In my first piece on “Crossing the Chasm” I laid out the fundamental definition as what it meant to “cross the chasm” and the areas I see as instrumental for redefining our Central Oregon economy. Unwittingly the second area I referred to in my initial piece was: Crossing the Chasm – Part 2: Government. I say unwittingly because we are in the midst of a transformative period that has created strong opinions, as well as fear, as to the role of Government in our society. I am a fundamental believer that Government is not the solution to our problems, but it is part of the solution. Indeed, depending upon the era, the situations, the issues at hand, Government I believe, can act much like a faucet – sometimes you need more water, other times less, and then, in between, we need to vary the temperature accordingly. It is not a black and white issue as many would like to paint, or rather, it is not so simple as “Less Government vs. More Government”. That fundamentally dumbs down the details into nothing more than a beer commercial that, perhaps, the under-average voter can consume. I do believe that, as President Obama discussed in a recent speech, that Government can be a “catalyst”.
But what does that mean to be a catalyst for our local government? What can our local government do? Where do we start? Let me simply outline what I would consider to be some of the low-hanging fruit that we can tackle within the Government of our own community.
Chief Technology & Performance Officer (CTO / CPO)
We need to have a focused position that will oversee and reform the use of technology throughout our local government. This position / individual should focus (initially) on the following key areas:
- Review of existing infrastructure and outline changes needed / future strategic roadmap. This should include a comprehensive review of existing systems and use of technology in our government, while also providing an executable roadmap and strategy for the future use of technology throughout our community. There should be a focused effort on optimizing, streamlining, and improving the technologies (and contracts) for our existing software and hardware technology use and an effort should be made to reach out to technology vendors who want to create model communities showcasing their technologies. These vendors would most likely be happy to assist and drive these efforts to market their own brands, etc.
- Review and revamp of public eServices and online access. Our local government websites, http://www.ci.bend.or.us/ and http://www.co.deschutes.or.us/, while adequate, could be improved to provide more timely, relevant content. For example, there should be clear, easily accessible information on how Federal stimulus monies are impacting Central Oregon. Not that this should be the model, but it would be worth looking to http://www.dc.gov/ for inspiration.
- Initiate a Government openness and transparency effort to provide access to all public fiscal information in an open and easy to use format. This should show the basics of where our tax dollars are going, the use of and performance of programs, departments, infrastructure, budget information, etc. Again, for an example, look at how the City of New York is doing business. Mayor Bloomberg just launched a new reporting tool through which anyone can access and drill into key information. (NOTE: The City of New York uses Oracle’s Business Intelligence products for this initiative and I am an employee of Oracle).
- Assist in establishing a high-technology training and education program for local workers. With the number of unemployed workers across the region, we need to provide both education and employment opportunities. Clearly there is a demand for education as Central Oregon Community College (COCC) has closed their enrollment for this term as they are at / over capacity. But are students going through COCC really able to translate their education into a job or a career? I don’t have the answer there, but I do know that the high-technology curriculum is lacking, although, it should be noted that COCC was not designed for that type of education. That said, OSU-Cascades ostensibly was or is but, as outlined in the recent Bulletin article, the school is hemorrhaging and in danger of disappearing before it has even reached the potential for what was initially envisioned. So, rather than focus on the political hot potato of the University System, I believe we should work on a focused vocational education program for high-technology initiatives. The CTO / CPO office, as well as our local representatives, should work on establishing this program that would include an internship and co-op component that could be state-wide (more on this in a separate post). While this is not something I would traditionally see as Government’s responsibility or purview, I do see the present economic conditions as needing combined collaborative leadership between the public and private sectors to get the gears moving. Certainly, it is in the interest of the local Government to ensure that individuals have a chance and an opportunity and are active contributors to the community. (NOTE: I’ll further address education in an additional post, including specific programs in mind including one I call “Builders to Bytes”).
Community / Social Venture Fund
We have a tremendous amount of technical talent in this community with individuals that are, quite frankly, some of the best and brightest in their respective areas of expertise anywhere in the world. That does not mean that they are immune to the economic realities of today. What it does mean is that many of these individuals may have to leave Bend and Central Oregon for other areas where job opportunities are more readily available. And, in the process, leaving Central Oregon to be stuck in a long-term cycle of being a region of the have’s and the have-not’s. More simply put, an area made up of resorts and vacation homes with service workers who provide for them. In other words, never having an established and growing knowledge worker economy in the region. So how might we kick-start things to ensure we capitalize on the talent we have here, while creating a growing and maturing economic base?
- Create a public / private venture fund and incubator for local entrepreneurs. The city / county would make a regular investment into the fund that would be focused on high-technology / higher income companies (i.e., software, hardware, green-tech, healthcare technology, etc.). Along with monies from the city, private investors and individuals would also be sought to contribute and a online contribution to specific entrepreneurs or ideas be available as an option. Given the vacancies in buildings we have today, we can certainly find a reasonably priced (or donated) “incubator” to be provided for the entrepreneurs / program. Initial funding / investment to each entrepreneur would begin at $5,000 per entrepreneur and additional funds may be allocated. The city / county and the private investors would be percentage of returns from the startup (i.e., 2-10%). Depending upon the returns, monies going to the city would be re-invested in the program or would go to education, infrastructure, or other community efforts.
- Create an entrepreneur education program in conjunction with an organization such as the Kauffman Foundation, etc. The Kauffman Foundation has recently launched their FastTrac program in New York and elsewhere to “…to support entrepreneurial start-ups after job loss…” and to help “…workers who have lost their jobs and the entrepreneurs leading existing businesses that are struggling due to the current economic environment.”
- Create a regional version of “LinkedIn“. While I am not implying we should create a new company to recreate LinkedIn, what we do need is a regional version that provides an entrepreneurial / worker directory of individuals throughout the region. This should highlight the individual, their skills, background, etc. and provide Economic Development information for companies trying to hire in the region or looking at coming to Central Oregon. Again, there are a tremendous number of talented individuals in the area, but it’s somewhat a hidden secret, especially for companies and individuals not from here. We need to have a employee resource directory so that we and outside companies know who is here and what talent is available for a company to hire, etc.
“Green” Government / Community Initiative – Chief Efficiency Officer (CEFO)
In conjunction and cooperation with the Chief Technology & Performance Officer, we need a central Efficiency Office / Officer to put in place a near-term executable strategy for “greening” our own community. In the short-term this effort can be led by the CTO / CPO; however, it should be separated out moving forward. This should not be viewed as an environmental issue at this juncture nor positioned as such as it is too politically charged – particularly, often in our own community. While I am of the mindset that Climate Change is a real and human problem, we need to focus on how this can benefit our community immediately so that people who don’t see Climate Change as an issue can also support this effort. That means, in simplistic terms, it’s about efficiency, cost savings, and jobs. This effort should focus (initially) on the following key areas:
- Review and revamp existing infrastructure. We should have a near-term comprehensive review as to how government buildings, schools, etc. can and should be optimized from an efficiency perspective. This means determining which building systems should be changed and/or modified (i.e., lighting, HVAC, power, insulation, etc.) and then putting in place an immediate work program to revamp the infrastructure. We should work closely with local companies, such as PV Powered and IdaTech, to implement local solutions and services as part of this effort.
- Create a comprehensive “Green” program and roadmap for the region. The program should be modeled after the Greensburg GreenTown initiative with a focus on making Bend / Central Oregon a model for a sustainable community. After being wiped out by a tornado, the town of Greensburg, Kansas has put together progressive and forward-thinking plans to rebuild their community and create a sustainable roadmap for their future. In fact, they have offered up quite a comprehensive plan for their community and, most importantly, they are executing on it. There have been and are similar efforts in our area, including Bend 2030, which is effectively an all volunteer effort that has little execution “authority”. That said, they should most certainly be applauded for the work they have done and are doing. However, without someone chartered with and/or in charge of executing on agreed to decisions, little will get done. As such, any program created here, must have a lead / lead office responsible for ensuring it’s successful execution. We need to have individuals who are accountable and who, at the very least, have the time and energy and the role on which to focus their efforts.
These are simply some examples of what we can and should be doing in Central Oregon and is by no means comprehensive. Frankly, it’s very much simplified; however, I hope I’ve provided some salient thoughts and immediate focus areas on which we might concentrate to help Central Oregon cross the chasm. Certainly, for those here locally, you will also notice I have not even discussed Juniper Ridge in this post. I think the Source Opinion piece did a decent assessment recently and, at the end of the day, we need to reboot on this and put the past behind us, while ensuring we don’t make the same basic mistakes that have been made over the last several years. That said, I do believe by providing the focus areas above, we can avoid many of the past mistakes, while beginning to create a consistent economic base for Central Oregon. We have a wonderful opportunity to do something positive amidst the economic gloom and ensure for a good future for our children.