Monday, June 09, 2008

Howdy - just back from the Research Triangle, North Carolina's legendary tech park (actually, attended the premier entrepreneurship research conference there)

One of their best take-aways is that it is both feasible & necessary to link rural economies with cutting edge innovation. It took them a while, but made it happen. Idaho should see this as encouraging evidence for what WE need to do!

Lots of insights about rural entrepreneurship - it remains the critical linchpin for smaller communities & it's still all about nurturing the mindset.

* People & Networks: You've got to grow entrepreneurial people, while developing & supporting the networks that nurture current & future entrepreneurs. Both formal & informal networking is vital.

* Thrive, Not Survive: It's also vital to move past "necessity" self-employment & help people to build businesses that thrive!

* Grrrl Power? Whether the US or the UK, your best indication that entrepreneurship is taking off in your community is how many women are starting businesses (again, not just self-employment)

Even more insights about growing tech-based entrepreneurship, too!
* Lots of buzz over Ohio's Third Frontier initiative - the latest bold stroke was negotiating a deal to spend $143 million to generate 26 new research centers (all have multiple universities & private sector leadership). For more details, please see: http://tinyurl.com/6oyjx2 .
The money allows them to hire 26 of the very, very best experts, one for each new program. [Ohio has about 8X our population, so if we scaled to Idaho's size this would be about $18 million & 3 new multi-university centers.]

These centers all focus on areas where Ohio already had great competitive strengths in both academic research and commercial success. They even got the universities themselves to pony up over $30 million of these new funds. [Again, in Idaho terms, that would be the same as each Idaho university diverting ~$4 million each of their existing research budget.]
More on that later, especially how that would work for Idaho & what it would take to make it happen. (But I promise there is reason to be optimistic!)

* Knowledge spillover, knowledge filter: Why do new firms create so many jobs? They are typically much better at turning ideas into practical value - we now have more & more evidence that it's the entrepreneurs & innovators that matter. You can always find ideas, you can't always find great people to put them into action.

* IdaVation Luncheon Keynoter: While we're at it - how many of you heard Brian Cummings, U of Utah's technology commercialization officer at IdaVation? Utah has spun out over 50 companies in less than 4 years, all but 3 are still viable. What Brian and his staff managed to do would be very difficult to imitate anywhere, including here in Idaho. However, I think it would be well worth the effort to overcome the obstacles.
Again, I'll write more later, but two of the keys were to keep the office under control of the experts. To do that, strategy and governance is led by the private sector. I'll be chatting more with Brian on the specifics & will report back. Again, there is much to be optimistic about, if we're willing to step up & do the smart things. (Note: Brian's office is more than self-supporting.)
(And, again, here too it is all about growing a truly expert entrepreneurial mindset - and what it takes to do that is well within our grasp!)

Also still the same...

The three keys to a more resilient, self-renewing local economy
- our bona fide "no-brainers" that we still know how to do:

* Grow local entrepreneurs...everywhere you can
Train your potential entrepreneurs
Train your *existing *entrepreneurs

* Build capacity for communities & its members to grow entrepreneurs
Train citizens in "economic gardening"
Encourage entrepreneurial networks

* Start out early - youth entrepreneurship!
Grow the mindset in Idaho's youth

Till the next time, keep entrepreneuring!
Norris

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