Stories of Technology, Innovation, & Entrepreneurship in the Southeast

February 10, 2013 | Tom Ballard

Boyette talks about IVI peer/aspirational regions

(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second in a multi-part series about Innovation Valley 2.0, the next five-year plan for the region’s economic development.)

Del Boyette is no stranger to the world of economic development strategy. He worked at the state level in both Arkansas and Georgia and with two of the big consulting firms – KPMG and Deloitte – before founding Boyette Strategic Advisors in 2005.

Boyette is also no stranger to the Knoxville-Oak Ridge region. As Jobs Now! was winding down in late 2007 and early 2008, his firm developed the initial “Innovation Valley Economic Development Blueprint” that guided regional collaboration over the last five years. The Boyette team completed “Innovation Valley Blueprint 2.0” that was unveiled on February 6.

We talked recently with the firm’s President and Chief Executive Officer and Tracy King Sharp, the firm’s Chief Operating Officer. Our primary focus was the five cities or regions that Boyette benchmarked for Innovation Valley (IVI) late last year.

So, how were the five selected? “We sat down with the Executive Committee of the Board of IVI and got their input,” Boyette said, explaining that the selections were both peer and aspirational.

“We also wanted communities that had a successful regional organization that has been established for a period of time,” Sharp added.

The five are Austin, TX; Charlotte, NC; Columbus, OH; Oklahoma City, OK; and Research Triangle Park, NC. Blueprint 2.0 notes the top five have a major college or university, and several also have been successful in technology and innovation, an area of emphasis for IVI.

The Boyette team also reviewed three other regions – Asheville, NC; Greenville, SC; and Nashville. While the primary focus was the initial five, the final Blueprint 2.0 drew from lessons learned and successes realized in all eight communities.

“Every metro area wants to be like Austin, or they think they do,” Boyette said, citing as significant assets the University of Texas, Michael Dell and the computer company that bears his name, and the semiconductor industry.

North Carolina’s Research Triangle Park (RTP) falls into the same aspirational category as Austin. RTP is blessed with major universities – Duke, North Carolina State, and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill – and many technology companies.

As far as Columbus, Boyette mentioned the natural interest in the community where Battelle Memorial Institute, one-half of the partnership that manages Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), is based. Columbus is also home to The Ohio State University, ranked in U.S. News & World Report’s Top 20 public universities.

“The regional partnership is working very effectively and has a great fundraising mechanism,” Boyette explained. Alex Fischer, former Knoxville resident and ORNL Director of Technology Transfer and Economic Development, is President and CEO of the Columbus Partnership.

Boyette said that Oklahoma City was “viewed as a cow town 10 years ago,” but is now on the Top 10 list of successful cities. “The impact of oil and gas, as well as wind, has caused the area to grow when others have not,” he explained.

Oklahoma City voters also approved two significant initiatives over the past two decades that have contributed to its success. One was Metropolitan Area Projects (MAPS), a roughly $360 million capital improvement program for new and upgraded sports, recreation, entertainment, cultural and convention facilities. Before it was completed, the city launched a $700 million “MAPS for Schools” improvement program that funded hundreds of construction, transportation and technology projects, all for the benefit of Oklahoma City’s public school students.

Boyette said Charlotte has really come far in the last five years, diversifying so that it was not as dependent on financial services. He cited two indicators of Charlotte’s success – the recruitments of the headquarters of Chiquita Brands International over cities with more direct and logical ties to Latin America and the NASCAR Museum.

Boyette and Sharp offered a number of observations about what they learned from their benchmarking activities that helped inform Blueprint 2.0.

  • “When you look at the (industry cluster) targets (for the next five years), some don’t work for everyone, but there is something for everyone so that they have opportunity for success.”
  • “In each of these regions (that were benchmarked), there are significant contributions from the major cities. Knoxville is the significant contributor to IVI.”
  • “None of the regional partnerships has a model that offers scholarships for trips,” a reference to IVI 1.0 where grants for recruiting trips were made to member economic development organizations.
  • “None of the peer benchmark cities has anything near what we have” in corporate headquarters for creative media services, a reference to Scripps Interactive Networks, Rivr Media, and Jupiter Entertainment. “Austin does have South by Southwest (SXSW).”
  • “IVI needs a megasite, and we’re glad to see it (Jefferson County site) being pursued.”
  • “We’re the energy capital.”
  • “No other region has our strengths in carbon fiber.”

NEXT: Selected comparison of Innovation Valley and the five regions.