The Golden Economic Development Opportunity in 2021
You’re well aware of existing and upcoming Federal spending plans, but do you have a sound plan to make the most of this unprecedented injection of capital While many of the details are still murky, now is the time to make a plan and prepare to win and manage these funds to maximize impact in your state. In this webinar, a panel of experts and practitioners shared their insights on state level economic development for 2021 and beyond.
Shawn Garvey, CEO, Momentum
Molly Pyle, Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Development Lead, Center on Rural Innovation (CORI)
Sophia Zheng, Founder & CEO, Bludot
Sedale Turbovsky, CEO & Founder, OpenGrants
Read the Transcription
Please note, this transcription is automatically generated and may contain some spelling and contextual errors.
All right, everyone. Welcome to the webinar around economic development’s golden opportunity. I’m super excited to have you all here. My name is Sedale Turbovsky I’ll be hosting. I am the CEO and co-founder of OpenGrants and we are a company focused on activating grant funding for individuals, companies, small businesses that are doing the most important work in the world, and really excited to have some awesome folks here on this panel.
Really excited to dive into the topic for today. As many of you are aware, I’m sure there is a lot of interesting discussions happening right now about what’s happening with all of this federal assistance money and the other kind of really cool opportunities that are presented to us.
A silver lining of this really terrible experience that we’ve all gone through together of of a global pandemic is this opportunity to rebuild and to create something new and interesting and really compelling for everyone. Joining us on the panel today, we have some incredible folks who have Shawn Garvey here, who is the CEO of momentum, Molly Pyle, who is the lead entrepreneurial ecosystem development at the center on rural innovation and Sophia Zheng, who is the founder and CEO of BlueDot.
And I’m going to go ahead and let you all introduce yourselves, give a little background on who you are. And and we’ll take it from there. So if Shawn, if you’d we’ll just go into order of the slide here. Shawn, if you want to just introduce yourself real quick little background on yourself and momentum and that’d be awesome if you want to kick us off.
Good morning to everybody. I’m the chief executive officer of momentum, California based company that helps to design develop and deploy advanced energy transportation and manufacturing technologies and innovations. We’ve assisted in more than $6 billion of projects, often funded or co-funded with federal and state parks.
Honestly includes everything from transportation innovations, electric and zero-emission buses subways construction of new public buildings and the build-out of new incubation and acceleration programs around the country.
Awesome. Thank you for joining us. And yeah, really excited.
Shawn is a long time friend, a mentor, and I also in full disclosure an investor in open grants. So really excited to have fun here. And Molly, if you want to just go ahead and give a little background and introduce yourself. That’d be great. Yeah, of course.
Thanks for having me great to be here with y’all today.
I’m Molly pile. I’m the entrepreneur ecosystem development lead at CORI or the center on rural innovation. And CORI is a national nonprofit that really focuses on a comprehensive approach to closing the rural opportunity gap that emerged out of the great recession. And we do that by actually partnering with rural communities all across the country to help them build digital economy, ecosystem strategies.
Ultimately, this is frameworks methods, plans, big schemes, ultimately to help usher in the tech based and innovation and have needed to succeed in the 21st century. And since 2019, relatively young organization, four years old, but since 2019, you’ve had. Honor. And the privilege to help rural communities raise more than $13 million in federal funding and in matching dollars.
And throughout that process, we work very closely with these rural community leaders to assess their local assets. There are opportunities to speak with stakeholders and really devise those actionable strategies that can help them implement a digital economy, focused on entrepreneurship and innovation in their hometown.
So excited to be here with y’all and dig into that a little more.
Awesome, super, super excited to have. As someone who recently moved to a rural community I can attest to just how important that work is. The idea of doing the work I do. Currently I have to commute full 45 minutes in one direction in order to get to internet that is sufficient for, the kind of work that I do.
Really really important stuff. I’m really excited to hear your comments today and last, but certainly not least Sophia, if you want to go ahead and introduce yourself and.
Sounds great. Yeah. Thanks for having me super excited to be here today. Thanks everyone for hopping on. I’m Sophia founder and CEO of BlueDot we’re actually building a software platform for economic development teams.
And specifically we’re focusing on the small to medium size to communities. We started actually as a 16 week partnership with the city of Walnut Creek, which is out here in the bay area there economically. My own team was a total of 1.6. Full-time people supporting over 5,000 local businesses. So that’s actually, team of ones and team of twos are the typical communities that we work with.
Just super dedicated folks that are trying to do the best for their local businesses. And we’re trying to make them, the superheroes and maximize their impact. Since launch public launch, the beginning of 2020, we’re now used in committees in over 12 states. Just yesterday we announced a statewide launch in a state of Kentucky.
So w that will be our first statewide launch. And also Molly, you mentioned that the rural communities, and so it’s really funny because we are also, we also received a grant from USDA SBIR to, to do a rural economic development study. So we’re recruiting 43 rural communities. Join us. We’d love to speak to you more about that, but really excited to be here today and talk more about economic.
Awesome. Thank you so much. That’s really great. And super exciting. And congratulations. I was actually speaking with the state of Kentucky this morning, which is some overlap. Yeah. I, really excited to dive into this first point. I think, everyone who has been alive for the last year can really this really resonates that this is a really unprecedented time.
We’ve just gone through this and continue to go through this in many places this global pandemic with a really, Really exposed some of the cracks that we have in our ecosystem, it’s certainly brought to to to our attention, some of the places where we don’t have a lot of resiliency, some of the things that we might think about changing.
And so I’d love to hear your thoughts and any of you can tackle this one first, but I’d love to hear your thoughts on what as the landscape of economic development now as we, slog through late and post pandemic stages in different places in the world, around the world, and specifically in the United States what does that look like?
And what does that kind of mean? For economic development in general?
I’ll take a first shot at that. So I think what we’re seeing and we’re seeing this, particularly in the release of some of the larger grant funding opportunities from the federal government, through the department of transportation and the department of commerce over the last six months is a very sudden shift in priorities from the new administration.
We’re seeing significant shift with the adoption of language. As you said, resiliency, economic resiliency, and environmental resiliency. We’re seeing a shift to innovation and we’ve already seen a number of very serious federal investments in incubation and acceleration in emerging industries, health tech energy tech, clean tech, transportation technologies.
I think we’re expecting to see over the next four years if you look at the. The Biden investment plans. A lot more of that, a lot more investment in local economic development organizations in local universities and community colleges and helping to support, inspire, and accelerate new companies and new business and economic development opportunities.
And I think the third thing, and I’ll, I think I’ll reserve the thrust of this conversation to later, but a major pivot to the concept of equity. This is not something that we saw with any series of this over the last four. And we are seeing in the federal solicitations most recently the res program which is the old tiger and build infrastructure programs.
These have been out since before the Obama administration, they were called tiger. Then they were called billed under the Trump administration. They’re now called res raises is initially this year a billion dollars for and notably in the title of res, which stands for rebuilding American infrastructure with sustainability and equity.
And I’m going to return to that topic throughout this conversation, because the idea of sustainability slash resiliency and equity racial, economic and other forms of equity are going to be deeply embedded over the next four years in all of our funding opportunities. And people are going to have to be organizations and agencies are going to have to be very aware of how they relate to those groups.
Sean was alluding to or, really clearly highlighting about the focus on equity, which I also find very exciting the EDA economic development administration coming out with equity and inclusion and diversity being highlighted.
It’s actually one of those key pillars for all of their future programs and funding opportunities to be focused on was something that we were really thrilled to see as we were supporting communities just a couple months ago in applying to the build to scale venture challenge, which is an infusion of capital and helping build these scalable tech startup ecosystems and seeing more programs and funding available for that as well for equitable systems and programs that can help people step into the world of tech entrepreneurship and find the programs, find the pathways, find the partners, and ultimately then find the.
It’s something I’m really excited about. And like Sean mentioned, there’s so many acronyms, as we all know in the world of government there’s res and then there’s most recently announced the USDA rise, the rise opportunity, rural innovation, stronger economy grant which is really exciting again, to support new industries, new businesses popping up and also the actual infrastructure.
So funding to build an incubator space in your rural community funding to provide the digital skilling and the worker training for the folks to then take the new jobs that are created by the startups. So training people up, creating the spaces, I think. A lot of what we heard about COVID and recovery was this, great reset or building back better.
So it’s exciting to see how we can interpret that in lots of different ways. And what that means really depends on your local community, your context, your vision, but rooted in this idea that we can help folks, step into the future and the new economy with new skills and new places and programs that help them adjust and adapt.
So I’m excited. I think it’s a, it’s finally a moment of optimism after a very dark, pretty pessimistic year and a half the time.
Yeah it is very exciting. It’s one of the reasons we’re really fired up and Sophia had a few technical difficulties a moment ago, but we’re going to, we’ll bring you back up and see if we can hear you this time.
I was just going to say that it’s a great opportunity to right now, also for cities to have a better ways and to be more engaged with our existing and local businesses.
During the pandemic, obviously the businesses, we’re all looking for cities to support, and we’ve also seen a lot of really amazing shop local campaigns from our local citizen counties that we work with. So I think it’s even, as we come out of the pandemic I think it’s also a great opportunity for the local cities and counties to stay engaged with their local businesses, really listen to their needs find out how they can best support them and just continue continuing these kinds of activities and support.
Awesome. Yeah, a hundred percent agree. And just for everyone on the listening in feel free to drop questions in chat, we’re going to have a Q and a period after we worked through a, an initial discussion here.
If you do have questions, feel free to note those in chat or just reserve them toward, towards the tail end of this discussion. But yeah, like everyone said we’re fired up. We’re excited. We’re seeing the light at the end of the tunnel at the very least in a lot of places.
I do obviously want to be cognizant that there, there are other areas that are still, very much struggling with the pandemic, but, as we focus here on, on our discussion around economic development here in the United States and think about how excited everyone is, we’re like, all right, ready to go?
What do we do next? I think that’s a question that’s been a lot of people’s minds. Like what happens like, all right, we’re good. We got all this money that might be around. Doing different things, all these programs, we’re excited about building back better. And what steps do we take next? So I’d love to hear your thoughts on just, what are the, maybe top three recommendations you have for folks who are, in the trenches, in their communities at the state level, at the local government level, at the federal level, even what are you, what are your top three recommendations where like, how would you love to see things proceed and feel free to take it in your own lens or be really be really broad, but we’d love to hear your thoughts on that.
Sedale I’ll jump in first. So I think that the thing that I’d want folks left with is the Is the importance of these new elements for project evaluation and funding evaluation and the importance of being prepared for those. This is a sort of a dynamic conversation that’s going on at a national level.
There are new tools being developed that can support that are supporting both the evaluators at the federal agencies in evaluating proposals that are being submitted. And and I think that a lot of project developers in NGOs, in companies in local economic development agencies need to be aware of those and need to be prepared for them.
Because as we all know, when a solicitation is released, you have somewhere between four and eight or 12 weeks to complete a solicitation. And historically we’ve focused on things like. Project ideation, who are the collaborators? What are the data? What types of data are we measuring for in a project, whether it’s a construction project or a human resources, investment initiative, or something like that.
And those criteria are changing and they’re changing fairly quickly. I’ll mention a couple firstly. If folks are not already aware of and socialized to executive order 1, 3, 9, 8, 5, which was one of the first executive orders under the Biden administration. This is the executive order that mandates that federal investment include new criteria for equity and the distribution of federal resources into communities that have historically been underrepresented in these types of projects.
You need to be familiar with EO 1, 3, 9, 8, 5, and what the criteria and objectives are because you’re going to start to see through that lens, a lot of new requirements and a lot of new expectations in many of these solicitations. One of them that I’ve noticed has been embedded in several major federal substations that have come out just in the last 60 days is the racial equity impact of.
And I’ll be really honest with you. This is as much a diversity work and disadvantaged community work that we’ve done. It was the first time that we had heard of it. And it was initially in that Ray’s application. This is a tool that has been developed over the last eight or 10 years that is becoming commonplace in federal solicitations.
And it’s a systematic examination of how different racial and ethic groups are going to be effected by a public event. We’re being asked. Yes or no. We’re being asked to attach the racial equity impact assessment to proposals. It is being implied at least sometimes insisted upon that will be a new part of the scoring criteria.
And so this is, again, this is one of those new tools that if you’ve been working in the field of economic development infrastructure development over the last 10 years, you may or may not have seen this tool. You are now going to begin to see this tool in many federal applications, and it’s highly likely that part of the score.
Of your proposal is going to include whether or not you a have one and B how robust it is. And there are other tools like that that we’re seeing as well, tools that evaluate the percentage of labor labor union participation in a contract the payment of prevailing wages whether or not there’s a workforce development element of a project, even if it’s an infrastructure project, how are you going to ensure if we’re building out, let’s say electric vehicle infrastructure, or new transportation corridors that there’s training associated with the jobs that are going to be necessary for the workforce of tomorrow.
And we’ve got a much more proactive administration in place, and we’re seeing that in all of the solicitations and we. Project managers, fund development, people people doing economic development and workforce development. We need to be able to see into that future and begin to prepare now rather than, wait until the solicitations are released.
Awesome. Yeah. Thank you, Sean. That’s very insightful. And I think, right on point Molly, do you want to, you don’t want to offer, your thoughts on recommendations that you have as you’ve been doing your work?
Yeah, I am was excited to read as I was looking over all of the different ways and creative, I think strategies communities may apply to use this funds.
And one of the things I noticed is it provides resources to not only respond to the immediate harms of a pandemic, but also mitigate its longer term impact in compounding the system that public health and economic trends. And the economic challenges of course, is the piece that we focus on. And so the longer term economic challenges, I think you can interpret that in lots of different ways, right?
And there is room for that interpretation within the ways that you can spend some of this funding. So as someone has actually written in the chat to broadband development, I’m going to talk about broadband. That’s one of the big things that Southern rural innovation does as well. So thinking about broadband infrastructure, access to the internet, being this basic utility that was really proven and laid bare by the pandemic, just how important it is for communities to have access to broadband.
Especially as you look at folks, transition to remote work and remote learning, just for an example of that, tens of millions of Americans live in areas. So many of which are world, where there is no broadband infrastructure or the infrastructure provides download speeds no greater than maybe 25. Maybe that’s or upload speeds of three.
So compare this to the fact that the FCC states that a household with two telecommuters and two to three remote learners is estimated to need a hundred megabits to download and to work successfully. So we’re looking at places that have at most 25 and needed a hundred in the pandemic and throughout the pandemic.
So just that alone, I think really speaks to the need and why it was glad to see broadband being prioritized here. And thinking about the ways that your community can use this to build better broadband infrastructure, to reach those places in your community, the pockets that maybe hadn’t had it before.
So making that access more ubiquitous, huge and fantastic. And I hope that more funding and more initiatives even come out around broadband because that cannot be understated and Israeli. At the core of everything else that we can make possible. If there’s no broadband reaching the populations in the community, there’s no possibility for tech startups or remote work to happen.
So broadband first and foremost, and then I would say focusing on the educational disparities. So there is some funding available. It looks like for under-resourced school districts, K through 12 stem programs, or I’m leaning into the stem and the coding. If you’re thinking about doing afterschool programs or boot camps for youth, thinking about how, if you get started with the K through 12 and coding and entrepreneurship, Content in that early youth stage, that’s the pipeline that you’re building, especially in rural and micropolitan areas for the future tech entrepreneurs, the future remote workers, the future digital skilled employees who can go work, the tech jobs at the local hospital or the bank or anywhere else in the community.
So planting the seed early, leveraging the funding, that’s there for education to start to really infuse that tech and new economy skilling into the education and the programs your community can have that I would say is number two. And then three, my focus obviously being on entrepreneurship and small business support, are there ways you can think about supporting particularly those disproportionately impacted by the pandemic?
So people of color, frontline workers and helping folks think about what is that long-term opportunity for them to maybe transition into, like we were saying more resilient careers or workforces that seem to be. Non disruptable during pandemic. So a lot of digital jobs, remote work, and obviously being your own boss, being the founder of something.
So helping start those programs, funding in any way possible, the spark of innovation and entrepreneurship, whether that’s, again with an after-school program, or if you can get creative and flexible and make it work to fund, an ideation bootcamp, or an early stage incubator, things like that, I think would be really helpful when they talk about the long-term impact.
It’s going to take a while to build back and create more, I think, infrastructure for folks to launch their own businesses and have the safety map. That’s, not available to so many folks and why they can’t do that, but how your programs, how your communities can optimize for that. I hope that this funding can really be a launch pad for some of those programs.
Yeah. And, when you see headlines like droves of people quitting the retail jobs, or just, not going back to work there’s a huge opportunity with a untapped economic potential and human capital that is really just waiting for that, those kinds of programs Sophia we’d love to hear your thoughts on just, recommendations as people wrangle these pretty heavy topics.
Yeah, for sure. Yeah. The proper topic really resonated with me because in, in the rural communities that we spoken with, especially through the pandemic, being able to receive information to communicate digitally over the internet is, was so critical. Our entire platform will not function if there is no internet.
Being able to disseminate the information and receive the health waters and things that through emails, as something as basic as that maybe not. Something that we probably take for granted, but may not be the case for a lot of rural communities. So really resonated with that. The only other few things that I want I do want to add is, the first is invest in very good data.
A lot of the communities that we work with. This may not even have a comprehensive list of all the businesses in their community, right? So without that, how can they reach out to all of the restaurants? How can they reach out to the businesses that have less than 25 employees that may qualify for the grant or some of the communities that we work with and may want to reach out to the businesses where the owners might want to be thinking of retiring and help them with succession planning or reach out to businesses that may have trouble firing for finding employees at the moment.
So just having this kind of data handy there’s something that we’re really focusing on and it’s something that is really going to be helpful in the long run for the communities to have these kinds of strategies in place and being more proactive instead of just being reactive. Speaking of data, and I think, for example, And that, that also leads into the kind of the equity discussion that we really focused on today here.
The, for example, having access to the data also means that if your city does want to launch an initiative, let’s say an emergency grant program, having data allows you to see, or the businesses that you are picking in your rewards in your, grant support, are they equitable? Do they represent a fair share of all of the businesses in the community?
Do they represent founders of different, backgrounds or is it just concentrated in, in the businesses that make the most noise at the city or are they, it needs to be in is to be a fair representation for the business owners, regardless of their. Age, their experience or their new entrepreneur or their legacy business owner.
So it needs having the, having access to that kind of data enables the kind of strategy analysis and be more mindful towards those kinds of initiatives. The second thing I want to highlight is having the channel to actually reach the local business owners. Historically without the other channel, you may only hear with businesses from businesses that are of particular, demographic style, maybe the businesses that are more comfortable reaching out through, through the, through some of the more public means, but being able to having the channel, not just a form, the city’s perspective to reach out to local business owners, but give the local business owners a channel where they feel safe and comfortable to reach.
To reach back to the city and the county, if they need any support, if they need any help to feel like they can have a channel that is equitable, that is safe, that is comfortable where they can, where they feel like they have a concierge desk in the city that they can go to and get those counselors answered is super critical, is something that we really want to encourage all of the cities and counties to think about in terms of investing in the tools and systems in place going for.
A hundred percent yes. Thank you so much for bringing that up. It’s we’ve been working on a project with a group locally and they’ve been creating these sort of like listening circles and listening sessions and it’s been an incredibly effective th those are great points, Sophia.
And I’ll just we’re going to go, we’re going to reverse the order here. So we go Sophia tamales, Sean, this time and Sophia, I’d love to hear your thoughts, just, as we think about any of these priorities we’d love to hear your thoughts just around your predictions, where, where you think, where you’re starting to see maybe some of this money go, or what sort of trends you’re you’re thinking of.
As we look at like relief packages over not just 20, 21, but 20, 22 and into the future what are your thoughts around maybe what the administration might be doing and where some of this capital might be headed?
Yeah, I think the one time that I’m really feeling excited about is, The other panels I mentioned before the direct funding going straight to the local economic development level.
That is something that is truly amazing. And I can already see a lot of the local cities and counties putting some really amazing and good use for those money. The other thing I want to say is that the language seems to be geared towards more broader usage for those money rather than restrictive.
So I think that gives our local cities and counties a lot of leeway and a lot of control over how they want to spend that money and be an extremely strategic on, on tailoring that to the specific needs of their city and their community. So I would say that my predictions, I think I would say the local cities and counties are going to put some really good use for those funding and to really stimulate local economies.
So I think the local cities are going to spend a lot of effort in. In efforts and systems and investments that will stimulate the local economy, grow the local businesses, business retention, and expansion supporting the local community incentivize consumer spending. So I think that’s some of the trends that we’re definitely seeing from some of the projects that we’re working.
Yeah. I love that. All of that, I would be thrilled to see as well as no surprise here. We we would like, and we are optimistic that there will be even more funding for the critical broadband infrastructure, because even though that is included in this act, there is more work to be done to get our country on the whole, at the level where it needs to be in terms of broadband accessibility.
I also think there will be more skilling for new economy jobs. So as we are, once again, embracing this transition, seeing the efficacy of remote work and distributed teams, helping folks skill up and find the programs and the tools and the resources and the education that they need to actually do that in a way, again, that is accessible and equitable.
I’m hopeful that is something that we’ll be seeing as well. And that big focus on, broadband and equity and also entrepreneurship. So the diversity that we’ve been talking about, the inclusion, the equity in these programs, it would be fantastic to see even more of that more startup activity and more support and funding.
And these historically underserved communities, more availability and use of direct community investment like Sophia saying to help local residents buy back the block as they’re calling this initiative and seeing that more local community and economic development, helping small businesses and startup entrepreneurial.
And also something around I would just like to see, because it’s an issue I hear in rural and I know it’s obviously something that’s a huge challenge in urban areas is affordable housing. So getting people, houses, internet, and jobs, and we’re good. But ultimately finding the creative and strategic programs and plans and funding sources that can tie all that together and make it a reality.
That’s what I would really like to see.
I think that What we’re going to see over the next year or two is an increase in attention paid to the unintended consequences of state and federal policy. I think that we have a very in, in many cases there’s a fairly sophisticated and somewhat visionary approach that the federal government in particular, although many of the states have been doing this for a while now, California and New York in particular that there are unintended consequences to major state and federal aspirations and regulations.
We’re seeing that across the board and it’s been exacerbated by COVID over the last 16 months, we were going to see major transformations in the relationship to work and commuting and transportation with the work from home the trend in work from home, that’s going to have significant.
Economic benefits and costs. There are going to be communities that pay the price for that transformation. It’s not all great. There are people who lose by this change. Similarly, we’re seeing major disruptions in our grid and our capability of our grid infrastructure to handle the emerging economy.
We’re seeing major disruptions in the supply chain, whether it’s building and construction materials, whether it’s just basic consumer products. We’re seeing things like Biden the Biden administration has an aspirational goal of essentially phasing out petroleum by 2045. They’re going to eliminate all petroleum-based vehicles by 2035.
This is a major transformation and a lot of us get excited by that. This is zero-emission technology, it’s clean tech it’s innovation, but what we sometimes forget is that there are large swaths of the. In which oil production oil extraction is a significant and most of those places are rural by the way.
But in which significant economic disruption can be anticipated similar to the move away from coal and its impact on coal regions in the central Midwest and Pennsylvania in West Virginia, we have an opportunity with issues like that to get in front of the issue. So for instance, we have it here in California.
Kern county is the number one oil producer in the state of California. If the state and federal government are successful in the phase out of of petroleum which they have objectives on 2035 in California, 2045 nationally. What does current county do? What is current county? We’re one fourth of its workforce is dependent on petroleum ex.
Does it transition immediately to clean technology? Are there other economic drivers in the community that can be built upon? How do we do this in a manner that’s respectful of that? And I think we’re going to see, I hope we see there an increasing trend to addressing those unintended consequences of things that oftentimes us, most of the people on this call probably consider themselves innovators and evangelists, and you are of new approaches, innovation and technology in systems.
But I think that we also need to be aware that those innovations have a cost there’s a community on the other end, that is probably paying the price for the innovation and to the degree that we can be thoughtful about that. And those communities that are going to be impacted by that are able to band together, work together and collaborate to direct.
Resources into workforce development and economic development, infrastructure development.
I really appreciate your bringing up that point. I know that you and I and others have talked about this as we build new economies and transition to new modes of thinking and doing there are, there’s huge groups of folks who, unfortunately, don’t always aren’t and haven’t been historically.
In that transition. And I think, to, to Molly and Sophia’s points as well, ideally we start seeing more upskilling and other, other funding addressing these addressing these issues. And there’s certainly a discussion to be had there. But we could probably talk about for a long time, but, as we consider at large kind of the comments that have been made so far there’s two things that I, the I love is one is the sort of like cautious optimism of Hey, we’re like getting towards the other side of this.
There’s some really cool things happening. There’s some really cool opportunities. And I think that underlying that we certainly need to have in mind this oh, as we decide to build back better, how do we ensure that what we build back is equitable across the board for, for everyone, from people working in these really traditional industries that may suddenly become disrupted or cease to exist as well as, folks who, maybe haven’t had a crack.
The economic opportunities at all along the way. So I think that’s huge. And to that point, I’d love to hear, and I will start with Sophia again, I’d love to hear your thoughts on just, a few resources you might recommend to some of the folks on the call who are trying to wrestle with this stuff, because it’s very complex.
There’s a lot to unpack a lot to think through. And I’d love to hear your thoughts on just some good resources, whether it be, books or people, or, other things what are some good resources as economic development folks is local government state government, as they wrestle with this really unprecedented.
Yeah, I would say in terms of economic development, there is, for example, the, the AEDC, which is the international one, and there is many of those kinds of organizations, the league of cities as well, for example.
But then I will say there is also the state and regional ones that each community is probably bright tapped into, and very familiar with those state and local regional organizations might have more relevant and more on the ground information and resources that are particularly applicable to that region.
So I would say those are probably some of the. We’re based in California and we know the east bay, you, the east bay DN, and also the Keller organizations really well. They have really Reverend resources for the east bay, as well as the California region. And then there’s, the Virginia ones as well as every region, every state has their own.
So I would say those organizations, they probably compile lots of really great resources. That’s the tap into those for sure. The other thing that I would recommend is. Which city property is already doing this to see what others are doing in your region. Our city is routinely asked me, oh, what are other communities doing with this tool?
Or what are other communities doing and how are they launching this? So I re I really love this kind of community sharing aspect where cities and counties can share insights and learn from each other. And together come mothers come out of this stronger. And especially from the local economic development perspective, it’s, I’ve seen firsthand how collaborative it is, which is really cool.
Our communities really love to share insights and help each other.
Awesome. Thank you so much. And just as a quick time check, we do it. We will be opening it up for some Q and a here shortly. And so yeah, if you just want to keep that in mind Molly and Sean, and then we’ll get you a really quick like a lightning question and then we’ll open it up for comments here.
Cool. Yeah, very quickly wanting to address. Basically the last point Sean made is a perfect stub speech for why this phenomenal innovation exists. So ultimately our work is around these communities that have been left behind and rural America. Point blank has never recovered even from the great recession 2008.
So COVID doubled down on all Edie, this inequitable recovery. And part of that is because of the rise of automation of jobs that are mostly based in rural globalization and this 30 year decline, we’ve been seeing an entrepreneurship. So very excited and optimistic about both the federal and local programs and things that can be happening and resources to take advantage of, to try to build back and make more resilient communities.
And just one quick thing I would say to check out because it’s a community that we work with and we’re very proud of. And because we were talking about Kentucky, I think right before we all joined the public webinar is that the company is called bit source. And what they did is ultimately helped to revitalize the local economy in Pikeville, Kentucky, which was a deeply impacted through the sort of transition.
Cole and they, you may have seen the stories of turning coal miners into coders. So they start a bit sourced as an organization to help train and up-skill coal miners to become remote tech workers and teach them how to code. So these are the types of things at the local level. You would maybe not think that’s available and that’s a resource in Pikeville, Kentucky, but there are people like that who see that vision and who have found the ways, found the partners, found the funding to create those kinds of programs.
And that’s the kind of thing I would love to see more communities, more macro level organizations and stakeholders tapping into what already exists in the community who are not talking to each other, who should be, how can we start to connect those dots better and build a truly, accessible and connected ecosystem.
I also just as resources I think the content coming out of open grants is fantastic. I’m biased, but Cory posts a lot and shares a lot of resources about this as well. And I also frequently just check in on what the Kauffman foundation is doing because they particularly related to entrepreneurship do a lot of interesting research and thought leadership on rural economic development.
That’s driven through entrepreneurship. So those are some things I would say, just keep your ear to the ground, but ultimately let the local communities and the folks who’ve been moving and shaking and maybe feeling like a lone voice in a sea of naysayers uplift them and see what they have to say and use them as resources and provide what resources you have to them as well.
I think really quickly obviously being prepared for anticipated funding. I think that we can assume with the infrastructure program that will in all likelihood get through and some of the other programs, as well as the redirection of already existing federal resources to more innovative approaches, to making grants to local and state agencies and local state entities being prepared.
And that means assessing what types of new approaches that we should expect from the federal agencies. Like we talked about before equity, innovation and resiliency. These are the three concepts that are late emerging for a lot of different types of projects and infrastructure projects and being prepared, having the documents in place, having already done the thinking about how a project is going to interrelate or address equity issues or innovation issues or resiliency issues, so that you’re not put in the position of taking.
A project that has perhaps been on the burner for a long time for two or three years seeking funding and within four or five weeks, trying to create all of those supporting materials and think pieces and plans that are necessary in order to compete well, secondly, be aware through your government and trade agencies and trade associations of the funding opportunities that are being developed.
Open grants is a great way. That’s how we track. What’s coming up. It’s been one of the better ways that we’ve seen that we can identify. Programs that are anticipated, not just re not just already released most of the other services that we’ve used in the past. It’s essentially a look back what was released yesterday.
Open grants does a really good job. The only job that I’ve seen scaled at this, in this way of actually looking forward at anticipated funding opportunities. Appreciate that. So Dell, thank you for doing that. And then finally getting in front of funding opportunities. What we’re seeing is there, frankly, we’re seeing a lot of state agencies with funds that have been made available through direct grants to states.
For instance, here at Cal Tran, it’s here in California. There’s a major. Inflow of federal monies directly to Caltrans, which is now seeking out opportunity projects to invest in. So these are projects that they become aware of that meet certain criteria like innovation, like the installation of electric vehicle infrastructure, et cetera that that perhaps don’t have the same requirements as an openly competitive solicited RFP, one of the primary ways of doing that.
Socializing your project or set of projects to elected officials and key agencies getting in front of the funding opportunities so that you’re meeting with the key agencies that you expect funds to come out of and pre socialized into them, to the opportunities, what they’re, because there is such a fairly significant inflow of new resources from the federal government.
A lot of the state regranting agencies are in real time trying to react to the new money while also adopting and incorporating some of these new objectives. So being in front of them, informing them, you have programs, you have projects, you’re setting up a workforce development project for zero mission equipment or clean technology in Bakersfield or in Reno and talking to your local legislators and your state funding agencies that, that those programs are out there beforehand, not waiting for the RFP to be released on their own.
Awesome. Yeah. Great advice. Thank you so much. And thanks for the shout outs, both Molly and Sean. So we’re going to open it up for some questions here. Feel free to drop them in chat. The first one that I see here is do you have some tips if you’re working with limited team sizes or bandwidth on funding proposals?
Maybe some tips on just maximizing the ability to take advantage of all these opportunities.
I think what Sean just mentioned about getting prepared, getting out in front of it, getting your ducks in a row in terms of the programs and projects and partners, even having those early conversations with people who you think could be great.
Additions is super smart and never fails. At least just from the preparation side of the house for folks. I know that this is a resource challenge it’s for some, so it’s not a one size fits all solution, but I will say that the transformative impact that a professional grant writer can have cannot be understated.
So if it’s between that and other things, and you can make some budget decisions, prioritizing hiring a professional grant writer or something. I strongly recommend, especially if you’re not very experienced in applying for federal grants or it’s particularly complex, like many of them are. So I would say finding that support, whether it’s internally or going out, open grants as a solution or working Cory, we do some consulting.
We won’t write grants, but we’ll help folks, think through particular build to scale opportunities. But I think to the extent that’s available an option to you, that is really helpful. And then also just thinking about, the long-term, how does this funding make sense as a piece of a larger quilt, right?
It’s just one patchwork, but what else could it be leaving to in the future so that you’re not stuck in that. Non-profits starvation cycle of getting one, thinking that maybe you’ll live for two years more, but you need to think more sustainably and strategically about the future and where your organization is going.
What strategically makes sense for you rather than just trying to adapt and mold to whatever grant opportunity is out there right now.
Awesome. Thank you, Sean. Sophia, you have other thoughts on that?
I just want to add that some of the some of the communities, for example, one community in Massachusetts, they were working with, they recently got a grant to stimulate the local economy and it’s amazing how much great work they can do when they get that.
But I also want to send the capacity constraints, right? Going back to my previous comment of the economic development team of 1.3 full-time people having to support all of the local businesses do all of the day-to-day job. Having a grant writer can be literally the life-changing life-changing resource to help them get that resources that they could really put to really great use without having to stay up until three in the morning, which I did myself when I was applying for grants.
I would say I highly encouraged all of our existing current cities, as well as new ones and future ones to check out open grants, the resource, as well as, not just what, check out what opportunities are out there, but also get that help in terms of capacity. They barely have enough capacity to do what they need to do.
Zs applying for grants is whole task on its own and get some help wherever they can.
Awesome. It, go ahead, Sean. If you’d like to.
I don’t want to repeat any of the brilliant comments that came before about this. Certainly building out the capability of responding and reacting in real time to grants in a serious way.
It’s oftentimes, a fund development of this sort has oftentimes been like a odd stepchild in many organizations, actually, that’s not the right word. There’s a different word. That would be more politically correct. I’m going to exercise that one out of my lexicon, but it’s been this like odd little position.
Oftentimes that agencies go, yeah, we need a grant team and they make some budget available to it. And what happens oftentimes in these agencies is that is that the focus is on grant writing. There’s a success. And then the great writer becomes a grant administered.
Which gets rid of their ability to continue to great, right? And so the ability to build organization and build capacity and leverage capacity really gets diminished by taking that approach. Folks should begin to assess that grant writing and grant administration are two different talents. They’re two different capabilities.
They require different types of skillsets, a great writer. You want to be somebody who can develop content very quickly, who can I, who can score optimize proposals in real time, who can be very strategic thinking to apply then that resource, that internal resource to long-term administration of a program or a project is a misallocation of the resource.
Because when you identify somebody who can write grants and react and respond to grants in a serious strategic way, You do not then want to redeploy them to a long-term administration or services project. So I’d like for folks to get, to begin to see this in a more sophisticated way that great writing is a very valuable skillset that is very hard to recreate easily.
And you want to protect that asset and resource in your agency or organization so that those folks are fresh. They’re strategic, they’re embedded in your strategic thinking their way. They’re very aware of the direction you want to bring the organization, what the organization’s capabilities and constraints are.
And you want to reserve that capability and not redeploy it to other more administrative tasks that are associated with project admin.
Thank you. Yeah, I think that’s massively important. It’s a great point. And I will just note that, one of the ways we’ve organized some of the talent pool and open grants in terms of our marketplace of resources, where you can find these folks is around those different kinds of roles.
I’m going to say, we’re coming up on the hour here and I want to be cognizant of everyone’s time. So this last question if you can, maybe 30 seconds, like rapid fire what are your thoughts on how, as cities and groups are looking to engage other partnerships any thoughts on like best practices to source the right private partnerships as you go after funding bringing, businesses and other groups to the table, in addition to as you engage this better.
And we’ll start with Sophia and just run, go Sophia, Molly, Shaun.
Very quickly. I will say, just to find the private partnerships that. That really is going to make a difference and move the
needle for the local community. So for example, we partnered with the community in Massachusetts several months ago when they were applying for the grant.
So as they were applying for the grant, they were already included these kinds of, they want to do more for the local businesses. They want to better support and engage with local businesses. So we work together to make sure that’s part of the grant that they, the throwaway didn’t want to tell for that funding.
So I just want to say other communities might have other needs, right? Broadband might be more relevant for some than others. So I would just say source the right private partnerships that really would move the needle for the most important priorities in your community. And start early in the grant writing process to have that partnership be part of the application you’re writing.
Huge plus one to all of that. And I think that’s really well said, Sophia. I think it’s just about understanding the mutual value in the relationship or partnership as well. What are you bringing to the table? What are they bringing to the table? How does it benefit everybody and making that really clear?
So just like working with entrepreneurs, you have maybe different pitches depending on your audience. I think the same goes for trying to set up partnerships, understanding your audience and what matters to them and how the partnership could be really beneficial and valuable. Getting that super clear upfront, and then making sure that you have plans for how it’s going to look in the longer term as well, hoping that this is a partner that could be there for the long haul, not just for the flash in the pan of however long, the grant period may be as well.
So what makes sense and what actually fortifies a relationship for all involved, that’s going to be.
I love all of that. I’m learning from Molly and Sophia. Thank you both. Yeah, I think that the one thing that I could add would add is to be aware of over committing resources when you’re seeking out private partnerships. One of the biggest errors that we see is in the enthusiasm to build a program is the engagement of a whole ecosystem of partners.
And when implementation time comes around the thing falls, like it collapses like a souffle. There’s too many partners. There’s not enough funding for a single partner to actually lead that, to be empowered, to lead and have the financial resources to lead. So my, my one caveat to private partnerships is making sure that you’re identifying the right ones and you’re not diluting.
The ability to actually accomplish something in favor of having every possible partner.
Awesome. Thank you so much. I really appreciate all your comments. I learned a ton. I hope those on the line also learned a lot. If you want to get in touch, you can feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and this will certainly be available via a variety of social channels.
And we’ll send this out to everyone who attended. So thank you all for being here a big thank you to our panelists. Thank you all for joining us today and providing us with the benefit of your expertise and experience. And we will hopefully we’ll be doing one of these in another year and the pandemic will be over and we can talk about all the cool things we accomplished in the meantime.
Thank you all. And look forward to look forward to reconnecting in the near future, hopefully in person as well.