EDiS Institute: Predicting Delaware’s Economic Future

June 9, 2016

By: Jon Roberts, principal, TIP Strategies

Jon Roberts speaks at the EDiS Institute - image courtesy Delaware Business Now

Image credit: Jon Roberts speaks at the 2016 EDiS Institute courtesy Delaware Business Now

On April 21st, TIP principal Jon Roberts and urban studies theorist Richard Florida gave complementary presentations at the 2016 EDiS Institute, a biennial economic and industry update event held by Wilmington-based construction and development firm, EDiS. The Institute is a half-day forum which examines important industry topics, including increasing communication with vocational education institutions and encouraging high school students to choose construction-related careers. Previous presenters have included chief economist of Moody’s Analytics, Mark Zandi; architect Andres Duany; Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.; and former head of the Congress for the New Urbanism, John Norquist.

The Institute’s speakers offer provocative views on future trends and their potential impacts on Delaware and the nation. These forward-thinking discussions have yielded striking results, including an accurate prediction of the impending recession in 2007. Carrying the tradition forward, Jon and Richard examined the future of manufacturing employment in 2016. This topic is particularly relevant as the State of Delaware continues its transition away from traditional manufacturing companies. The imminent merger between DuPont and Dow Chemical make this an even more pressing concern. Jon’s presentation provided insight on Delaware’s current competitive position and suggested creative solutions for addressing the state’s economic challenges. Richard’s presentation focused on building an entrepreneurial economy for Delaware.

Jon’s participation in the Institute coincides with TIP’s work in the state. In the fall of 2015, TIP Strategies was commissioned by the Delaware Business Roundtable to prepare a statewide strategy for economic growth and prosperity. The soon-to-be-finalized Delaware Growth Agenda offers a set of long-term strategic recommendations to guide the state’s economic development program over the next five years.

MassDevelopment: Blueprint for Economic Diversification

June 4, 2016

By: Alex Cooke, senior consultant, TIP Strategies

Salem Muster

Image credit: Salem Muster [Image 1 of 2], by 1SG Donald Veitch via DVIDS (Public Domain)

TIP recently completed an engagement for MassDevelopment, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’s economic development and finance agency, to develop a Defense Industry Economic Diversification Study and Strategic Blueprint. MassDevelopment applied for and received a grant from the Department of Defense, Office of Economic Adjustment (OEA) to create the blueprint, which is designed to mitigate the potential impact of federal defense budget cuts and sequestration on the state and regional economy. Supporting TIP on this project was a consulting team consisting of UMass Donahue Institute’s Economic and Public Policy Research group, Chmura Economics & Analytics, and Business Development Advisors.

The planning process included stakeholder meetings with representatives of businesses, industry groups, agencies, and institutions throughout Massachusetts to gather ideas and expertise to inform the plan. Through these meetings, a number of specific initiatives were identified to assist defense-dependent businesses in diversifying and commercializing their products/technologies, providing skills training for employees, and improving their manufacturing processes and products.

To secure needed funding to launch the pilot initiatives and determine their effectiveness, MassDevelopment submitted implementation grant award requests to OEA before the blueprint was even completed. In all, MassDevelopment received over $3.6 million from OEA to fund five initiatives. These initiatives include assisting small manufacturers and R&D firms to commercialize their products and technologies and diversify their business portfolios, providing consulting services and technical assistance to small manufacturers, and helping defense-related firms export their products/services. The successful implementation of these and other initiatives proposed in the blueprint will serve to strengthen the Commonwealth’s defense sector and enable it to seize emerging opportunities, both commercial and defense related.

Washington State: Planning for the Defense Sector’s Future

June 1, 2016

By: Ashton Allison, consultant, TIP Strategies
USS Abraham Lincoln Returns To Washington

USS Abraham Lincoln Returns to Washington [Image 2 of 2] by Seaman Jerine Lee via DVIDS (Public Domain)

In 2015, TIP Strategies was selected by the Washington Department of Commerce as the lead contractor for multiple phases of the state’s $4.3 million US Department of Defense, Office of Economic Adjustment (OEA) grant. The grant was awarded as part of OEA’s Defense Industry Adjustment program, which encompasses a range of planning activities designed to mitigate potential impacts of federal spending cuts on the defense sector.

The initial “Planning & Communication” phase of the grant focused on formalizing the Washington Military Alliance (WMA), a coalition of defense-related stakeholder organizations in the state. Completed in December 2015, this phase included the preparation of an organizational strategy and communications plan for the WMA, along with an inventory of stakeholders and assets. Our 2015 work for the Department of Commerce also included a review of an economic model of the state’s defense industry contracts prepared by a separate firm.

Earlier this year, TIP kicked off projects encompassing three additional phases of the grant. The work will be completed by September 2016 and includes a military and defense contractor services pilot program as well as two closely related projects: a statewide strategy and an implementation and sustainability plan.

  1. The pilot program—currently underway with management consulting firm, Kepner-Tregoe—will assist the state with the design and testing of potential economic diversification strategies specific to the defense services supply chain.
  2. The statewide strategy represents the culmination of OEA-funded planning efforts. When completed, this project will provide a clearly defined roadmap for ensuring the short-term and long-term success of the state’s military and defense sector.
  3. The sustainability plan will integrate the various grant-funded activities with existing state, local, and federal initiatives with the goal of transitioning the effort from OEA-funded support. The report will include an analysis of the alignment of the statewide strategy with Washington’s target industry and talent-focused initiatives, an assessment of the capacity of relevant partners to aid in its implementation, and a review of the state’s business support infrastructure as it relates to the defense sector.

Once all phases of the grant are completed, the results will provide a framework for sustaining the health and vitality of the state’s defense-reliant economy amid potential budget reductions. Taken together, the statewide strategy and sustainability plan will provide a comprehensive blueprint for military and defense contractors and related support organizations to anticipate and mitigate potential losses through effective planning and strategic decision-making.

TIP has conducted numerous projects funded by OEA, including several aimed at convening stakeholders, diversifying the economy, assisting private businesses, retaining displaced workers, and developing sustainability strategies. We have also worked extensively in military-dependent communities throughout the country, and have direct experience with leveraging and supporting this valuable sector.

Waxahachie, Texas: Implementation Success

April 4, 2016

By: Alex Cooke, senior consultant, TIP Strategies

Waxahachie Texas Chamber of Commerce

Image courtesy Waxahachie Chamber of Commerce Economic Development Council

On April 1, 2016, TIP senior consultant Alex Cooke attended a luncheon hosted by the Waxahachie Chamber of Commerce Economic Development Council to celebrate the community’s successful implementation of its economic development strategic plan. Located just 30 miles south of Dallas on IH-35, Waxahachie is a vibrant, tight-knit community that is rapidly emerging as a destination for new investment and talent within the southern DFW Metroplex.

Jon Roberts and Alex Cooke worked closely with the City of Waxahachie, the Waxahachie Chamber of Commerce, and the Economic Development Council to craft the plan, which was finalized in March 2012. The plan offered strategies to diversify Waxahachie’s economic base, to improve its image along IH-35, to become a regional center for health care and higher education, to serve as an alternative to northern Metroplex cities for high-level investment and jobs, and to enhance the community’s authentic downtown and overall quality of place.

To guide the implementation of the plan, community partners organized five task forces, each responsible for leading the execution of the plan’s strategic goals. These task forces included medical, education, marketing and image, downtown revitalization, and land development. Waxahachie Mayor, Kevin Strength, credits the plan’s successful implementation with almost $500 million in new community investments. These investments include the Baylor Scott & White Medical Center ($180 million), a new high school ($125 million), and a highway beautification/expansion project ($175 million). Congratulations to the leaders, businesses, and citizens of Waxahachie for all of your efforts and achievements.

East Central Michigan: In Pursuit of Excellence

April 1, 2016

By: John Karras, senior consultant, TIP Strategies

Downtown Saginaw Aerial

Downtown Saginaw Aerial by lora_313 via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)


In 2014, TIP Strategies worked with the East Michigan Council of Governments (EMCOG) to develop a Regional Prosperity Strategy for the eight-county East Central Michigan Prosperity Region (PR-5). One idea that emerged during the planning process—which engaged more than 300 business, community, and academic leaders—was the creation of a Center of Excellence (CoE) that would leverage the region’s higher education assets and industry strengths. In 2015, EMCOG tasked TIP with exploring potential areas of focus for a CoE with the goal of identifying a concept that could serve as a catalyst for job growth and investment while supporting the success of existing companies.

CoEs can take a variety of forms, but normally involve partnerships between colleges/universities and the private sector in order to spark innovation and knowledge creation within a narrow topic area. The participation of a consortium of partners, including higher education, industry, and others (such as government and nonprofits) is one of the three “ingredients” common to successful Centers identified as part of our work. The participation of multiple colleges and universities was also a common factor among CoEs studied for this work. And finally, the most successful CoEs are focused on a specific area of research, a particular industry segment, or a solution to a narrowly defined problem.

From an economic development standpoint, the objective of establishing a CoE is to build on regional higher education and industry strengths to support the growth of existing businesses, attract new investment, and draw in talent with specialized knowledge and skills. As a result, Centers of Excellence can have a number of benefits, including:

  • Offering an important source of leadership and vision,
  • Generating national and international recognition for a region,
  • Serving as a repository for best practices, and
  • Providing support and training for entrepreneurs and current and future employees in relevant industry sectors.

With the assistance of a task force comprised of more than a dozen of the region’s academic and business leaders, TIP helped EMCOG explore the possibility of creating a CoE in East Central Michigan around four potential concepts:

  1. Advanced Materials/Plastics: Exploring waste-heat-to-energy conversion and other products, processes, and technologies for the plastics manufacturing industry to spark innovation, cost savings, and spur the growth of a new industry cluster.
  2. Agriculture/Craft Breweries: Pursuing agri-tech entrepreneurship and innovation to support the growing craft breweries industry, potentially including shared processing facilities to serve multiple businesses across the region.
  3. Health Sciences: Aligning the region’s health care industry, workforce training efforts, and health sciences innovation programs to improve urban and rural community health.
  4. International Workforce: Enhancing the experience for international students through better connections to the region and its businesses, efforts to align workforce training programs, and marketing to international communities.

The resulting Centers of Excellence Action Strategy provides an overview of each concept along with a catalog of regional assets, best practice examples, and steps for implementation including immediate (next 100 days), short-term (through 2016), and long-term (2017 & beyond) actions. Each concept has a unique path for implementation and a distinct proposed structure. All four concepts were designed to address specific problems or to respond to a specific set of opportunities. Yet, despite their differences, each concept shares three key elements:

  • The steps for implementation are focused on efficiency and quick results.
  • Collaboration is the driving philosophy behind each concept.
  • EMCOG’s participation as a convener and support organization will be essential in moving each concept forward.

Lubbock, Texas: Building Innovation

March 24, 2016

By: John Karras, senior consultant, TIP Strategies

Texas Tech University, Lubbock, TX

One recent project that has yielded significant positive outcomes is the strategic plan [PDF] TIP completed for the Lubbock Economic Development Alliance (LEDA). Since the plan was finalized in March 2015, two of the five priority projects TIP identified have already been partially implemented: 1) attracting catalyst R&D investments into the community in partnership with the Texas Tech University system and city leaders; and 2) establishing a community college campus in an under-served portion of the city.

Below is a brief summary of early results from these two priority initiatives:

Research & Development: LEDA’s financial commitment to support programs related to entrepreneurship & innovation as part of Texas Tech’s new research park were highlighted in a November 2014 press release [PDF]. Thanks in part to the strategic plan, LEDA has committed over $250,000 to the effort. LEDA’s 2014-2015 annual report [PDF] reveals that their contributions are already yielding results. The research park’s first tenant was announced in February 2015, several months before the park opened. (Chromatin, an agri-science company based in Chicago is moving its R&D division to Lubbock.)

Community College: A South Plains College media release [PDF] details LEDA’s involvement in expanding the college into Lubbock, specifically to an underserved part of the city, which TIP identified as a critical gap in the region’s talent development system to be addressed by the strategic plan. LEDA is committing $1.9 million initially (with another $1 million held for future investment) as part of a coalition of community partners that is developing a major new center for South Plains College in East Lubbock—an area that has experienced disinvestment for many years.

The plan has played a key supportive role in moving these initiatives forward, leading to some investments and job growth. Yet, this is just the beginning. We’re excited to watch as LEDA continues to implement the plan.