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Blog Category: Economic Development Administration

The Importance of Culture, Partnerships, and Perspective in Regional Economic Development

Economic Development Administration seal

Guest blog post by Paul J. Corson, Deputy Director of the U.S. Commerce Department Economic Development Administration’s Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship

Recently, as part of our ongoing series of public conference calls with members of the National Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship (NACIE), we spoke with Dr. Christina Gabriel, president of the University Energy Partnership, a nonprofit organization that was founded jointly in 2010 by five major research universities in the Pittsburgh area, and Dr. Mary Sue Coleman, president of the University of Michigan. Dr. Gabriel and Dr. Coleman, who both play leading roles in regional-based economic development in promoting the commercialization of research, stressed similar themes, including the importance of culture, partnerships, and perspective in regional economic development.

During her call on May 22, Dr. Gabriel emphasized the importance of leveraging local strengths. She noted that while foundations historically have embodied a regional perspective when it comes to economic development, many universities have only recently begun to do so. Universities possess very rich and diverse strengths that are best leveraged by applying them to difficult problems in collaborative efforts. For example, the University Energy Partnership was set up to leverage broad research efforts and applied technology developments in the energy space that has been developed over many years—not just in the Pittsburgh region, but throughout the four neighboring states.

In order to achieve success in regional cooperatives, Dr. Gabriel recommended that institutions focus on what their region is good at, and to build around that. She cautioned against blindly following the latest fad and hiring consultants to try and steal companies from other regions. By focusing on regional strengths, she said, even regions that have fewer resources—including those that have lost human and industry resources—can slow, and even reverse, these declines.

Spotlight on Commerce: Nishith Acharya, Director, Office of Innovation & Entrepreneurship and Senior Adviser

Nishith Acharya, Director, Office of Innovation & Entrepreneurship and Senior Adviser

Ed. Note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series, which highlights members of the Department of Commerce who are contributing to the president's vision of an America Built to Last.

As Director of the Office of Innovation & Entrepreneurship, my main responsibility is to manage and coordinate efforts to commercialize more of the research that is funded by the federal government.  The US government provides about $150 billion in research funds to universities, labs and companies annually, and we are finding ways for support greater commercial application of that research to create successful companies and jobs. We support the President’s Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship, work with over 500 universities around the country on issues of innovation and entrepreneurship, and run the i6 Challenge, which is a $1 million award to six different winners each – focused on creating more commercial ventures at our research institutes.

Our office plays a critical role in supporting the President’s agenda.  America’s greatest advantage is its innovation infrastructure and its deep culture of entrepreneurship.  Our office supports the development and implementation of programs and policies to enhance that.  This includes funding for innovation centers, coordination with universities and federal labs, and communication with entrepreneurs directly to understand their challenges and needs from the Administration.  Supporting innovation is critical for sectors such as manufacturing and energy, and entrepreneurship can never be taught too early.

I grew up in Wayland, MA, just outside of Boston.  My parents emigrated from India in the 1960’s and have lived in the Boston area for most of my life. I got my BS in Political Science and Economics from Northeastern University in Boston, MA. and then moved to DC to get my Master’s in Public Administration from the George Washington University with a specialization in international development.

$26 Million Competition to Help Accelerate Growth of Advanced Manufacturing and Clusters

$26 Million Competition to Help Accelerate Growth of Advanced Manufacturing and Clusters

Guest blog post by Matt Erskine, Acting Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development, and Dr. Patrick Gallagher, Director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology

Manufacturing, especially advanced manufacturing based on new technologies, is a sector of vital importance to America’s economic viability—both to businesses and the people they employ. A recent study conducted by the Department of Commerce bears this out: Manufacturing is responsible for 70 percent of our private-sector research and development (R&D), 90 percent of our patents, and 60 percent of our exports. And the benefits accrue to manufacturing workers, since they earn pay and benefits that are about 17 percent higher than average.

That is why the $26 million Advanced Manufacturing Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge, supported by 14 Federal agencies and announced today by the Obama administration, is so important.

The Advanced Manufacturing Jobs Accelerator is a competition to help grow industry clusters by strengthening connections to regional economic development opportunities; enhance a region’s capacity to create high-quality sustainable jobs; develop a skilled advanced manufacturing workforce; encourage the development of small businesses; and accelerate technological innovation. 

At the Department of Commerce, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the Economic Development Administration (EDA) are leveraging resources, along with the Departments of Energy and Labor, the Small Business Administration (SBA), and the National Science Foundation, to support public-private partnerships to spur economic and job growth in manufacturing clusters. Approximately 12 projects are expected to be chosen. This is the third in a series of multiagency Jobs and Innovation Accelerator challenges since 2011.

Winners of the 2011 challenge, which was funded by EDA, the Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration, and the SBA, have already begun to foster business growth and create jobs. For example, in the Greater Kansas City area, eight regional organizations joined together to form the Kansas City Jobs Accelerator. This organization is helping the advanced manufacturing and information technology cluster in the bi-state region by identifying game-changing technologies and processes and putting them in the hands of small businesses and talented entrepreneurs. Their tactics include coordinating research resources, helping prepare workers for careers in advanced manufacturing, and creating a clearinghouse for regional cluster and commercialization information.

Exports, Foreign Direct Investment, and Greener Fuel to Jumpstart Georgia’s Economy

Image of Georgia biomass facility

Guest blog post by Acting Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development Matt Erskine

As they search for opportunities to grow their economies and create jobs, no region in the United States can really choose to ignore the global marketplace—in fact, it just makes common sense. The latest export numbers bear this out: Since 2009, record-breaking levels of U.S. exports have supported an additional 1.2 million American jobs. And in March, the latest figures show that U.S. exports increased 2.9 percent, the largest increase since July 2011.

The benefits of increased engagement with world markets is something that the city of Waycross, Georgia, has experienced firsthand. In 2010, local authorities successfully concluded negotiations with a German energy firm, RWE Innogy, to build a new $135 million wood pellet manufacturing plant in the Waycross–Ware County Industrial Park. The pellets, which are produced from locally-sourced wood, are used as a cleaner-burning substitute for coal in the generation of electricity. A challenge was making sure that these pellets could be shipped quickly and cost effectively to major transportation hubs. A $1.3 million grant from the Economic Development Administration (EDA) resolved this by funding the construction of a new rail spur, ensuring that the pellets could be shipped to the port of Savannah and from there to overseas buyers.

Advanced Manufacturing Gets a Boost in Conover, North Carolina

An architect’s rendering of Conover Station in Hickory, North Carolina. The new home of the Manufacturing Solutions Center is being built with help from the Economic Development Administration. (photo courtesy Conover Station)

Guest blog post by Acting Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development Matt Erskine

Speaking last week at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Secretary of Commerce John Bryson focused on the importance of manufacturing to boosting U.S. economic growth, job creation and exports. To see evidence of that, we need only look to the city of Conover, North Carolina, where Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) has been supporting elected officials and local private and public sector leaders—including a community college and a nonprofit manufacturing center—in their efforts to make this area a regional hub for advanced manufacturing expertise and to expand the region’s reach into international markets.

A $1.5 million EDA investment made in 2010 to the city of Conover and Catawba Valley Community College is helping build a new home at Conover Station in Hickory, North Carolina, for the Manufacturing Solutions Center (MSC) and its business incubator. The two establishments are already cultivating a new form of manufacturing, one based in smaller and smarter factories that nourish innovation. The new 30,000 square foot facility, which is being built on the premises of a former furniture manufacturing plant, will allow for the expansion of those efforts.

Robin Chase, Founder of Zipcar and Buzzcar, Discusses Opportunities to Leverage Excess Capacity for Innovation

Robin Chase, Founder of Zipcar and Buzzcar

Guest blog post by Nish Acharya, director of the U.S. Commerce Department Economic Development Administration’s Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship

In the second of the series of conference calls with national leaders in innovation and entrepreneurship, we had small business owners, entrepreneurs, innovators and stakeholders join me for an in-depth conference call with Ms. Robin Chase, founder and former CEO of Zipcar, founder and CEO of Buzzcar, and a member of the National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship (NACIE).

Ms. Chase started the conversation by giving us some background about how she started Zipcar in June 2000 with $75,000 that she had raised. She was able to raise more money from the Boston venture capital community by attending every start-up meeting she could, using the fact that she obtained degrees from a “local” college and university to pitch her idea. Her efforts paid off: for example, an MIT angel venture group funded a significant portion of the early investment in Zipcar.

Ms. Chase shared that she spends a lot of time thinking about the use of excess capacity and believes that this is a fertile area for innovation. She provided several examples of companies that have been built around this concept, including Skype and Buzzcar.

Job Creation Through Export Development: EDA Commemorates World Trade Month

Logo: World Trade Center of Greater Philadelphia

Guest blog post by Acting Assistant Secretary for Economic Development Matt Erskine

In Commerce Secretary Bryson’s statement to mark World Trade Month, he discussed steps the Obama administration is taking to give “American workers and businesses a fair shot in the global economy by supporting trade agreements that will open up markets to U.S. companies, working to aggressively investigate unfair trade practices taking place anywhere in the world, and continuing to work to ensure that our workers and businesses are competing on a level playing field.” President Obama will issue a proclamation to commemorate World Trade Week, which falls in the third week of May, to expand on this commitment to promote U.S. exports.

Words like “partnering” and “leveraging” might seem abstractions at times, but when it comes to making investments that help U.S. businesses export, they are anything but. One excellent example of the effectiveness of partnering and leveraging the resources of multiple organizations is the “Job Creation through Export Development: Innovative Manufacturing and Service Program” of the World Trade Center of Greater Philadelphia (WTCGP). In 2010, the Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) invested $1 million to bolster the efforts of WTCGP to promote the global presence of the Southeastern Pennsylvania and South Jersey region. The initiative serves as a catalyst for regional economic growth and job creation in four sectors that have been targeted by the program as having high export potential: energy and environment, high technology and nanotechnology, biotech and life sciences, and education.

ASU’s Dr. Michael M. Crow on Innovation and Entrepreneurship

Economic Development Administration seal

Guest blog post by Nish Acharya, director of the U.S. Commerce Department Economic Development Administration’s Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship

This week, close to 100 entrepreneurs, innovators, small business owners, and stakeholders joined me for an in-depth conference call facilitated by the Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship with Dr. Michael M. Crow, president of Arizona State University (ASU) and a member of the President’s National Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship (NACIE). This was the first in a series of forums to highlight the work of NACIE, spotlight some of our nation’s most dynamic leaders, and share best practices and insight with potential applicants for the upcoming third round of the multiagency i6 Challenge.

During the conversation, Dr. Crow emphasized that for an institution to successfully spur innovation and entrepreneurship, its leadership must first purposefully decide to make entrepreneurship part of their core competency. This will empower the institution to put its time, energy, and resources towards fostering innovation and entrepreneurship broadly.

Bringing Research to Market to Advance American Manufacturing

An LED streetlight installation by EcoFit Lighting of Lenexa, Kansas, working with the Advanced Manufacturing Institute, an EDA University Center. (Photo: EcoFit Lighting)

Guest blog post by Acting Assistant Secretary for Economic Development Matt Erskine, Economic Development Administration

For U.S. manufacturers today, questions abound that might have been simpler to answer in times gone by, such as: What is the best way to commercialize a new technology? How can a new process be incorporated into a new production system? What locations will best service a national or international clientele? Where can a cadre of technically-trained workers be found?

For answers to such questions, manufacturers in Kansas are fortunate to be able to turn to the Advanced Manufacturing Institute (AMI) at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas. Over the past decade, this organization—which helps businesses of all sizes, from entrepreneurs to Fortune 500 companies—has undertaken projects in 66 of Kansas’ 105 counties, helping many companies to grow, prosper and succeed.

Commerce's EDA Hosts Annual University Center Showcase in Denver

UC coordinator Forlesia Willis with DRO’s UC Showcase review panelists. From the left:  Matthew Godfrey, who just completed three terms as mayor of Ogden, UT; Ms. Willis; Denise Brown, interim executive director of Fitzsimons Redevelopment Authority; and Nishith Acharya, director of EDA’s Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

Guest blog post by Nish Acharya, Director of EDA's Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship

This week, the U.S. Economic Development Administration’s (EDA) Denver Regional office hosted its annual University Centers Showcase conference to spotlight and critique EDA-supported University Center economic development initiatives in the Denver Region.

EDA’s University Center Economic Development Program assists institutions of higher education and consortia of institutions of higher education in establishing and operating University Centers specifically focused on leveraging university assets to build regional economic ecosystems that support high-growth entrepreneurship.