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Entrepreneurship and Innovation in the States

Mark Marich

As economic challenges pile up, states are facing tough times. While slashing budgets and cutting services, Governors and other state leaders also recognize that the path to prosperity will depend on how their states succeed in supporting the creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship of local businesses and residents.  As a result, many states are announcing a renewed commitment to innovation and entrepreneurship even in the face of tough budget times. Here are a few examples.

Governor Mike Beebe (D) has recently unveiled a new strategic plan for the Arkansas Economic Development Commission (AEDC). Among its prominent planks is a renewed commitment to support Arkansas’ entrepreneurs, especially those with a focus on knowledge-intensive industries. His plan recommends a shift away from traditional business recruitment strategies. Instead, the state should support entrepreneurs through several approaches, such as creation of new funding streams backed by both public and private dollars, supporting new contracting opportunities for minority entrepreneurs, establishing a set of regional innovation centers, and nurturing development of local angel investor networks.

Florida Governor Charlie Crist (R) has made small business the focus of his state economic stimulus plan, which was recently enacted by the State Legislature. The plan has a total projected cost of under $10 million, the vast bulk of which will be used to provide loans to small companies. The funds will also be used to help provide technical assistance and to introduce “economic gardening” entrepreneur support efforts across Florida. 

Maine has long been a national leader in terms of benchmarking its economy on key measures of innovation performance. In January, Maine’s Office of Innovation released the latest edition of the Maine Innovation Index, along with the 8th annual review of the state’s R&D investments. The reports indicate that Maine has made significant progress in the past decade in terms of stimulating major increases in statewide R&D activity.  However, the state has not made as much progress in converting these investments into new jobs and increased prosperity for all Mainers. Taking Maine “to the next level” will require a series of initiatives that make it easier to commercialize university and laboratory research, and that help encourage the creation of more high-growth entrepreneurial ventures.

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