Everyone from insurance companies to the President is espousing the benefits of fresh approaches to working and living in the down economy. From stimulus spending to renewed family game night, people are changing how they live and work, and savvy businesses are doing their best to stay ahead of emerging trends as we settle in to life in a down economy. As time goes on, it’s clear the methods and outlooks that were once ways to cope are morphing into the ‘New Normal’ way of doing business.
Creative approaches to business development, purchasing and hiring initially may have been intended to slow the descent along the economic downhill, but the slope is leveling, and the methods are still relevant. The markets holding the wealth and advantage have changed along with how much they spend and what influences their spending decisions. Government and education systems are paying more attention to their markets as well, shifting new priorities and how they view their constituents.
It’s Still About Information
Counter balancing all of the downsizing and economic contraction is the growing use of information and communication. News and advertising is no longer a consumable product, but rather an interactive medium through which people actively, sometimes tenaciously, watch, read, query and discuss almost any topic, product or service. We are naturally building personal and professional communities of users, buyers, and activists that wield great influence over each other and onlookers.
Those who manage business and government are noting the changing profiles of our markets and the ways we define them, reach them and acquire the right resources to meet their evolving needs. Local and regional government is now not just a market for businesses hoping to become suppliers of goods and services, but businesses are becoming a major market for governments hoping to create jobs and new wealth in the economic systems they serve.
Across the nation, insightful public and private sectors within economies are not leaving things to chance when it comes to economic health, and Brevard’s leaders are among them. Business and government are aligning to drive education and workforce and hang on to current and future real estate development in a way to snag precious new jobs and build wealth within our economy. Settle in to the New Normal.
Education is becoming technology centric in its focus and delivery, in part due to governments taking heed of the multitude of reports warning of the growing shortage of scientists and engineers in the United States. For years, we have heard about diminishing test scores and graduates in technical fields that will force companies to move abroad. Education policy makers are listening to industry and grasping that Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) are the roots of innovation, new industry and the resulting new jobs their communities need to survive.
STEM activity is the stuff that feeds economies, much like reading is the foundation of education itself. Without it, you can’t advance. You don’t get STEM activity without talent. Various levels of government, with the prodding and support of industry, are now trying to build local, regional and national STEM talent pipelines to secure future economic stability. Almost every major federal agency has education programs in place to support STEM education, including the Department of Commerce and the Department of Defense.
Brain Trust Verses Brain Drain
Private sector organizations see the engineer and scientist shortages as a crisis, and are reaching as far down as middle schools, with programs like Intel’s National Science Fair, that attracts myriads of sponsors and thousands of students. Northrop Grumman’s sole philanthropic focus is on STEM education programs for teachers and students, which run throughout the nation, including Brevard. Even the John D. and Catherine T. MacAurthur Foundation, which does not have a science focus, included categories that require incorporating the principles of STEM in its recent learning competition.
This New Normal focus on STEM education is not limited to industry and national stakeholders. Brevard Public Schools is the leading edge of school districts taking this new approach. The district has several innovative programs and the second highest FCAT science scores in the state to back up their efficacy. It wins a high proportion of federal and state grants to fund labs, engineering programs and academies because STEM is a priority. It also leverages local assets, including partners and sponsors, to build interest through an annual program called Space Week, when every sixth grade public school student in Brevard experiences the STEM education programs at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.
The New Face of Collaboration
Harnessing what comes out of this new pipeline to innovation is where communities, industry and universities are focusing major investments, down economy or not. Research parks, incubators and small business assistance programs all focus on leveraging technologies created in research labs to build companies and industry clusters, and all the purchasing power and employment that comes with them. According to a Batelle study, about a million direct and indirect jobs are associated with research parks in North America. Venture funding has waned, but there is still considerable investment being made in areas where universities and industry join forces.
Medical City at Lake Nona is one example, with several national medical research institutions building in the Science and Technology Park, and collaborating with the University of Central Florida and the University of Florida for starters. Other projects, like the Florida Atlantic University Research Park is already fueling the local economy, hosting an impressive 28 high tech, high wage companies that reap the benefits of the university’s research facilities, talents and the venture fund network housed at the park. Brevard is also seeing on board, with the collaboration between Florida Tech and Melbourne International Airport building on its own growing high tech corridor through Melbourne with a Research Park.