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Recent reports highlight new findings on educational attainment

Three recent news items shed important light on educational attainment and economic well-being and one promising approach to increasing educational attainment among lower income people. While the Pew Research Center finds the share of college-educated young adults in the U.S. workforce is higher than ever before, the Economist reports that the “return on investment” in getting a college degree is leveling off.

Tax update: Many economic development grants are now taxable income

The tax law signed at the end of last year introduced a provision that will significantly affect many economic development offices and related nonprofits across the country: “contributions to capital” will now typically be included in a corporate taxpayer’s gross income. Previously, grants, free land and certain types of tax credits from governmental units or civic groups to support capital expenses were tax-free awards for the beneficiary. Since the signing of the bill, many of these awards are now taxable.

Policymakers leverage public libraries to promote innovation

For hundreds of years, libraries have helped drive American innovation by serving as a trusted resource and providing information to a wide range of individuals. As libraries continue to implement their own initiatives in this space, policymakers across the country have recently turned to them as a way to level the playing field around workforce development and entrepreneurial support.

Growing strain on global systems heightens risks

The World Economic Forum’s (WEF) latest survey of more than 1,000 experts and decision makers on the likelihood and impact of 30 global risks over a 10-year period found four areas of concern: environmental degradation; cybersecurity breaches; economic strains; and geopolitical tensions. Despite experiencing a year-long global economic recovery, the survey revealed that respondents are pessimistic about the year ahead (59 percent say they expect an increase in risk for the year, compared to 7 percent who expect declining risks).

SBIR hits the road with funding opportunities for entrepreneurs

The U.S. Small Business Administration has announced its 2018 road tour connecting entrepreneurs with next generation R&D ideas to early stage funding led by the SBA’s Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer programs. Each stop in the 18-state road tour will be hosted by a local organization, and program managers from the 11 participating federal agencies will conduct one-on-one meetings with attendees, take part in targeted panels, and share insights into how their agencies make funding decisions.

Five takeaways from the administration’s FY 2019 budget

The White House released a budget this week that would substantially reduce federal spending for innovation and entrepreneurship. Regional Innovation Strategies and the entire Economic Development Administration, Manufacturing Extension Partnership, Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy, Innovative Technology and Advanced Vehicles loan programs, Growth Accelerator Program and Regional Innovation Clusters would all be eliminated. Only in an addendum related to last week’s budget deal does the administration suggest funding workforce and several agencies’ R&D at or near FY 2017 levels. Still, whereas the previous two budgets featured nearly-universal cuts to non-defense initiatives, the FY 2019 budget provides better insights into the administration’s priorities.

Keeping pace with the needs of a skilled workforce

If the U.S. is going to continue to compete globally and win on innovation, more workers will have to attain credentials allowing them to keep pace with the demands of the shifting workforce, say several recent reports. However, only a quarter of the states have more than 50 percent of their prime working age population attaining some kind of credential beyond high school according to a new study from the Lumina Foundation. A new Brookings analysis finds that 15 percent of young people are “disconnected,” meaning they do not have a job and are not in school. To meet the demands that the work of the future will entail, Lumina advocates that 60 percent of those aged 25 to 64 have some credential beyond high school by 2025 (the current national average is 46.9 percent).

Treasury releases Opportunity Zone Guidance, states begin releasing RFIs

The IRS and CDFI Fund released their first guidance for the federal Opportunity Zones incentive. This wave of guidance addresses zone selection issues only — the most important clarification is that the certification window will expire on March 21, with the option to request one 30-day extension. The guidance includes a list of all eligible census tracts, which were covered by SSTI last week, as well as a list of tracts that are not low-to-moderate income but may be included in contiguous Qualified Opportunity Zones.

Tech Talkin’ Govs 2018, part 6: AR, CT, ME, WY look to boost economies

SSTI’s Tech Talkin’ Govs feature continues as governors across the country are wrapping up their state of the state addresses. We review each speech for comments relevant to the innovation economy, and bring you their words directly from their addresses.

In this latest installment of Tech Talkin’ Govs, Arkansas is celebrating its low unemployment while Maine says it will focus on a commercialization bond and grow the workforce in part through a student debt relief program. Connecticut wants new goals for clean energy and Wyoming’s focus on economic diversification continues with the governor there calling for full funding for the ENDOW initiative.

Canadian government announces winners of C$950 supercluster initiative

While the United States grapples with yet another proposed budget that drastically reduces investments in innovation, Canada’s federal government has announced that five industry-led organizations will share up to C$950 million as part of the country’s supercluster initiative. The superclusters program, a part of the Trudeau government’s innovation and skills agenda announced last year, seeks to encourage leaders from business, research institutions, and the public sector to support the growth of targeted industry sectors. Other elements of the strategy include investments in venture capital, entrepreneurship, and collaborative R&D projects. Although there were originally nine semi-finalists for the superclusters awards, many of the losing bids ended up joining forces with the five winning initiatives: 

ARC commits $20M for new round of POWER grants

The Appalachian Regional Commission has released a request for proposals for the 2018 POWER (Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization) Program. In this round of funding, ARC will commit up to $20 million to support efforts that create a more vibrant economic future for coal-impacted communities in the ARC region by cultivating economic diversity, enhancing job training and re-employment opportunities, creating jobs in existing or new industries, and attracting new sources of investment.

Input sought on plan for advanced manufacturing

The Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) is seeking input from all interested parties on the development of a national strategic plan for advanced manufacturing. OSTP wants to hear ideas on ways to improve government coordination and on long-term guidance for federal programs and activities in support of U.S. manufacturing competitiveness, including advanced manufacturing research and development that will create jobs, grow the economy across multiple industrial sectors, strengthen national security, and improve healthcare.

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