Why Do Regions Matter?
Globalization is changing economic boundaries. Regions are now recognized as the most important economic geographies in global economy because they provide the scale that drives innovation. Innovation occurs when regional assets are networked. Or, to put it another way, good ideas are generated when we work together. Citizens on either side of the Ohio River and in urban or rural settings share community resources and work in a regional economy each day. Business and government leaders are recognizing how they are networked and are joining forces to increase the competitive position of our region.
In response to the focus on regional economies, the U.S. Department of Labor provided grants to strengthen regional ties and to fund transformations in workforce development to support regional economies. The WIRED - Workforce Innovation in Regional Economic Development -initiative is designed to integrate economic and workforce development activities in order to demonstrate the role of talent in the transformation of regional economies.
Central Kentucky was awarded one of these grants. To better reflect economic ties, the initial 15-county region was expanded its focus to include 26 counties - 19 in Kentucky and 7 in Indiana. The region encompasses the Louisville and Elizabethtown metropolitan areas and includes portions of six workforce investment boards. Indiana currently has two WIRED grants - Central Indiana (Purdue) and Southwest Indiana.
TIP Report: Wired65 Regional Competitiveness Strategy
Developing a regional competitiveness strategy has been the focus and first step in leveraging the $5 million grant. The goal is to provide a blueprint for positioning the region for the development, retention, and recruitment of talent. The work has focused on identifying new opportunities as well as supporting key sectors of the regional economy.
The strategy work used a three-phase process to assess the region's competitiveness in the marketplace. First, assessments were made on the economic position of the region and, second, the state of its human capital was measured. The third piece includes recommendations for strategies to build on economic prosperity through emphasizing the importance of talent, innovation and quality of place as key ingredients of regional success. The work was awarded through a competitive bidding process to Austin-based TIP Strategies and Next Generation Consulting based in Madison, Wisconsin. A regional leadership group participated in the process and continues to oversee Wired65 efforts.
Regional Leader Engagement Required
Public engagement is an important component of the work. Wired65 staff and TIP consultants conducted input sessions throughout the 26-county region to get feedback on their preliminary findings. The final strategy will be provided to regional leaders and used as a call to action.
The primary goal of the Regional Competitiveness Strategy and the ensuing visioning work that will follow it is to proactively position our regional economy to remain competitive and sustainable over the next 10 to 20 years and beyond.
Acceptance of a regional identity is critical to leveraging the scale benefits of regions. As long as cities and counties behave independently of one another and fail to leverage the larger community -- the fact that they are part of a region becomes meaningless.--Central Piedmont Triad, N.C. WIRED recipient