A group of governors, state economic development officials and business leaders will convene in Nashville Monday for the second of four forums designed to develop best practices for state economic growth.
The forum, hosted by the National Governors Association, will focus on bringing together business leaders and economic development officials to discuss how states can help start-up companies, what states can do for high-growth companies and how states can work with businesses to transform in the current economy. The forums are part of NGA Chairman Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman's (R) initiative for the year. The Nashville summit follows a similar forum in Hartford over the summer, with plans to hold meetings in Seattle and Omaha next year.
"Economic growth is key to our success as governors. That's why my initiative will be 'Growing State Economies,'" Heineman wrote about the initiative on the NGA website. "The initiative will provide governors and other state policymakers with better policy options to assess the economic environment in their state and strategies designed to foster business growth. A major emphasis will be on understanding how a small business becomes a fast-growing ﬁrm and what policies support that transformation."
Mary Jo Waits, the NGA's economic, human services and workforce director, said the meetings have been designed as a way for the association to find out what is working in various regions of the country. The forum will include panels looking at case studies of specific companies, as well as more policy-oriented programs. Along with Heineman, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam (R), outgoing Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R) and Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (R) will be attending the Nashville summit.
"The governors have the opportunity to invite key stakeholders to attend as well," Waits said to The Huffington Post, noting the gubernatorial attendance will vary from meeting to meeting, likely centering on governors in the region, excluding Heineman, who is attending all four summits. She said the Hartford summit was primarily attended by New England governors.
Waits explained the start-up panels will focus primarily on how states have been attracting start-up companies, along with what state economic development departments can do to encourage start-up growth. The high-growth panel will look at what state governments have been doing for companies in the highest-growth industries in the states. She said the booming industry vary state to state, but have included science and technology firms. The transformation panel will look at how states to encourage companies to be more innovative in order to grow.
Aside from these three panels, Waits said that the summits have also focused on the role of higher education in economic development and the return on investment for state governments. She said states have been seeking more information on the return on investment in terms of money spent on economic development, along with tax credits given to bring firms to states.
The role of higher education in economic development has been growing in recent years, with states looking to use public university systems as economic engines.
"What about universities?" Waits said. "What are the relationships that need to cultivated between universities and firms? What policies encourage universities to be more engaged?"
Waits said the ultimate goal of Heineman's initiative, which runs until his chairmanship ends in July 2012, will be to develop best practices for the states in terms of economic growth and a report to governors on new practices to utilize.
"The companies tell their story and what kind of resources do they have," Waits said of the forums. "In the individual sessions we have had firms talk about how programs have helped them."