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Inclusive Competitiveness: America’s 21st century economic blueprint

Inclusive Competitiveness: America’s 21st century economic blueprint

Inclusive Competitiveness: America’s 21st Century Economic Blueprint

By Mike Green

Inclusive Competitiveness is the No. 1 economic concern of the American people.

The Census is predicting a mid-century shift in the racial demographics of the nation that will result in a non-white majority of the population. This demographic shift has significant political and economic ramifications. The Republican and Democratic Parties are both gearing up now for a battle over the White House in 2016. That battle will inevitably boil down to economics, as it does every election.

The challenge for both parties, and the nation as a whole, is accelerating a departure from the economic apartheid of the past. In the aftermath of the 2008-10 “Great Recession,” which represented the biggest economic collapse since the Great Depression, the U.S. global economic competitiveness has fallen from No. 1 in the world to No. 7. Although the Obama administration succeeded in slowing the rate of decline, at the current pace of recovery the U.S. is still likely to fall out of the top 10 in global competitiveness by the next presidential election.

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The question is how each party will address concerns of Americans over the economic competitiveness of the nation in a 21st century knowledge-based, tech-driven global innovation economy that fails to include two of the nation’s fastest-growing racial demographic populations to any substantive degree.

Inclusive Competitiveness is Key

Johnathan Holifield, Vice President of Inclusive Competitiveness at Nortech in Cleveland, Ohio, summed it up well when he addressed the regional economic problems of Northeast Ohio, a microcosm of the national economic problem:

We simply, as a matter of economic physics, cannot get there with 20 percent of our population contributing less than 2 percent of our product.

Holifield’s point is apropos in the following report, “Inclusive Competitiveness: 21st Century Solutions to Avoid Economic Apartheid in America.” The report shows that all Black and Hispanic-owned businesses combined produce less than 3.5% of the nation’s total GDP. With the substantial growth of these two demographics, increasing the capacity for these groups to produce growth-stage companies and jobs is an economic imperative for America. A cursory look at any metro region with a majority minority population reveals economic apartheid conditions in which the majority of the population produces a paltry percentage of the overall gross regional product (GRP).

Inclusive Competitiveness: Economic Blueprint

The solution is to directly address historic institutional barriers that have resulted in educational, entrepreneurial and workforce challenges today that represent both a threat AND a solution to the nation’s economic troubles. By transforming exclusive economic frameworks into inclusive pipelines and economic infrastructures that foster and fuel high-growth entrepreneurship, local innovation ecosystems can produce increases in economic competitiveness that makes their regions more attractive.

The America21 Project (America21) views a 21st century American multicultural landscape as an arena filled with significant assets and untapped innovators, entrepreneurs and ingenuity. An Inclusive Competitiveness vision and inclusion frameworks within local innovation ecosystems is key to empowering all Americans and engaging all communities in the comprehensive economic development strategies (CEDS) plans for every region.

In 2016, Americans will respond positively to the return on investments made today in connecting economically disconnected communities and developing pipelines to productivity, jobs and economic opportunity. The proposed talking points and political rhetoric that divides Americans today must be replaced by actual investments in moving the needle of institutional apathy and historic economic apartheid. The overall result is measured in data, not the processes of punditry.

See the report below for stark data  that represent the challenge ahead. Inclusive Competitiveness is the solution. But that solution requires collaborative leadership and the policies of high expectations. America21 envisions a national inclusive innovation ecosystem that can be used as a blueprint for America’s Inclusive Competitiveness outcomes throughout the 21st century.


America21 Report: Inclusive Competitiveness by Mike Green


From Johnathan Holifield: The Father of Inclusive Competitiveness

Economy Invisible to Disconnected Americans

Today, the Innovation Economy is not openly and plainly visible. Innovation ecosystems comprised of critical elements such as research, commercialization and technology transfer activities, private equity investments in the forms of angel networks, seed funds and venture capital, and the technology and innovation organizations that steward these ecosystems, are not visible to anyone disconnected from them.

  • There are no crops to see; there are Petri dishes, beakers and volumetric flasks.
  • There are no hard hats, cranes and construction boots to see; there are scrubs, lab coats, perhaps T-shirts at Internet-based enterprises, and very comfortable shoes.
  • There are no smokestacks and acid rain to see; there are seemingly quiet, calm buildings, generally artistically and architecturally pleasing to the eyes, and the disconnected have very little knowledge of what goes on inside.

To make the Innovation Economy visible, enabling more Americans to connect to it, as an advocate for and a practitioner of both innovation-based economic development and economic inclusion, I developed the concept of Inclusive Competitiveness — the practice of improving performance of diverse populations within innovation ecosystems and clusters, emerging industry sectors and other areas critical to economic competitiveness.

Inclusive Competitiveness Strategies to Make Visible New Opportunities 

To position more Americans to connect to the Innovation Economy, the following new strategic capacities and capabilities should be developed to make visible new opportunities:

·         Community Economic Narrative – This refers to the dominant leadership and advocacy in African American and Latino communities, which informs the kinds of business, economic and education support services and opportunities that are available in these communities. Leadership, advocacy and services focused on and connected to the Innovation Economy priorities are at best, nascent. At worse, they are nonexistent. Through presentations, engagement and advocacy, America21 will help African American and Latino communities develop a new, 21st century, community economic narrative that connects to the Northeast Ohio Innovation Economy.

·         Government Leadership – Local, state and federal governments have largely ceded economic competitiveness initiatives to third parties that often fail to tie strategies to overall community prosperity and, in the process, leave many African American and Latino communities disconnected, especially those that build on technological assets and innovation. America21 will work with government to provide new leadership to create important avenues for improved performance of African Americans and Latinos in Northeast Ohio’s Innovation Economy.

·         K-12 and Higher Education Leadership – Education is the gateway to the Innovation Economy. Science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), including arts (STEAM), education attainment are especially important. America21 will support new and sustained leadership for K-12, higher education and targeted minority-serving organization partnerships that are needed to develop, recruit and retain minority STEM and STEAM students, including providing intensive intervention and wrap-around services.

·         Minority-Serving Organizational Leadership – African American and Latino communities are served by a rich and diverse set of not-for-profits that typically provides direct services to residents, often with a focus on areas such as education, employment, and human and social services. The business services that are provided in these communities are overwhelmingly focused on areas such as the construction sector and supplier diversity initiatives. While these initiatives serve important needs, America21 will collaborate with targeted organizations to create complementary, new capacities and strategies that focus on creating linkages between African Americans and Latinos and the Innovation Economy.

·         Policy and Practice – Advancements in policy and practice across a diverse set of stakeholders – including economic development intermediaries, business organizations, targeted minority-serving, economic-focused organizations, government, corporations and philanthropic institutions – is required to improve performance of African American and Latinos in the Innovation Economy. In areas directly related to the Innovation Economy, America21 will partner with these groups to collectively support new demonstration projects, transform organizational policies and practices to promote inclusion, relax restrictions on existing funding to allow needed experimentation and tie new funding to commitments to demonstration projects and broad dissemination of findings and outcomes.

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