Tag Archives: workforce development

Inspiration from innovation

Back into Indiana today from Michigan and onto one inspirational place to another.  Here’s a view across Lake Michigan…it’s nearly 100 times bigger than Great Lake Taupo…

IMG_0272

Northeast Indiana Innovation Center (NIIC)

Karl and the team raised the bar again as hosts, giving me the full tour and lifting the hood on what they do.  Karl is the past President of the National Business Incubation Association, so I had assumed it would be a day of incubation.

I was completely wrong.  Karl and the team offer a full range of services to assist entrepreneurs, which have been refined over 15 years.  As Karl puts it, entrepreneurship is a fourth leg in addition to the traditional economic development tools of retention, attraction and workforce development.  NIIC has the results to back it up, having helped over 100 companies grow at an average rate of 79% compounded annually, with 91% of businesses surviving after 5 years and 98% retention within Indiana.

IMG_0294

Karl has authored a number of publications including the Four Levers of Success, which he defines as:

  1. Capital Access and Availability
  2. Knowledge Catalysts
  3. Human and Physical Infrastructure
  4. Entrepreneurial Climate and Values

Makes you think about where you live and if those exist.

Karl had some very insightful and pragmatic views:

  • Even though they have very clearly defined stages, the team “meets entrepreneurs at the stage you find them” and then assist from there
  • The best entrepreneurs are built out of opportunity not necessity, often we hear the opposite?
  • Workforce development (that phrase keeps popping up) is focused on training people to fit the demand for jobs.  But given the changing nature of work…what will that be in future and what about peoples passion?

 

Innovation Connector

Then it was a flying visit to see Ted at Muncie, a smaller rural town.  The Innovation Connector offers similar services to NIIC.

Ted and the team have and strong focus on relationships, collaborating closely with Ball State University (yet again education is a key component).  Ted’s view on smaller communities where knowing their value proposition and not standing still…Muncie lost a huge number of manufacturing jobs but are right in the middle of reinventing.

The closest thing I can think of to the these two organisations in New Zealand is The Icehouse…imagine a few more services like that supporting New Zealand…

Beautiful Boise, events and the end of week one

The last day of the first week offshore and I’m not sure if it feels like just yesterday I left home or a month ago.

Today was in Boise, Idaho which is a beautiful ‘city of trees’.

P1000911

Idaho Commerce

First up was the team from Idaho Commerce for a very productive conversation, given the remoteness of Idaho and the challenges that brings.  The team has a strong focus on supporting job creation.  There are some interesting initiatives including Accelerate Idaho, a reasonably new tax reimbursement incentive and the Idaho rural partnership fund.  Rurally we talked about moving agricultural products higher up the value chain which when combined with tourism can create even more value (e.g. niche food, craft beer and wine).  Education and the war for talent was raised as a big challenge in the future.

Boise City

From there it was on to meet Nic, ‎Director of Economic Development at City of Boise.  Nic gave me a great overview of the layers of government in the US and how they interact.  Some great ideas flowing from Startup in a day, Obama’s government startup and the Mayors Innovation Project.  Nic reinforced the importance of having good data balanced with customer insight.  My favourite project was a Spring Into Code, which introduces kids to computer science at a young age which is what industry is asking for.

Boise Valley Economic Partnership (BVEP)

I met Jana, who had lived in Tokoroa on an exchange as a secondary school student.  BVEP is a regional economic development agency covering a number of counties and the City of Boise.  Jana reinforced the importance of business attraction by proactively prospecting for new business and working with ‘site selectors’, which is a big industry in the US.  They have some very insightful data and geospatial information combined with customer insight to help identify the sweet spot of what Boise Valley can offer.  In other words, understanding the behaviour and perceptions of prospective and current businesses, rather then using assumptions.  Broken record…but skills and workforce development raised again as key for the future.

International Festivals and Events Association (IFEA)

Taupo District has a strong affinity with IFEA, having previously won an IFEA World Festival & Event City Award.  I was hosted by Nia, including a tour of the beautiful Boise Depot.  IFEA have a great range of great education, information, conferences and awards to name a few and as a result I came away with a ‘to do’ list for when I return.  On the new idea front, it will be interesting to see if crowdfunding for events takes off.

So that is week one done and dusted…it’s a weekend away from work, exploring and driving in Oregon and definitely some downtime before another huge week.  Thanks for all the messages, it’s great to hear from you when travelling solo.  The Friday night thing to do in Boise is float down the river in an inflatable with a chillybin onboard…

P1000919

Fish, frogs and caviar

Today started with a run in Twin Falls along the top of the Snake River canyon which was stunning scenery.  I’m trying get some exercise at least every second day to help me sleep at night, maintain energy for the long days and see some of real America by footpath or trail. Here’s the view down into the Snake River (favourite spot of base jumpers).

P1000722

Today was ‘aquaculture’ day, with Idaho having over 100 freshwater fish farms with some utilising geothermal energy.  By comparison, most of New Zealand’s aquaculture is marine based, with some freshwater operations such as the Huka Prawn Park and the National Trout Centre.

First up was Steve from the College of Southern Idaho who showed me their trout and sturgeon operations.  Pretty amazing to see a 2.5 metre long sturgeon and to think of that cruising around in rivers (they don’t have teeth!).

P1000788

We then toured a geothermal fish farm at Canyon Springs which produces tilapia.  Dave generously offered for me to try out Zip the Snake but unfortunately I ran out of time.  Steve also gave me a glimpse of his frog farm, which was full of innovation.

P1000816

Next up was Ron, Professor at the University of Idaho, director of the Hagerman Fish Culture Experiment Station and director of the University of Idaho’s Aquaculture Research Institute.  He is a guru on fish nutrition and aquaculture in general, and gave a great insight into the history of the Idaho aquaculture industry and what may lay in store for aquaculture in the future.  Plant based food has been a real area of focus on innovative research.

P1000844

To wrap up the day I finished with Leo from Fish Breeders of Idaho, who farms trout, tilapia and sturgeon.  He used to farm alligators too but the couple he has left were a bit shy today.  In his late 70’s, Leo has been there and done that and shared some great thoughts on putting customers first, focusing on service and quality and the importance of risk taking to create value.  Leo’s firm harvest caviar from the Sturgeon, which can take 10 years to produce, which is quite a wait but worth it for the price!

P1000898

By 6pm, facing a 2 hour drive my head was spinning but the time on the road to Boise gave me time to contemplate today.  Several things struck a chord:

  • The involvement of the education organisations in research and partnering with industry on both products and training people.
  • Clever entrepreneurs who have transformed natural resources into value added products by pioneering, risk taking and continued innovation.

Broader themes are emerging around entrepreneurship, small business and workforce development.  Today was a great example of results from collaboration with business, research/education and government.  How well do we work with others and what could be possible when everyone collaborates?

Another full day tomorrow and then the weekend for some much needed downtime.

The pack of cards…when in Reno

Another full on day with a lot driving made easier with the freeways, beautiful scenery and very welcoming people.

Sacramento County

I sought out Rami as he was recently named one of the Top 25 Doers, Dreamers and Doers by Govtech and Sacromento County has won numerous tech awards.  We discussed digital government and I came away with a huge amount of confidence that the team at Taupo is on the right track.  Current and future focuses centre around regular website refreshes, the need for mobile apps, linking data (e.g. Crime and graffiti), the intersection of Geospatial and data and a single view for customers.

Nevada Governor’s Office of Energy, Carson City

Paul the Director and his team hosted me in the early afternoon for a quick overview of Nevada energy.  I was primarily interested in geothermal, given Nevada is the number one in installed geothermal per capita and Taupo’s strength in this area.  A highlight was by pure chance meeting and talking with Governor Paul Sandoval and witnessing the launch of the Nevada Electric Highway.  Note the highway “is expected to link rural areas and bring business to those communities from EV owners who make the stop to charge their cars”.  Electric vehicles are going to take off in some shape or form and communities should be taking action now to dip their toe in the water, ready to embrace what may become the norm.

Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada (EDAWN), Reno

Mike graciously shared his views on economic development and they have definitely stepped it up a level from when we last spoke in 2013. Mike is incredibly humble, and our meeting was definitely a lesson in leadership. EDAWN has five key strategies: retain and grow, attract, entrepreneurship, workforce development and community development.  What also impressed me was their great handle on metrics to track progress.  When Mike started there was 14% unemployment and now it’s down to half that and going lower.  A very bright future is on the horizon with Tesla building their gigafactory which will create 6500 jobs!  Their entrepreneurship program started from scratch and won Innovation Ecosystem Award.  A gem they showed me was the Reno startup deck which is an innovative way of integrating Reno’s gaming history and useful tools for startups – genius!

image