SSTI Digest

The latest reporting and analysis on breakthroughs in technology-based economic development research and issues that matter most to you. To receive the SSTI Weekly Digest via email, sign up here.


Geography: Arkansas

Recent announcements reveal “mega” trends in electric vehicle and battery manufacturing expansions

The recently approved Inflation Reduction Act with new incentives for electric vehicle ownership and energy efficiency is likely to continue a trend among states for the location of major economic development projects, a trend toward everything mega—megasites, megadeals, mega factories, and mega projects. These large-scale manufacturing projects typically feature incentives from state and local governments, such as access to shovel-ready megasites or large tax incentive packages. These new "mega" trends have raised the stakes and increased competition between states as they advocate for the bid of electric vehicle and battery companies looking to expand.

Arkansas report offers possible template for public-private capital access analysis

An inaugural report looking at the landscape of capital resources in Arkansas may be useful to others who are interested in examining the capital access in their state or region. The report will serve as a baseline for trends in public, private and philanthropic investments in entrepreneurship across the state and may be a useful resource as the state plans its State Small Business Credit Initiative strategy.

Arkansas’s economic recovery strategy has wider applicability

Whether or not your state embraced strict measures in an attempt to reduce virus spread, the current pandemic has created the need for reflection and revision of how each of us go about our lives. The same opportunity has arisen for the public and private sectors to rethink how they engage in many core functions.  Civic leaders in Arkansas did just that and today released a strategic plan with recommendations to guide economic development in the new era.  Its central themes, including strong focus on innovation, entrepreneurship, and talent, could have broader applicability to other states as we move forward.

Governors lay out plans for recovery, rebuilding in annual State of the State addresses

Across the country, the governors have begun delivering their State of the State addresses, an annual ritual where they have the opportunity to review where the state’s economy stands and preview their plans for the coming year. This year’s remarks reflect the dire conditions most states are experiencing with the pandemic, economic fallout, racial strife and national political upheaval. Despite the heavy focus on states’ efforts to respond to the pandemic, governors have struck a hopeful note and are focusing on recovery. Some governors have noted that the fallout in their state was not as severe as they originally anticipated and there are resources for new initiatives. Some, like Arizona and Virginia are considering gaming revenue to boost their budgets, while legalization of marijuana is being pursued in Connecticut, Kentucky (medical marijuana) and Virginia.

$194.7 million grant boosts U of A research, creates new institute

The Walton Family Charitable Support Foundation is making a $194.7 million grant to advance research and economic development at the University of Arkansas and will allow a new research institute to become reality. The grant is expected to grow the university’s cross-disciplinary research capability, expand the scope of discoveries made by U of A researchers and increase the speed in transferring such discoveries to the marketplace. The new research institute, the Institute for Integrative and Innovative Research (I3R), will receive the bulk of the grant, and will create a flexible, collaborative framework that will facilitate the integration of research across five overlapping clusters of innovation: materials science and engineering; food and technology; bioscience and bioengineering research in metabolism; data science; and, integrative systems neuroscience.

States dealt blow with pandemic

In general, the effect of the pandemic on states’ budgets due to the wave of business, retail, and commerce shutdowns, as well as other reduced economic activity across the nation, is not entirely known, or too early to forecast; however, a number of states are beginning to experience the initial impacts of a substantial downturn. With several states having already enacted their 2020-21 budgets, special sessions are expected later this year to deal with declining revenues. Others ended sessions early without a new fiscal year spending plan in place. Many are also acting quickly to help mitigate the effects of lost revenues and an increased demand for services. Some of the states’ impacts and actions are outlined below.

State actions in 2019: Opportunity Zones

In 2019, the administrations and legislatures in many states grappled with if and how to adjust state economic development initiatives to leverage the federal Opportunity Zone (OZ) program. The actions of 12 states that implemented new activities are described below.

Universities launch incubators, accelerators and funds in 2019

Universities frequently play an integral role in providing activities, research, and products that positively affect or support local, regional, state and national economic development or strategic goals.  In higher-education’s efforts to align its participation in innovation and entrepreneurship systems, universities’ incubators, accelerators and fund programs are essential in assisting their faculty, staff, or students in the services and support needed to create startups, bring products to market, or provide critically needed funding. Following on our recent review of research universities and their partnerships with industry, as well as our ongoing review of state activities in 2019 (see our stories on higher education and commercialization programs, free tuition offerings, climate change, clean energy, and broadband), this week we report on new university incubators, accelerators and funds launched in 2019.

$24M Foundation gift to U. Arkansas transforms commercialization, economic development

Late last year, the Walton Family Charitable Support Foundation announced a $23.7 million investment to strengthen technology-based economic development efforts at the University of Arkansas. Additional details on this investment became clearer this week, as the university announced three subsets of its Chancellor’s Fund, which invests in strategic initiatives under the direction of the vice chancellor for research and innovation.

Tech Talkin’ Govs part 4: Opportunity Zones, workforce development, tech hubs, and more in governors plans to build economies

Governors are reaching into their toolkits to build tech-based economies, utilizing Opportunity Zones, tax credits, broadband infrastructure and workforce development initiatives among other things. This week, as we continue to review their state of the state addresses for TBED news, we see some governors still trying to reshape their states’ struggling economies while others are building on past successes and proposing new initiatives.

States’ fiscal picture improves with growing economy

The ability of states to deliver the services promised to its residents relies on their fiscal soundness. With most states beginning their fiscal year in July, SSTI has reviewed the current fiscal standing for each state and here presents a snapshot of our findings.

Most states ended their fiscal year with a surplus and continue to recover from the Great Recession, with a growing economy and job gains. However, they face continuing demands on their budgets, with expanded Medicaid payments and the growing opioid crisis confronting nearly every state. Such decisions affect the state’s ability to fund innovation efforts, from the amount of support available for higher education and STEM programs, to funding for entrepreneurship, and forging public private partnerships to strengthen innovation programming that the private sector cannot fully support.

Our analysis found that some states that rely on the energy sector to fund their spending priorities continue to struggle, while others are already factoring in anticipated revenues as a result of new Supreme Court rulings involving gaming and online sales tax collections.

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. And as the number of individuals holding a degree and participating in the workforce increases, so has the number of jobs that now require higher credentials even though those requirements may not be necessary.

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