The 2013 C2ER Annual Conference & LMI Training Institute Annual Forum

May 20-24, 2013 - Nashville, TN

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13th Annual Community and Economic Research Awards
and the winners are....

On May 23, 2013 economic development professionals from across the U.S. assembled at C2ER's annual conference in Nashville, TN to recognize excellence in economic development research work done by their peers.

The C2ER awards program recognizes the contribution of research activities to the success of local, regional, or state/provincial economic development initiatives. The purpose of the award is to increase the quality of economic development research by identifying meritorious projects and promoting the diffusion of creative ideas for research activities.

Projects could be submitted for evaluation in the following categories of research activity:

  • Projects that support business development activities
  • Data collection/dissemination efforts, including web-based systems
  • Policy Analysis
  • Project impact/program evaluation or assessment
  • Projects that support collaborative community/regional initiatives

The projects were judged on their contributions to the economic development research field, innovativeness in approach, implementation or collaborative efforts, responsiveness to customer needs, and benefits resulting from project implementation. The three highest scored projects were chosen out of 11 submissions.

Research projects recognized for "Outstanding Achievement" include:

In Recognition of Excellence in Data Collection/Dissemination Efforts:

Charleston Regional Competitiveness Center:
Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce
Berkeley-Charleston-Dorchester Council of Governments
Charleston Regional Development Alliance
Trident Workforce Investment Board

The Charleston region launched a free online data resource this year called the Charleston Regional Competitiveness Center ( The portal is designed to provide up-to-date economic and workforce information on the Charleston region, which consists of Berkeley, Charleston and Dorchester counties in South Carolina.

The Regional Competitiveness Center is a public website that provides rich information on the Charleston metro area, providing users with the significant leading indicators, research, and data trends they need to make both business and policy decisions. This website serves site selectors, businesses, job seekers and other community members that would like to identify opportunities in the local marketplace. For example, students and job seekers can review occupational data to discover what occupations are available and growing in the region. Local businesses and employers can access data about fast-growing industries, local demographics, wage information, and available workforce by occupation. Policy analysts can use demographic and economic data to write more compelling reports. Site Selectors find vast amounts of data that relate to their site selection research.

Users can compile data within six main categories: Industry, Wages and Income, Workforce, Population Demographics, Social, and Other. Industry, for example, contains data on employment by industry and county, industry clusters, high-growth industries, and gross regional product, among others. The Other category covers patents, imports/exports, and agricultural production. All of the research is accessible to the public free of charge and is presented in an easy-to-use interface that allows users to customize the data into a dashboard style display format.

In Recognition of Excellence in of Support for Business Development (Recruitment and Retention):

High-Wage Industry Analysis:
Pittsburgh Regional Alliance/Allegheny Conference on Community Development

2013 marks the 30th anniversary of when Pittsburgh hit rock bottom — the peak of the collapse of the steel industry with over 100,000 manufacturing jobs disappearing and the regional unemployment rate exceeding 18%. Since that time the region has transformed itself with a diverse economy combining historic strengths in manufacturing, financial & business services, and energy with emerging industries such as health care & life sciences and information technology. Regional employment is nearing record levels and the region's economic diversity helped it to avoid the worst impacts of the recent recession. Today there are nearly 90,000 more people working in the region than at the height of the steel era with employment levels reaching record highs.

But promoting the transformed Pittsburgh region remains a challenge. To many, the region's best days are long past and it has not achieved the level of economic prosperity it knew in the years following World War II. Misconceptions abound. One of the most popular is that while employment may be higher than during the steel era, most of those jobs consist of positions in lower paying service industries such as retail and personal services.

Using data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' (BLS) Census of Employment and Wages (CEW), the PRA Market Research team analyzed the average annual wage for 2011 (the most recent year available) for each of 29 distinct industries. In most cases, the high level, two digit NAICS industry code was used to analyze specific sectors. In some instances, however, more detailed NAICS breakdowns were utilized to reflect for differing industry characteristics with a larger sector (i.e. health care and social assistance was broken down into ambulatory health care, hospitals, nursing and residential care, and social assistance).

Of the 29, the average wage for 12 industries was at least 110% of the U.S. total and considered a high-wage industry. One of the 12 industries — business, computer, and management training schools — was eliminated as its small size made comparisons difficult, leaving 11 high-wage industries.

For the 11 high-wage industries, employment growth for the Pittsburgh MSA was compared to that of the U.S., along with 14 metropolitan areas that are typically considered Pittsburgh's benchmark communities. In addition, an aggregation of five mid-sized technology hubs, not already included among the benchmarks, were analyzed. In some cases, due to BLS non-disclosure requirements, it was necessary to extrapolate employment data for certain regions.

In addition to the 2002 to 2011 period (the maximum timeframe for which consistent data are available), the current recessionary period (2007 to 2011) was compared.

The analysis revealed several critical conclusions that support the fact that the Pittsburgh region is now a thriving, diversified community providing high paying jobs. Specifically:

  • 42.6% of the jobs in the Pittsburgh MSA are in high-paying industries (those that have an average wage of at least 110% of the U.S. total), well above the national average of 37.3%.
  • Between 2002 and 2011, all of the job growth in the Pittsburgh MSA occurred in high-paying industries. The 11 high-paying industries saw employment increase by 2.2% compared to a -2.4% decrease in lower paying industres.
  • Nationally, employment in high-wage industries fell by -1.5% between 2002 and 2011, while low-wage industries grew by 2.4%. In Pittsburgh's Benchmark regions, high-wage industries fell by -4.5% compared to a minimal drop (-0.5%) for low-wage industries.
  • During the recessionary period (2007 to 2011), total employment in Pittsburgh fell by -0.9% with all of the loss driven by a -1.6% drop in low-wage employment. High-wage industries showed a slight increase of 0.2%.
  • Nationally, total employment fell by -4.4% between 2007 and 2011 with no difference between high and low-wage industries. Benchmark regions displayed a similar pattern, although high-wage industries showed a slightly larger drop (-4.8%) than low-wage industries (-4.1%).

By using CEW data in a unique way, the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance market research team was able to effectively refute a popular misconception of the region and demonstrate the resiliency of its economy.

Going forward the results of the study will be used as a key part of the organization's three year work plan — Sustainable Prosperity — as the analysis demonstrates the strength of high-wage industries in the regional economy.

In Recognition of Excellence in Support for Collaborative Community/Regional Initiatives

Oklahoma's Ecosystems, an Economic Development Policy:
Oklahoma Department of Commerce

In her 2013 state of the state address to the Oklahoma legislature, Governor Mary Fallin presented a comprehensive economic development initiative designed to not only grow but also accelerate the state's prosperity. Based on wealth generation, growth potential and competitive advantage criteria, the initiative identified the drivers of Oklahoma's economy within a systems approach. These economic systems, or ecosystems, provide the context in which policy is developed, considered and evaluated concerning business expansion and recruitment, workforce development, economic incentives, regulations and infrastructure investments.

In November 2011, Governor Fallin challenged the Division of Research and Economic Analysis to develop a statewide strategy for economic development. Using Michael Porter's work on clusters as a starting point, the research staff designed a methodology to focus on synergy in a market but also wanted to incorporate a systems matrix for tactical implementation. The process consisted of the following steps:

Step 1. Analyzed 72 quantitative variables within the spheres of wealth generation, growth potential and competitive advantage for 669 industries (NAICS 5 digit level),

Step 2. Identified those industries that ranked highest in each and all of the 3 criteria categories,

Step 3. Analyzed 17 qualitative datasets such as OK's physical assets, R&D expertise and workforce strengths,

Step 4. Aggregated findings to ecosystems that share economic characteristics

Step 5. Tested conclusions against macro-economic data

The resulting effort was over 50,000 data points that identified 5 ecosystems in Oklahoma that drive the state's economy.

The customer for the project was the Governor and her administration which includes 13 cabinet secretaries and directors. Before the project was started, Commerce Research conducted a needs assessment to identify the research question and the problem to be addressed. While the ultimate need was a comprehensive economic development strategy, four goals were identified that were needed for the Governor to be successful. The plan must provide the benefits of:

  1. Prioritizing resources - scarce public monies need to be put to their best use,
  2. Aligning policies - agencies and policies should be focused and directional,
  3. Maximizing outcomes - a return must be observed from the use of taxpayer investment,
  4. Requiring accountability - transparent goals should be in place to report activity and progress to Oklahoma citizens.

The strategy not only identifies which efforts the state undertakes but to what degree. For instance, research has identified that nearly 90% of jobs created after the recession came from companies with an Oklahoma footprint. The ecosystem strategy has not only identified what industries are successful, but also what gaps the state has in terms of the supply or value chain. Recruitment efforts are now targeted toward those areas where Oklahoma must import goods or services, which diminishes the value proposition of the product to the state. Instead of attracting companies that may cannibalize Oklahoma companies' market share, efforts are designed to find and locate complementary firms to our established ones.

Although the exact methodology and design are proprietary to the Oklahoma Department of Commerce, the process is being replicated to assist regional economies such as WIBs, university areas and ED partnerships to better identify their market drivers and critical occupations. These data provide local officials with the information to make better strategic decisions and prioritize resources to their best use.

Charles Benefield Award
and the award goes to...

Jackie Keener of the North Carolina Department of Commerce

Jackie Keener of the North Carolina Department of Commerce received the 2013 Charles Benefield Award for her significant contributions to the Labor Market Information (LMI) community through varied and impactful roles including the State of North Carolina's LMI team, the State of Maryland's LMI department, and the US Department of Labor's Employment and Training Administration (ETA) and Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Jackie has been instrumental in developing the projections process for the entire country, building the Workforce Information Database structure and producing delivery systems applications for labor market and workforce data, including North Carolina's Common Follow-up System (CFS). She continues to strive for improvement and knowledge share across her team and colleagues throughout the division, state and nation. Her continual commitment to meeting the needs of LMI customers at all levels is exemplary. In her current role, Jackie has been instrumental in building NC's BLS cooperative programs and forming critical connections to economic development research within the Department of Commerce.

The Charles Benefield Award is given periodically during the Labor Market Information Training Institute Annual Forum. Benefield valued quality labor market information and was a tireless advocate for advancing the field. His career at the Employment and Training Administration (ETA) began when that agency had oversight of the statistical programs. When they moved to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in the 1970's he continued to be a voice for their value and importance within ETA. His efforts were instrumental in obtaining financial support for the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) and projections programs. In addition, his efforts to continuously improve the field played a large role in the establishment of the Labor Market Information Training Institute, with initial funding provided by ETA. In recognition of his vision and to continue his efforts in championing the advancement of the field, the Labor Market Information Training Institute created the award after his death.

Recent recipients include:

  • Alexandra Hall, LMI Director, Colorado Department of Labor & Employment
  • George Foster, Brandt Information Services – retired from Florida LMI
  • Bonnie Graybill, Deputy Division Chief, Labor Market Information Division, State of California (retired)
  • Bill Niblack, Missouri LMI Director
  • Nelse Grundvig, Wisconsin LMI Director
  • Steve Rosenow, Database Manager, National Crosswalk Service Center

The Benefield Award is designed to provide recognition to professionals advancing the art and science of labor market information through their leadership.

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