CREC Facilitates Meeting of 18 State Economic Development Leaders in Nashville, TennesseeAugust 3, 2016
Leaders from 18 states participated in an informal dialogue in Nashville, Tennessee on June 14-15, 2016. State economic development agency executives and their chief deputies shared insights about the rapidly changing economic climate, issues of mutual interest, and strategies that each are taking to tackle common challenges. The agency directors emphasized areas of common concern, including growing business from within, working with stakeholders, and developing strong messages about the U.S. that appeal to international investors.
The Tennessee Department of Community and Economic Development hosted the convening. With support from the National Institute of Standards and Technology Manufacturing Extension Partnership and SSTI, The Center for Regional Economic Competitiveness (CREC) helped to organize the event. Topics discussed and key take-aways from the session included:
Enhancing Federal-State Partnerships
- States are seeking ways to better align federal investments with state priorities in ways that best leverage taxpayer investments. The states identified opportunities in building strong federal-state partnerships to support manufacturing, innovation, entrepreneurship, and workforce development.
Engaging Industry and Managing Talent Pipelines
- With talent demand now out-stripping the supply of available workers in many states, executives shared creative solutions to addressing this national problem. States found they benefit by working with local partners, higher education institutions, and workforce investment boards to create more proactive talent development strategies that align with industries offering higher wages and spin-off impacts. Participants agreed that state training infrastructure should be closely tied to specific industry skill demands – through dual work-training models (e.g., apprenticeships and internships).
Best Practices in Rural Development
- As state economies continue to recover, many leaders find that rural counties continue to lag behind – with little immediate promise for development and continued out-migration. Participants highlighted incentive and technical assistance efforts in these areas, emphasizing talent and business attraction, improved high speed broadband penetration, tourism development, and access to higher education and training for companies located in those communities.
Potential Multi-State Collaboration
- The state leaders broke out into small working groups to discuss three topics: innovation, entrepreneurial, and foreign investment attraction initiatives. The leaders identified examples how they were tackling these issues and how states might come together to support multi-state initiatives to benefit certain parts of their economy. Examples identified include the NNMI applied research centers, multi-state exhibits at trade shows and shared trade offices, as well as engagement with philanthropic efforts to promote entrepreneurial education and to build capacity in providing entrepreneurs with market intelligence.
Building Consensus on Performance Metrics and Reporting Results
- The executives discussed the need for developing shared definitions of jobs and investment indicators as well as the need for more creative and practical indicators for economic development efforts that may have different goals – to expand economic prosperity through community or rural development, innovation and entrepreneurship, or supporting better economic performance among targeted communities such as minorities, women, or veterans. Roundtable members also shared strategies they are undertaking to promote greater transparency and ensure effective stewardship of taxpayer dollars.
Supporting and Expanding the Manufacturing Sector
- State leaders discussed efforts to assist companies in the manufacturing sector to improve their performance and leverage state resources. Examples included tapping the state MEP centers to support state retention visits and help identify challenges that manufacturers face.
Agency Operations and Managing Change
- Talent development issues are not reserved to private sector companies. State executives noted that they also face challenges in retaining and recruiting staff, especially in agencies with limited flexibility. The executives shared strategies employed to retain and develop staff in a fiscal environment that limits compensation for public employees, ranging from incentive bonuses provided by private funders, personal recognition, and improving work environments.
The Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) is a program of regional centers that assist, smaller, U.S.-based manufacturing companies in identifying and adopting new technologies. MEP operates under the auspices of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) – a non-regulatory measuring standards laboratory housed within the U.S. Department of Commerce.
The State Science & Technology Institute (SSTI) is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to improving initiatives that support prosperity through science, technology, innovation and entrepreneurship.