Reflections from the Chair Emeritus—Richard Johanson
As we welcome a New Year, it occurred to me that we don’t need to propose New Year’s Resolutions. Our goal must be to keep our focus to scale and accelerate what is already in place. While innovation and renewal are an ongoing exercise, we are fully engaged in activating the concepts developed years ago. We have overcome the siloed thinking and behavior that stifled necessary collaborative work. We have learned the language of economic, infrastructure and human development and understand their equal value and interdependence. By working together, we have discovered resources that were invisible when we looked through a narrow lens. Fresno is ready—investment ready. Whether you invest your time, financial resources or both, the onramps are all around you. In so doing we shall see the fulfillment of HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL in 2012.
Clusters—The Ecosystem Silver Bullet
When we launched the first cluster, Water Technology, in 1999, the notion of Blue Tech Valley wasn’t on the radar. However, through steadfast effort from the partners of the Regional Jobs Initiative, the cluster continues to grow and strengthen as our region becomes known as the solution shop for the world’s water challenges. Today, I received a call from a solar firm in San Francisco. The caller was enthusiastic about doing business in Fresno because “you are so organized. The Clean Energy Cluster is amazing—the broad attendance makes Fresno the place to be.” Kudos to the Economic Development Corporation that leads this cluster.
Payoffs of the Cluster Approach
As governors across the nation scramble to reignite innovation, entrepreneurship and job creation, a recent Brookings-Rockefeller report points to clusters as a low-cost way to jump start the economy. “Cluster strategies provide a direct route to economic renewal because they build on existing assets to promote growth in regions by enhancing the interactions by which firms complete transactions, share ideas, start new enterprises and create jobs.” States are encouraged to get out of the top down, industrial style of economic development and shift to a paradigm that links, aligns and leverages the resources and knowledge of many agencies behind a shared strategy. Economic, infrastructure and human development are equally essential to a strong economy. In addition, the authors emphasize the importance of initiating a new generation of cluster programs based upon regional customization. Besides coaching the states, the authors point to the federal effort to collapse siloes and “layer” federal resources behind state cluster initiatives.
What Does this Mean for Fresno?
As Dick noted above, we have built the civic infrastructure and we have identified our assets and opportunities. In 2012, through “the power of aligned decision making” we can accelerate and achieve significant impact, not just in the economy but in other critical issues. The cluster approach is transferable to social issues. You will be hearing more about hubs and platforms designed to support cross-cutting, bottom-up regional and local efforts to transform our community. We are learning how to align vertically (neighborhood, city, region, state, federal) and horizontally (programs and resources aimed at the same outcomes.) We have practiced the cluster approach to achieve specific goals. Now we are ready to apply it to the whole community. Watch for information about the Fresno Stewardship Initiative.