the legislation exempts cryptocurrencies from state securities laws and from property taxation. They also allow businesses in Wyoming to use blockchain as an approved recordkeeping method.   Industry experts note that the new rules make Wyoming the most blockchain-friendly state in the US.

I’m extremely inspired by all of these ideas.  Like all experiments, they’re not all guaranteed to succeed.  But they remind us that the laboratories of democracy are still in business!  We’ll provide further updates in future issues of EntreWorks Insights.

What’s New at EntreWorks Consulting?

We’re enjoying a busy and fun 2018.  In addition to ongoing projects, we’re engaged in two interesting new efforts:  a community development plan for Wayne County (PA), and an entrepreneur ecosystem assessment for AgriNovus Indiana.   Erik Pages also has numerous speaking engagements over the summer and into early Fall.  He’ll be teaching parts of the North Carolina Basic Economic Development Course in late July, and will also be presenting at the annual meetings of the International Economic Development Council (Atlanta) and the Community Indicators Consortium (Minneapolis).

We continue to provide more regular news and updates at the EntreWorks blog at http://entreworks.net/blog.   Recent posts have discussed new research on regional resilience, global startup ecosystems and economic development success in America’s micropolitan areas. You can also access blog updates at our Facebook and LinkedIn