Monday, February 4, 2008

Economic Development. What's the focus?

Two ED initiatives that are in the news a bit over the past few months

Get Midwestern regional brand

An initiative by the Dayton Development Coalition targeted at top-level decisionmakers by playing on assumed sociocultural characteristics of Midwesterners. The brand is intended to cover the 12 county economic region surrounding Dayton.

See this Urban Ohio post for two opinion pieces and the discussion at Dayton Most Metro.

Creative Region Initiative.

A project sponsored by Southwestern Ohio Counicl for Higher Education, AKA SOCHE. Unclear what the goal is or this will operate yet but it’s based on Richard Florida’s Creative Class theory. I think its intended to be a workforce retention and recruitment tool, not pitched at outside management the way “Get Midwestern” is.

Read about it at the SOCHE website.

But these are not really the important ones. The one that really matters, that promises a quantifiable payoff, and is actively being worked by the movers and shakers is Wright-Patt 2020.

Wright-Patt 2020

Built around the defense R&D at Wright-Patterson AFB, the goal is to attract 11,000 new R&D jobs to the area due to the base and surrounding contractor community becoming the premier military R&D center for certain type of technology. This is already being worked via recruitment visits to locations in Texas.

One can say that “Get Midwestern” supports military R&D recruiting by providing a certain laid-back yet somewhat conservative image to give a warm fuzzy for defense technologists. That the military is on the minds of the proponents is shown by this outtake from the DdN op-ed.

Nauseef puts the region's sales pitch this way:

"In our community, you can wake up and have breakfast with your family, get in your car and be to work in 15 minutes. And while you're at work, you can be part of inventing the Air Force's Stealth technology. Then you can leave work and be home to coach your kid's soccer team."

Local buisiness types also recognize the signifigance of the base to the region.

Most of the panelists said in their closing statements to a room of 250 attendees that the base was the most positive thing they are following in terms of the region's economic future.

This also explains Congressman Turner’s aggressive earmarking for R&D programs at Wright-Patterson. One can’t recruit defense firms and staff if there are no programs to work on. Catering to a certain cultural conservatism and military bloc and may explain Turner's more symbolic political moves and his committee assignments.

The Creative Class methodology validates the signifgance of the regional R&D sector. Recent rankings using Florida’s methodology puts the Dayton area in the top five for creative class concentrations among mid sized cities.

I don’t think this means there are an inordinate amount artists and musicians here.

I suspect it means IT specialists, engineers, and scientists working mostly in military R&D, plus some private sector firms and work. This blog explored how the science/IT sector is the major component of the economy in Greene County (and it’s growing in Montgomery, too), so this is, no doubt, what Florida’s numbers are measuring.

The Dayton Region creative class....


Not so much this:


Anonymous said...

Jeff, your logic is right on concerning the connections between the branding and the DDC's focus on the growing defense R&D establishment here in town. It's obvious the "Get Midwestern" logo isn't going after the young creative person looking for a cutting edge and trendy lifestyle. It's aiming for companies that might be drawn to an area with good colleges, a strong work ethic, and conservative values. The exact opposite of what Richard Florida is proposing in his creativity initiative. The argument always boils down to what comes first, the chicken or the egg?

Still, in fairness to what Joe Nausseff and the DDC are trying to do, the emphasis is not all "push" toward more defense programs. There's also the "pull" factor. They're also putting together partnerships to convert defense technologies into commercial uses that could attract or create companies in the local area. Sensor technologies, RFID, carbon filament, composite materials, laser, biomed--all these can have commercial uses with production facilities hopefully starting and staying in the region, creating high end jobs. There's evidence that start-ups are arising to take advantage of these opportunities. Additionally, partnerships such as the one announced today between AFRL and Kettering Health Network for medical imaging equipment you normally can't find unless you go to Cleveland Clinic or Mayo. All good things which ultimately can benefit Dayton.

Still, is there a contradiction between the Get Midwestern campaign and the CRI? On the surface, maybe so; but perhaps the ultimate outcome will be a creative tension that on the one hand provides fertile ground for growth of the commercial exploitation of the technologies just mentioned alongside the development of an environment conducive to attracting the creative types. We can always hope. As Mao once said, "Let a thousand flowers bloom."

Jefferey said...

Tech transfer and spinoff are the most hopefull and exciting aspect of funnelling alot of R&D money here. Commercialization and the development of private sector markets would move this out of the realm of (indirect) government subsidy and into real economic value added.

CRI? Well, we'll see. It seems a bit ill defined to me, though I can appreciate it working to create a more interesting" Dayton.