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Brookings has released a new report on the clean or “low carbon” economy. The report explores the size of this economy at the metro level. Working with Battelle, Brookings estimates the size of the clean economy as 2.7 million jobs nationwide. Firms in this sector orient toward manufacturing and export markets. 

You can read more about the report here

Brookings Clean Economy Report 2011.pdf Download this file

We are seeing what happens when ideologues chew up and spit out our politics: 24/7 electioneering has virtually destroyed our federal government’s ability to govern. 

In a democratic system, the politics of governance — as distinct from the politics of elections — really matters. Through the politics of governance, we air our differences and move forward through compromise.

We seem to have lost this distinction. 

In the words of the Economist: Washington has “its knickers in a twist”. More seriously, The economist warns

Unless Democrats and Republicans close their differences on taxes and spending, and Congress votes to increase the federal debt ceiling, the United States may default on its debt, an eventuality with incalculable consequences for the world economy as well as America’s.

The last budget proposal I caught up involved about $3 of cuts for every $1 in additional revenue. That sounds about right. We have the largest military in the world, the most expensive health care system, and our population is aging. We need to find new ways for the federal government to do its job. At the same time, we have one of the lowest tax burdens in the developed world. 

Our Washington politicians should be able to figure this out. 

But we are not going anywhere if our democratic process grinds to a halt. 

The strength of our democratic system is the stability that comes from balanced diversity. Whether you are taking three branches of government, the due process clause of the constitution, the federal rules of civil procedure, or the unique balance of our federalism, our system is carefully (miraculously, really) open to diverse voices.  

The weakness of our democratic system is that we are vulnerable to intransigence. A determined, small minority can, sadly, grind matters to a halt. Congress has proved this point time and again. They can get their knickers so twisted, that they cannot even walk. 

A sad state. 

In our national politics, our leaders have lost the capacity to do complex thinking together. We are, instead, caught in the perpetual campaign. Neither party has the capacity to govern. Why? Because they have lost the skills of complex thinking and compromise. 

This is not a new problem — I wrote about it in an article in 1975 in the Harvard Journal on Legislation, ”Energy Tax Legislation: The Failure of the 93d Congress”. 

As the capacity of Congress to govern has gradually deteriorated, our national capacity to manage complex matters has evaporated. We have no sensible budget strategy, no energy strategy and our tax code is a mess. Democrats completed a “cram down” on health care policy, and it’s not clear where that is heading (except, obviously, to the courts). 

Now, the risks of this political brinksmanship are quite real, and that has scared some. 

Even the business lobby — folks who share no small measure of responsibility for this mess — appears to have had enough. Scared that ideologues might actually cause real economic damage, they are now telling our national leaders: “get your job done“.

Let’s step back. 

If we look at an historical chart of tax revenues as a percentage of GDP, we can see that federal receipts as a percent of GDP are not out of whack. Indeed, they have been declining for some time. 

A similar chart of tax revenues as a percentage of GDP is compiled here

OECD data through 2006 is available here. It shows that we are one of the lowest taxed of the advanced economies. A list of tax burdens by country is also available here

It’s hard to look at this data and not conclude that there is ample room for compromise. Instead, we get respected political columnists telling us about the facial sneers of one of our “leaders”. 

Sadly, ideologues will not move our democracy forward. They never have. As Garrison Keillor once wrote, “Our democracy was not built by angry people.”

Where do we go from here?

It’s time for us to build new pathways. These pathways, I am convinced, will emerge in regions around the country, where civic leaders take their responsibilities to govern more seriously than we see in Washington these days. 

These regional leaders are finding new ways to build stable, enduring and pragmatic collaborations. They are learning how to do complex projects when, it seems, no one is “in charge”. They are learning how, through collaboration, they can create the shared value that forms a vibrant civic economy.

Pragmatists understand the value of our civic economy. Ideologues — whether left or right — do not even recognize its existence. 

In the end, in a democracy, we see that civility — our respect for each other — is essential to building our civic economy. The disciplines of civility are strategic. They form the foundation for compromise, and it is through compromise that we move our democracy forward. 

It has always been that way. 

Today marks the opening of Detroit’s Creative Corridor Center. The opening included the introduction of businesses connected to the dc3 business accelerator. Read more

Earlier this year, Google announced that Kansas City, KS won the big prize: a high speed network capable of delivering Internet content at gigabyte speeds: about 100 faster than what cable companies and telephone companies now offer. (More background here.)

Then, in May, Google announced that it would extend its network into Kansas City, MO

Here’s an update on where matters stand today. The project is spurring some big ideas. Read more

(The article points to the leading edge efforts in Chattanooga, where a community-owned network has created some major opportunities, as Neal Pierce wrote in a column last week. The city is beginning to connect its new infrastructure to entrepreneurial opportunities.)

Not surprisingly, Google’s project has spurred cities to build out high speed infrastructure. Learn more
A new report from Kauffman highlights that smaller, entrepreneurial firms are starting up with smaller numbers of workers and adding fewer workers as they grow. Read more

Of course, job growth is only one part of the picture. Wealth creation — measured in valued-added per employee, for example — represents another important measure of firm impact. This factor is not addressed in this study. 

Studies which look at aggregate small business statistics carry important limitations. They do not, for example, distinguish between growth-oriented firms serving national and international markets (“traded businesses”) from firms that serve primarily local or regional markets (“sheltered businesses”). 

Starting Smaller; Staying Smaller: America’s Slow Leak in Job Creation<script type=”text/javascript”>(function() { var scribd = document.createElement(“script”); scribd.type = “text/javascript”; scribd.async = true; scribd. src=”” ; var s = document.getElementsByTagName(“script”)[0]; s.parentNode.insertBefore(scribd, s); })();</script>
Over the past month, I’ve been working in Collier County, Florida with an interesting initiative, Project Innovation

A couple of weeks ago, we held a  Strategic  Doing workshop to demonstrate how a loose network of people could come together for a few hours and developed quite a sophisticated strategic action plan. 

As an outgrowth of that session, we explored the idea of Project Innovation sponsoring monthly civic forums. These forums represent an important first step in building the new civic habits of collaboration. We need these collaborations to  tackle our complex challenges of building a sustainable, shared prosperity. Our capacity to collaborate determines in large part, the resilience of our local and regional economies. 

The Complexity of Civic Collaboration

Civic collaboration is more complex than most people are willing to knowledge. 

Collaboration is not the same as simply knowing somebody.  It goes beyond recognizing someone at a meeting or having their e-mail in your address book. Collaboration — our capacity to take on complex projects in open, loosely joined networks — emerges from mutual understanding, simple disciplines, transparency, and trust.

Building habits of civic collaboration takes time and practice for the same reason that trust takes time to strengthen. 

It’s no secret that our our collective skills at civic collaboration are running at historic lows. All around us, we see stalemate as ideological trip wires prevent reasonable people from coming together to discuss practical collective action

Fortunately, we see solutions to these damaging stalemates emerging around the country. Citizens are rebuilding their civic spaces and strengthening the disciplines of civc collaboration by developing new ways of thinking, new ways of behaving, and new ways of doing.

<br /><small>View Strategic Doing Presentations and Workshops in a larger map</small>

Starting Out With New Ways of Thinking

So, for example, we need to abandon some traditional approaches to “civic engagement”. We will not change course with one-time events, like civic summits.  

Indeed, traditional approaches to civic engagement can be downright wasteful. One group of foundations sponsored an elaborate set of civic meetings in their region that ended up costing $3 million. There’s only one problem.

The process  raised expectations that did not lead anywhere, and when you did the math, the cost per participant ended up being about $150. For reference, civic forms should cost about a dollar per participant, and they can actually generate cash with sponsorships.

Building Complex Habits with Simple Disciplines

Fortunately, building civic habits of collaboration is not that complex or expensive.

For the past seven years or so, Ernest Andrade has been building  a culture of open innovation and collaboration among growth oriented companies in the  Charleston Digital Corridor. Each month, Ernest hosts a session Fridays@The Corridor. 

Similarly, the Youngstown Business Incubator launched Third Thursday @3, a civic forum to explore new business opportunities among companies at the Incubator.

Starting a regular civic forum represents a first, easy step to creating a culture of open innovation. We have some materials at the Purdue Center for Regional Development  that can help you along. Just connect with us

Here the draft materials I developed today for Project Innovation.

Branding the forum is important, and Carol D’Amico, head of Project Innovation, will be exploring different ways to develop her brand. 

Collier County FL Project Innovation Fourm Flyer .pdf Download this file

Collier County Project Innovation Forum Brochure v2.pdf Download this file

A new report takes a detailed look at local economic development subsidies in Cleveland and Cincinnati. The conclusion: Subsidies encouraged sprawl. The report cites 164 companies that received relocation subsidies as they moved facilities around in Cleveland and Cincinnati. These subsidies encouraged movements that were “overwhelmingly outward bound”. 

To address these problems, the study recommends more local collaboration and “anti-poaching” agreements. You can download the report from this page

Paid to Sprawl – Cleveland and Cincinnati.pdf Download this file

The Michiana region of northern Indiana and southern Michigan is turning into an innovation hot spot. 

In one of the latest developments, the Michiana Health Information Network provides high speed access to community-wide clinical data. Members of the Network can access electronic medical records, along with high definition images, such as MRIs, immediately. 

Last week, the Network launched a video to explain how it works. 

Learn more about Metronetzing, the regional fiber network that loops around South Bend and Mishawaka. 

The project began as an economic development initiative in South Bend. Learn more.

Pennsylvania continues to build on its nationally recognized model for building industry partnerships to accelerate workforce development. 

Since 2005, Pennsylvania’s Industry Partnerships have engaged over 6,300 employers and 117,000 workers. Last week, the state legislature voted to make the initiative a permanent part of the state’s workforce development strategy. 

Funding continues to be a problem. State investment in these partnerships has dropped from $20 million a year in 2008–2009 to only $1.6 million in the current budget.  Nevertheless, Pennsylvania  has developed an important prototype built in these partnerships across industry clusters. You can learn more about the Pennsylvania Industry Partnership  initiative from this page.

PA Industry Partnership Booklet.pdf Download this file

The federal government has released a study evaluating the technology transfer processes from federal labs to industry. The report examines both effective strategies and barriers to effective tech transfer. 

You can read about the report here

Technology Transfer and Commercialization Landscape of the Federal Laboratories.pdf Download this file