Over the last few weeks, I have had the privilege of participating in several meetings of states engaged in the National Governors’ Association (NGA) Academy on “Making our Future: Encouraging Growth Opportunities in Manufacturing through Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Investment.” This Academy, sponsored by NIST MEP and the Economic Development Administration, is designed to get key political and thought leaders in the states talking about steps they can take to advance manufacturing and innovation.
The NGA team selected seven states – Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Kansas, Massachusetts, New York, and Pennsylvania – to participate, and the effort was launched at a kick-off meeting in October. So what are we observing a couple months into it? From what I’ve seen, it’s very exciting on two levels:
1) There is broad participation among state leaders from a wide variety of organizations and institutions. In Illinois, for instance, around the table sat representatives from the Governor’s Office, economic development agencies, federal laboratories, universities, community colleges, workforce development agencies, local government, business associations, service providers like MEP, and others. There is no doubt that, if you’re going to talk about an intensified and focused state approach to growing manufacturing, these are the right folks to have engaged.
2) The participants are doing more than just talk. There’s a real clear action orientation to their discussions of important questions like: How can we improve our business climate to support the growth of manufacturers? How can we increase the adoption of new technologies into companies to enhance innovation and new product development? How can universities be more “user-friendly” to assisting in getting technologies out into commercialization? What can states do to address the need for skilled talent among growing manufacturers? How can we deploy the various assets available more effectively and strategically? Across all the discussions, there is a recognition of the importance of manufacturing to the state’s economy, an appreciation that the state can and does make strategic decisions and investments that can impact the success of manufacturing, and that it’s time to move beyond petty turf battles and silo’ed initiatives to focus on making an impact in the near term. Very focused on actions!
What’s next? Over the next 2-3 months, states will continue down the path of developing and executing strategies, each designed to fit their unique circumstances. The core teams from each state will meet in Chicago in March to compare approaches, learn from one another, and refine strategies and next steps for the spring and summer activities. MEP centers are right in the middle of the right discussions with the right folks. At this early stage, I’d have to say “so far, so good!”