From the perspective of economic development efforts, globalization has provoked a strengthening awareness that at least one priority strategy must shift away from commodities and attraction to focus on value-added innovation and entrepreneurship, says Dr. Myrtis Tabb, assistant vice president of partnerships and special projects at Delta State.
“The global economy is knowledge and idea-based where the keys to job creation and higher standards of living are innovative ideas and technology-embedded services and products,” Tabb said.
Washington and Bolivar counties are now in the process of implementing a roadmap to help develop more knowledge-based economic development in their region. The two Delta counties are the first in the state to receive Community Innovation Certification (CIC) through a pilot program developed through a partnership between the Mississippi Technology Council, the Mississippi Technology Alliance (MTA), the Delta Technology Alliance and Delta State University. Future Point Consulting provided guidance throughout the process. Funding was provided by the U. S. Small Business Administration, AT&T, Entergy, the City of Cleveland and the Washington County Board of Supervisors.
The CIC program identifies a community’s strengths and weaknesses and provides the framework by which a community can equip itself to embrace technology-dependent applications for residents, small business, large business, city and county government and medical and educational institutions.
The CIC pilot program concentrated on assessing the resource needs of innovative enterprises and high-technology or high-performing companies that are the drivers that fuel a community or region’s economy and increase competitive capacity.
“The certification process includes tools, which are designed to help a community and region build and implement a strategy for continuous improvement by focusing on innovation-led and technology-based economic development,” Tabb said. “The certification indicates that the communities have completed the process and developed a plan for future action.
“This process will help the communities take a local economic snapshot and assess needs and opportunities available. It will also help the community analyze, identify priorities and conduct planning around the six cornerstones of development — technology infusion and access to research, entrepreneurship, capital, human resources, business assistance, social capital and quality of life.”
Tommy Hart, executive director of the Economic Development District of Washington County, said the most prosperous communities are those with technology-based businesses.
“Technology fuels sustainable economic expansion, creating high-wage jobs, world-class exports and productivity,” Hart said.
The strategic plan developed for Bolivar and Washington counties concentrates on three main areas — technology transfer, entrepreneurship and access to capital.
For Washington County, one of best opportunities for technology transfer is the research being done at the USDA/Mississippi State University Research Center in Stoneville. For Bolivar County, research at DSU is a resource that could be mined to create jobs and economic development.
“There are some opportunities to commercialize technology developed over there,” said Bubba Weir, vice president for community services, MTA.
Weir adds that one thing is clear. While two separate plans were developed for Washington and Bolivar counties, it is best for communities to work together as a region.
“That is where we are headed now,” Weir said. “Instead of Certified Innovative Communities, we will have regional innovation networks. We are working closely with Momentum Mississippi program to do things regionally such as regional angel investment groups, regional entrepreneurship training and also doing some things with what we call regional technology prospecting.”
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