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Three Takeaways from IEDC

IEDC’s annual conference gives economic development practitioners a chance to share ideas, best practices, and talk about the major issues that affect the communities in which they work. Here are three quick takeaways from our time at the conference:

1. Equity in Workforce Development & Innovation

Economic development practitioners across the country are focusing on infusing greater intentionality into the nexus of their equity and inclusion and workforce development and innovation practices. For some, providing targeted access to workforce development opportunities in niche sectors is the pathway to success; in Tucson, Arizona, practitioners created an industrial sewing accelerator, the Arizona Stitch Lab, which partners with the Pascua Yaqui Tribe and others to invest in workforce development in a target growth sector. The lab is also situated across the street from the tribal community center, which invites greater participation in the program. Others approach equity by focusing on affordability to reduce barriers for entrepreneurs; in Atlanta, leaders of the Atlanta Beltline realized that the high cost of commercial real estate was a major barrier to entry for entrepreneurs of color, and so undertook the process of tripling their land holdings. The practitioners posited that the best way to control prices is to own the land themselves, and set equity metrics for developers and tenants. These two approaches both (1) utilized robust local data to understand the key issues faced by their constituencies, (2) thought outside the box to determine the best way to leverage their own organizational expertise, capacity, and resources, (3) implemented a creative solution to achieve the desired results, and (4) shared their approach and experience with their peers to allow others to learn from and replicate their processes.

2. CleanTech Investment & Jobs

Clean energy industries, and the advanced manufacturing of cleantech supply chains, is a fast-growing sector in the United States and worldwide. Research by advisory firm McKinsey suggests that a handful of these technologies will generate about $1.2 trillion in global investment by 2030. By then, the International Energy Agency estimates total clean energy investment could reach $5 trillion annually.

Over the past decade (2010 to 2020), investments have driven the Clean Energy and CleanTech market:

  • 11x increase in Solar gigawatt capacity

  • 3x increase in Wind gigawatt capacity

  • 18x increase in Electric Vehicles

This growth predates the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), CHIPS and Science Act (CHIPS), and Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) – all of which will have a significant impact on the market. As a follow up to his panel moderation at IEDC, Aaron Brickman of RMI presented a webinar around the effort to accelerate clean energy-based economic development: How the Inflation Reduction Act Changes the Game for Economic Developers. At Fourth Economy, we are interested in CleanTech Investment and Jobs, and are closely monitoring how IRA, CHIPS, and IIJA can be used as economic development tools, especially for regional industry cluster development regions.

3. Oklahoma City for Food and Fun

Lastly, Oklahoma City was a great host city! We enjoyed our time in OKC getting to explore a number of fun neighborhoods and parts of the city. Some things that were especially noteworthy were the public art (OKC was ranked #1 nationally for street art), investment in revitalization efforts, reinvestment in neighborhoods and small business districts, the number of accessible public parks, fun neighborhoods to explore, and great places to eat – we especially loved the Paseo Arts District. We look forward to our next visit, and for the IEDC conference in Dallas, TX, in 2023!


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