For decades, the U.S. economy has been caught in a whirlwind of global competition and rapid technological change. Some regions have soared, while others have seen their manufacturing economies crushed by competition from lower-wage countries.
Leaders in struggling regions have often looked to America’s high-tech superstars—such as Silicon Valley and Boston—for models to revitalize their economies. Yet, new centers of innovation and high-tech manufacturing are emerging and thriving in perhaps unexpected corners and regions across the United States, like Tennessee, South Carolina, and Indiana.
For example, Donde Plowman, Chancellor, University of Tennessee, Knoxville recently commented that, “America’s greatest asset has always been our people and for so long, we led the world in innovation just by leveraging the talent of a handful of cities and region. That’s no longer enough. To remain competitive, we must tap into the talent and ingenuity in places like Tennessee, where we can leverage it alongside the existing industries and infrastructure to create new opportunities for our state and our country.”
Innovation hotspots like Tennessee are spreading high-tech-driven growth and jobs to new populations and communities. Despite definite regional distinctiveness, these up-and-coming innovation engines share a similar playbook and tactics, including:
- Strong leverage of the economic assets at hand, including colleges and research universities;
- Long-term commitment and engagement of state and regional government, industry, university, and national laboratory leaders;
- Willingness to take risks and make investments in the future;
- An aggressive approach to places and processes for industry-university and other permutations of collaboration;
- Education and workforce training aimed at meeting industry’s evolving needs; and
- Patience, persistence and an understanding that transformation takes time.
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