Delaware: A New Growth Agenda

September 22, 2016

By: Alex Cooke, senior consultant, TIP Strategies
downtown-wilmington-delaware-and-the-christina-river-by-tim-kiser-via-wikimeda-commons-cc-by-sa-2-5

Image credit: Downtown Wilmington, Delaware and the Christina River by Tim Kiser Via Wikimeda Commons (CC BY-SA 2.5)

Last fall, TIP was engaged by the Delaware Business Roundtable (DBRT), a group of more than 50 Delaware CEOs, to craft a strategic framework for pursuing a new long-term approach to economic development in the state. The work was commissioned as a private-sector response to concerns about Delaware’s economy as the state struggles to contend with the dramatic restructuring of traditional industry clusters, increased competition for jobs and investment, and the lasting effects of the Great Recession. The final product, the Delaware Growth Agenda, was released by the DBRT in July.

The Growth Agenda’s recommendations grew, in part, out of discussions with dozens of business leaders and citizens throughout Delaware. One of its key recommendations is to establish a new public-private partnership to lead the state’s economic development efforts. This initiative is seen as critical to reengaging the private sector more directly in economic development and reinvigorating the state’s program through expanded resources, expertise, and networks. Additionally, the growth agenda calls for building on and accelerating existing initiatives to create a world-class entrepreneurship ecosystem in Delaware.

Additional information about the Delaware Growth Agenda is available through the DBRT’s website. The Delaware Business Times also detailed our work with the DBRT. Click here to read their article, “Delaware Growth Agenda: State must pursue new long-term approach to economic development over next five years.”

Kansas City: The Missouri Governor’s Conference

September 12, 2016

By: Jon Roberts, principal, TIP Strategies

MO Governor's Conference Banner
This month, Jon Roberts had the honor of providing the closing address at the 58th Annual Missouri Governor’s Conference on Economic Development in Kansas City. The three-day conference explored the themes of innovation and creativity, with a strong emphasis on technology and the arts. Jon’s presentation focused on the effects of disruptive technology in transportation, especially the advent of autonomous vehicles. A cameo can be seen in the video recap, which also provides a flavor of the event overall.

In addition to the Missouri Governor’s Office, a number of organizations had a prominent role in making the conference a success. Special mention goes to Department of Economic Development Director, Mike Downing, and the staff and leadership of the Missouri Partnership for their contributions to the event.

This year was Jon’s second appearance at the annual event, having been a featured speaker at the 2014 conference, along with Thomas Friedman of the New York Times. The repeat invitation was a distinct honor and reflects TIP’s long relationship with the State of Missouri. Examples of our work in the state include engagements in Jefferson City, Christian County, Iron County, and Columbia.

The conference also offered a chance for Kansas City to showcase its booming tech and arts districts. In fact, the city deserves special recognition for its commitment to innovation and creativity. For a community whose future was once far from certain, the city has made great strides in establishing itself as a major Midwestern technology hub. Kansas City’s progress is especially apparent in its success supporting young entrepreneurs and embracing the creative spaces they have re-developed in the downtown.

The growing role of downtown as a nexus of economic activity for the region is reflected in recent sales tax data from the Kansas City Finance Department. The data reveal that sales tax collections generated within the city’s streetcar taxing district, located in the heart of downtown, far outpaced the city’s overall growth rate, increasing by 58 percent from FY 2014 through FY 2016, compared with just 16 percent citywide. Officials point to new business growth, an increased number of downtown residents, and bigger crowds in the city’s Power & Light entertainment district. What is even more significant is the fact that the increased collections occurred even before the new streetcar line opened on May 6, 2016.
TIP’s interest and involvement in innovation districts and tech centers is central to our mission. Whether in smaller communities such as Asheville and Green Bay, or in larger cities such as Las Vegas and Seattle, we are committed to seeing talent recruitment and technology fuel economic growth. Kansas City fits that profile perfectly.

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.

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.