Sunday, April 27, 2008

Entrepreneurial Joy!!

Howdy, all- Lots of good stuff to share in the next few days (this blog has a rather large backlog of stuff I need to share... or just rant about?)

Sometimes, we lose sight of why thinking like an entrepreneur is so, well, rewarding...

I'm training Air Force officers up here in Montana (typical Montana day - from white-out snow to 65 degrees, LOL) and one of my young colleagues from Germany, Rene Mauer, is traveling the US with two of his fellow doctoral students. They are having a lot of fun, as you'll see. (I'm lobbying them to visit Idaho, but there's just too much to see in the Bay Area, I guess.But you can get a sense of the entrepreneurial *joy* they are finding out there. And "joy" IS the right word...

If you like it, drop Rene an email!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Great news to share!

I have accepted formal status as Fellow of the Max Planck Institute of Economics, specifically to their Entrepreneurship, Growth & Public Policy Group , the #1 think tank for promoting entrepreneurship & economic growth in the world!

They might not have tapped me if it hadn't been for working with you all. The best theory, yes, but also the best practice too!It's exciting but a bit daunting BUT it also has great potential benefit for *Idaho*.

The opportunity to collaborate with David Audretsch, probably the #1 guy in understanding entrepreneurial economic development is huge.Here's the first example: We've already been discussing how to design a virtual, multi-institutional program/center to advance technology commercialization & tech transfer. The POC model (below) is excellent, but only works if you can kill off all the turf battles.

Dave has already assessed best practices in single-institution programs (the so-called "Proof of Concept" center that I shared with you all a couple times since last year, so forgive me if I inflict that report [linked] on you a 3rd or 4th time). Dave thinks Idaho is a *perfect* situation with its three universities, INL and the private sector. (I've also touched base with pretty much all the top programs that we should model & getting good feedback. This could even induce some Idaho envy.) Anyway, it's a logical step to show what will work (and what won't) - all the evidence points in the exact same direction. Of course, we still have the big "if" - can we zero out turf issues & let the experts run things?

If not, well, we'll move on yet again. Still..... time to start working, I guess! (Allies & friends welcome... always!)

I am ramping up a bunch of blog posts, so keep your eyes peeled!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Another great Win-Win strategy....


Sometimes there is grant money, etc. for libraries - especially if they partner with local economic developers. Your local librarians, in fact, might be on top of the grants scene from their own perspective. Also, wouldn't this be a nice way to help your local library to approach donors??

p.s. Even your small local libraries are often remarkable windows into the info people need to start a business...

Entrepreneur up! /NK

Libraries and Rural Development

If you think about key institutions involved in revitalizing rural America, you probably don’t put libraries at the top of your list. Yet, as a new Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs study notes, libraries and librarians are key assets in many rural communities. Public libraries serve as community centers, but they can also contribute to local economic development efforts. This is especially true when it comes to serving local entrepreneurs who can benefit greatly from marketing research and other materials available at local libraries. The study reviews several case studies of effective programs (for example, in Lancaster County, PA), and offers tips for how libraries can be better partners in support of local entrepreneurs and their companies.

Download the Winter 2008 Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs Rural Research Report, “Public Libraries and Community Economic Development: Partnering for Success,” by Christine Hamilton-Pennell.

Here's the link directly:

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Measuring where we are and where we need to go?

Or. a “Swank” look at rural entrepreneurship!

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Always good to see the Buckeye logo on a well-done report – this one is from the Swank Center at Ohio State, assessing the state of rural entrepreneurship and its role in rural economic health. Ohio is more rural than many would guess (just as Idaho is more urban than many realize) and the parallels are remarkable, so we can definitely learn from this. The data is rock-solid, as is the analysis.

Self-employment is absolutely critical for rural economies! However, it has to be truly entrepreneurial self-employment, not just out of necessity.

Self-employment can sometimes be a last-resort way of having a job. But it doesn't have to be. That is, what helps rural communities are entrepreneurial businesses that have a future. And we know how to help that process.

Here are the Swank Center's main conclusions for public policy that apply anywhere:

#1 You want a strong rural economy? You need a strong economy state-wide.

It's very hard to have a strong urban economy without a strong rural economy and rural economies need strong urban economies.

#2 You want more jobs? Make it easier on new and small businesses.

Lower tax burdens (on business income, business property and personal income)

[note: lowering tax burdens seems to be a lot better than adding new tax credits]

Lower regulatory burdens... a lot.

#3 Need to step back and really assess rigorously what we're already doing (& not doing)

What are we doing that actually helps start businesses? To keep them? To grow them?

Are we following known best practices?

What is working for us these days?

#4 Tax incentives need to target smaller and newer businesses

It's very hard to avoid these incentives being captured by larger firms, but the impact is proportionately much higher for smaller/newer business. (Odd as it may sound, incentivizing nonprofits is good policy too.)

Use this issue as a political excuse to look at all the state's incentives, credits, etc. (You think we have an impenetrable maze of these in Idaho? Ohio's worse.)

#5 (but should be #1 & #2): Health care/insurance still the #1 headache for entrepreneurs

If a state can figure out this one, they will draw entrepreneurs & businesses like crazy. (Ohio may be looking at NFIB's plan, but how hard would it be to create a pool for all smaller firms in the state?) As my insurance guy will attest, this is not something I remotely understand.

#6 Broadband access – the government stats can be very misleading.

The stats show how many zipcodes have at least one (1) customer getting broadband – and “broadband” is often defined as low as 256K. Ohio has as many T1 lines as we have potatoes & they still have issues... We need to be vigilant here.

One innovation we might adopt is having a college 'adopt' local communities who lack broadband & wire 'em up. Great learning experience & a really cost-effective way to bring rural communities into the New Economy!

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#7 You want higher workforce productivity? Ramp up workforce training.

Invest in community colleges & technical colleges.

Let them drive the economic development boat.

#8 Everybody's got ideas. Everybody's got good ideas. Not everybody gets them to market!

Heresy, I know, especially from a PhD.. but the dirty little secret is that all the inventiveness in the world doesn't help any local economy, any rural economy... unless they get good at transforming intellectual property into things that customers value.

Ohio got pretty good at this through the famed Thomas Alva Edison Partnership that helped rural entrepreneurs turn ideas into businesses; the newer Third Frontier program has raised the ante even higher. But they still need to do more to teach its citizens how to be innovators. We need to do the same. (We even know how to do it!)

#9 You want to grow rural jobs? Knowledge workers are key.

The “creative class” is more of a metaphor – in fact, it's the more entrepreneurial rural economies that attract the creative class, not vice-versa. Getting and keeping employees who are more tech-savvy is critical to growing and keeping jobs in any area. Ohio is trying to do more with their community colleges and with programming in their high schools, including more distance learning. (Did you know that Idaho has the Idaho Digital Learning Academy? Local communities could be doing a lot more with programs like that.)

But knowledge workers like quality of life – Idaho's rural communities have that in abundance. We've simply not as good a job as we could in showing people that entrepreneurship can flourish anywhere in Idaho. We've begun to address that (a distance-delivery youth entrepreneurship course is under development) but there's more that we could do (like the “Entrepreneurial Heroes” model).

I come away from this thinking that Idaho's potential for rural entrepreneurship is pretty amazing, but there's so much more that we could do. Fortunately, much of that are things we already know how to do and are, um, “cost-effective”! Not easy, but need not involve a lot of cash.