Experts on creating technology clusters, economic development, and workforce training are meeting to forge solutions for areas of the United States that have been left behind.
The U.S. jobless rate may have dropped to 4.4 percent, the lowest level in more than a decade, but there are millions of Americans who cannot find jobs and employers report that they have millions of positions they cannot fill. It is hardly a time for self-congratulation.
In the face of relentless globalization and technological change, many regions throughout the country have struggled to find new industries to replace those that have gone away. Northeast Pennsylvania is no exception, having been hit hard over the years by the loss of jobs in the steel, coal and textile industries.
That’s why the national Job Creation Summit being organized by the North East Regional Employment and Training Association (NERETA) on June 14-15 in Scranton shapes up to be such an important event. It will bring together experts from across the nation, from California to Massachusetts, to help create successful economic development and technology commercialization strategies for the America that has been left behind.
“This conference is path-breaking because we have been able to attract the different tribes involved in economic development work who don’t often speak with each other and therefore find it difficult to establish winning regional strategies,” said Colleen LaRose, president and chief executive officer of NERETA.
Many technology clusters in the United States—ranging from Boston to Austin to San Diego—have already embraced these lessons. “But as we saw in the presidential election, there are too many places in the United States such as Scranton and Northeast Pennsylvania that have been left behind,” said business journalist and author William J. Holstein, who will moderate the conference. He is the author of the 2011 book, “The Next American Economy: Blueprint For a Real Recovery.”
The role that universities should play in technology clusters is one thread of the conference. Speakers include professors who teach entrepreneurship such as Patricia Greene, from Babson College in Massachusetts. Maria Meyers, vice provost of economic development at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, will speak about how universities can create resource networks to support entrepreneurs. Alice Li, head of the technology transfer program at Cornell University, will address the changing face of technology transfer from universities.
Several top experts on the creation of clusters also will speak. Eric Hansen, president of the internationally famous Economic Transitions Group in New York will help attendees learn how to develop regional teams that can create technology-development strategies. And, Paul Bateson from the Edward Lowe Foundation in Missouri is a leading voice on “economic gardening” by helping to grow businesses that are ready to scale.
One strong theme at the conference will be how states and regions can develop their workforces to be ready to take the jobs that are created by technology companies. Experts from Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and California will speak.
Enterpreneurs from the Scranton and Wilkes-Barre areas who will present include Patrick Sandone, who built Net Driven into a national online auto repair and tire replacement service, and Kristopher Jones, a serial entrepreneur and venture capitalist who built and sold such companies as Pepperjam and ReferLocal.com. Pennsylvania’s unique Ben Franklin Technology Partners program will be represented at the event by Kenneth Okrepkie.
Attendees at the summit will benefit from training by recognized experts in how they can create winning coalitions in their regions. “The fact that we have people coming from all over the country and from all these different disciplines is what makes this an important and unique event,” said NERETA’s LaRose.
The complete agenda and list of speakers can be seen at summit.nereta.org. Media coverage invited.
North East Regional Employment and Training Association (NERETA)