Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Recession has Many Re-thinking Economic Development Strategies

Owensboro is not the only region re-inventing itself with new approaches to economic development.  Many metro areas in the United States, especially those hard hit by the economic downturn, are shifting economic development strategies to gear up for end of the recession. 

In Atlanta, the Metro Chamber of Commerce has embraced a strategy that focuses less on large sectors like bioscience or technology and more on “bite size” niches within those categories like pharmacology, digital medical records or video gaming. 

St. Louis is also using a more “granular approach” using its expertise in plant science to identify specific subsectors to develop. 

The Economic Development Corporation of Kansas City has embraced entrepreneurship and innovation as a focus rather than industry attraction in the old-line sectors, according to EDCKC President Jeff Kaczmarek. 

EDC Board Chair Darrell Higginbotham said Owensboro is already ahead of the curve in embracing many of these strategies in the approach the board adopted as far back as 2006.  For example the emphasis on biotechnology with the work of Kentucky BioProcessing is really an emphasis on a “bite size” niche of plant pharmaceutical and therapeutics, according to EDC President Nick Brake. 

EDC began an emphasis on high tech development and support for entrepreneurs thanks to funding from the state for the Emerging Ventures Innovation Center program headed by Madison Silvert.  Earlier this year, Silvert was invited to speak to the Kansas City EDC about the success Owensboro has had in nurturing entrepreneurs.  In the past three years, EDC has added significant infrastructure to support high tech company development in Owensboro.  Emerging Ventures has been successful in supporting newly formed companies and creating jobs with pay levels well above the median income in the region. 

“Working with entrepreneurs and high-tech startups has gained a lot of momentum with all of the plant biotech activities at Kentucky BioProcessing,” said Silvert.   “Our new business accelerator, the Centre for Business and Research will provide an opportunity of an entirely new dimension of economic development for this region.”

To learn more about the efforts of GO-EDC and read the Owensboro economic development strategy, visit jobs.owensboro.com

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