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Growing Entrepreneurial Communities

In the last week of November, 2017, a group of thought-leaders on entrepreneur-led economic development from across the nation gathered in Kansas City for a gathering called Growing Entrepreneurial Communities.

What is entrepreneur-led economic development? It is the idea that the creation of businesses by entrepreneurs is the most sustainable and equitable way to facilitate economic prosperity in any community, no matter the size. But, enabling entrepreneurship involves an “ecosystem” approach – or the development of a rich support system for entrepreneurs, led by entrepreneurs, and supported by community organizations, economic developers, workforce, government, education, and others.

This gathering was hosted by the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City and SourceLink, and supported by the Kauffman Foundation – all entities that are focused on supporting entrepreneurship and economic development. The ~30 leaders who attended came from small communities or networks, such as the Center for Rural Entrepreneurship, national or international networks, such as the International Economic Development Council and the National Center for Economic Gardening, and educational and research entities who are interested in supporting entrepreneurship, such as Brookings and the Institute for Work and the Economy at DePaul University in Chicago. These far flung entities all have something in common – advancing the way local entities can both support entrepreneurship and document and measure the ways that entrepreneurs are transforming communities across the nation for the better.

Some of the key take aways from the gathering:

  • There is a committed network of practitioners working throughout the country to build, advance, track, and measure entrepreneurial ecosystem success.
  • The core goal is to create wealth and equity within communities and regions by supporting entrepreneurs.
  • A high impact action that the group is pursuing is a paradigm shift for economic development practitioners, from a focus on talent recruitment to entrepreneurship ecosystem development. Credentialing, continuing education for economic developers, and advancing research and metrics that show a relationship between local economic prosperity and entrepreneurship are all strategies that the group is pursuing.
  • This small group gathering supported the development of larger Growing Entrepreneurial Communities Summit in April 2018 to bring together more communities from across the nation to explore these topics further.

Valley Vision has a vested interest and strong role is supporting the entrepreneurial ecosystem of the Capital region. Through our work on SlingShot, Valley Vision has managed, for the four regional Workforce Development Boards (SETA, Golden Sierra, North Central Counties Consortium, and Yolo), efforts to grow entrepreneurial supports here. In Spring 2017, through SlingShot, SETA released $750K to support entrepreneurs and develop an online resource locator for services that support the region’s entrepreneurs. These services and the locator will help grow our communities’ entrepreneurs by creating new mentorship services, new physical spaces, and make support services more accessible and transparent for users.

Sacramento has seen increased activity for entrepreneurs – two immediate examples are the opening of a new space by Urban Hive and the recent expansion of Hacker Lab in Rocklin. Gatherings like this one in Kansas City help us learn what is working in other communities and help communicate our success to others across the country.

Evan Schmidt is Valley Vision’s Director of Strategy and Evaluation.

Innovate Sac Showcases New Partnerships and Cutting-Edge Tech

Following the announcement of Dale and Katy Carlsen’s $6 million gift to Sacramento State, which will establish the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Sac State’s Alumni Center was the perfect backdrop for Innovate Sac. The event, one of a series of activities planned during Global Entrepreneurship Week, served as the launch for the vision of the City of Sacramento’s Urban Technology Lab (SUTL), an initiative of the City of Sacramento.

The event was presided over by Monique Brown, of iHub, who set the stage for the event and was followed by an energetic presentation by President Robert Nelsen who shared his vision for the region as a center for innovation, and the importance of the new Center as a symbol of prosperity for the entire Sacramento region.

Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg gave an inspiring presentation on the growing significance of Sacramento as a key innovation partner, an idea supported by several innovative projects from high-profile companies and organizations launching initiatives at our doorstep, from Verizon’s 5G Network to an autonomous vehicle partnership. Addressing the theme of community and improving the lives of all, Mayor Steinberg went on to address more serious social matters including a $100 million pilot project that had been approved to support homeless services across the City and County. He closed out his presentation with a call to action to continue to raise Sacramento’s profile by communicating these successes through our own networks.

The event’s headline speakers Aaron Frank, Faculty at Singularity University and Dr. Austin Brown, Executive Director of the UC Davis Policy Institute for Energy, Environment, and the Economy, followed suit. Both touched upon the reasons for the exponential growth in technology advancement we are witnessing and how increased accessibility to the common man will further speed up innovation and disruption across all industries. Mr. Frank’s presentation explored the impact of Moore’s Law on technology from batteries to computers and offered us a glimpse into the future of what might be. He then went on to address the seismic shifts in workforce that we need to be prepared to address. Dr. Brown of UC Davis, spoke on the positive impacts of technology advancements on the environment and overall efficiencies that technology was bringing to society. He went on to address the risks associated with unintended consequences that were by nature inherent to technology advancements and which consumed a majority of his team’s energy and focus as they attempt to identify issues and mitigate their negative effects.

Louis Stewart, Sacramento’s recently-appointed Chief Innovation Officer, closed out the event with a brief presentation of the proposed SUTL. The Lab will serve to engage the community to transform Sacramento into a living laboratory to develop, test, deploy, replicate, and scale new technologies, products, and services that will accelerate quality of life improvements for all residents.  Mr. Stewart went on to highlight that advances in technology and technology for technology’s sake are not what drives Sacramento nor its policies and projects, but rather how technology can help the greater good so that everyone benefits. Sacramento, he stated, is well positioned to be competitive across numerous industries including urban technology, biotech, and Agtech.

The event was an encouraging reminder that our ability to shift and evolve as a region to benefit from these technological advancements is by working together. Without the support of our local employers and the academic community in the region we cannot build a skilled and viable workforce that can address changing occupational demands. We cannot properly fund essential programs nor create effective policy without the support of our city leaders and non-profit organizations.

At Valley Vision we know this to be true and since 1994, we have driven transformative change for Northern California. Our contributions have improved quality of life by building strong communities, a healthy environment, and economic vibrancy.  Valley Vision has an active portfolio of projects focused on innovation (Slingshot) and workforce development projects (Capital Region Workforce Action Plan) supported by key partners such as JP Morgan Chase, Los Rios Community College District and the regional Workforce Development Boards.

Take a moment to learn more about these exciting developments in our region led by Valley Vision:

  • Slingshot: SlingShot is an initiative of the California Workforce Development Board (CWDB) to encourage and support regional partnerships across the state to engage in new collective actions around innovation workforce challenges.  The Sacramento region’s SlingShot project is focused on building an ecosystem where innovation thrives, and business startups can be successful.
  • Capital Region Workforce Action Plan: Currently we have four independent and active projects that are set on achieving the same outcome: to develop a seamless, collaborative and equitable system which engages all levels of academia, employers, regional political leaders, Chambers of Commerce, PBIDs, Workforce Development Boards and non-profits to assure a strong and viable workforce and as a result a vibrant economy that benefits all levels of our community.

Authored by Lucie-Anne Radimsky, with contributions from Trish KellyTammy Cronin, and Meg Arnold.