With Spring in Full Bloom — Have You Gardened Your Economy Lately?

May 25, 2012 by Jacqueline Vanacek 0

I don’t know what they’re watering the state of Colorado with these days, but the entrepreneurial ideas for public sector are “growing like weeds!”

Colorado has some of the most novel technology stories for government transformation that I have encountered in my US State-Local Cloud Commission travels.

For instance, how about having a 911 call trigger a pre-mapped route via GIS so the local rescue squad can respond ASAP with traffic lights synchronized along the way?

Those extra seconds could mean the difference between life and death.

That’s a public safety innovation in Colorado Springs, and it’s fully virtualized for high availability.

There are many “hidden gems” like this in state and local government that few of us know about.

During collaboration sessions between US state and local entities (SLG) to spark more cloud adoption, I was delighted to learn of other amazing achievements that benefit us all.

One that is not new but worth a reminder in today’s call for jobs is economic gardening, now turbo-charged by the cloud.

Economic gardening is an entrepreneurial approach to develop a local economy “from the inside out.” In this approach, local entrepreneurs create unique businesses based on specialized skills and core competencies that drive wealth creation and a vibrant market.

Rather than entice “outside businesses in,” economic gardening seeds the local landscape by growing and nurturing its own small businesses to access broader regional markets.

First launched in Littleton, CO in 1989, this approach yielded a 71 percent increase in employment with three-fold increase in sales tax revenues that exceeded any other area initiative. And, no tax incentives were needed to entice outside businesses to migrate.

Economic gardening can derive measurable increases in job creation. Pueblo County, Colorado has been having great success, with even more benefits from the cloud.

Pueblo County Economic Gardening is part of the County’s Geographic Information Systems (GIS) department.  Its staff provides County businesses with “market research, competitive intelligence, industry trends, marketing lists, strategy development, web optimization and customized research”– free of charge.

As a result, new initiatives have sprung up in the last two years to create 107 new jobs and bring $5.3 million into the local economy. The new revenue has partially offset a decline in sales and property tax revenues resulting from the recession.

According to Pueblo County GIS Manager Chris Markuson, their economic gardening program partners with the library to provide GIS-driven market data to private businesses for free. The County also offers GIS data to “all local government agencies and area non-profits for use in grant proposals, economic forecasting, budget preparation, retail development and even emergency preparedness activities.”

All City and County departments who maintain assets or need to visualize property for assessment/taxation, emergency services, utility service, roadway maintenance and more can collectively tap into the GIS database.

Smaller rural agencies can also access the data to maintain assets in the field like water lines, fire hydrants, trails, vegetation, wildfire mitigation areas, and more.

Not only has this helped Pueblo build a sustainable approach to minimize the “boom & bust” cycle, but expanded use of GIS data for property assessment/ taxation is now a self-funded service shared by seven neighboring counties.

Pueblo County’s innovations are a great example of how virtualization and cloud services can re-invent government services in budget-strapped entities, while simultaneously growing jobs for local wealth creation.

Here are some interesting parallels between local government and Silicon Valley, which is arguably the most fertile “economic garden” in the world. Only in Silicon Valley are new technology ventures cultivated from the perfect mix of academic, industry and venture capital resources.

Jurisdictions around the world seek to duplicate Silicon Valley’s “secret recipe,” yet we retain our competitive edge as discussed at the Churchill Club’s14th Annual Top Ten Tech Trends Panel this week.

In Tech Trend #1, “Radical Globalization of Social Commerce” is also happening to some degree within SLG, who is using virtualization and cloud to build “cross-jurisdictional” alliances for agency services at lower cost.

And Tech Trend #6: Shift Toward Technocracy: Doing More With Less isalready the SLG mantra that compels broader government adoption of virtualization and cloud.

Nowhere is the benefit of technology in government more evident than in how Top 10 State/Local Governments Storm Industry to the Cloud.

While progress is growing, state and local government need to apply more of Silicon Valley’s “start-up fertilizer” to achieve the dramatic capital and operational efficiencies made possible by the cloud.

That will lead to the brightest forecast for business and jobs. For some fascinating examples of Silicon Valley’s hottest cloud start-ups, listen in to Job Forecast of the Brightest Skies in the Cloud on the Voice America Business Channel.

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