To take advantage of this opportunity, Mr. Goldin said, the state needed to pass the 2008 Broadband Plan for Hawaii, which has he said been stymied by “turf disputes, bickering, and lack of will.” He noted that Hawaii must also raise the capabilities of its work force. Of the state work force, he said, just 1.4 percent was employed in jobs in the category of math and computer science; the national average for employment in this category was 2.5 percent. Finally, he noted that the state must also create a more innovation-friendly ecosystem. Mr. Goldin noted that he had tried several times to start businesses in Hawaii only to find the business environment to be unreceptive to entrepreneurship.
Growing Innovation Clusters
Barry Johnson of the Economic Development Administration (EDA) described how successful clusters can raise the effectiveness of regional assets, which include not only natural assets (such as geothermal resources, wind, and deep, cold water), but companies, educational institutions, and civic groups. He characterized regional innovation clusters as “geographic concentrations of firms and industries that do business with each other and have common needs for talent, technology, and infrastructure.” He added that public-private partnerships among companies, educational institutions, suppliers and customers, federal, local, and state governments, foundations and other non-profit entities, venture capital firms, and financial institutions can help create a climate in which businesses grow along with employment.9
Partnering with the Federal Government
In her conference remarks, Ginger Lew of the White House National Economic Council observed that encouraging the development of regional clusters is a priority for the Obama administration. These clusters, she said, are an important mechanism to address the current economic slump and revive competitiveness.
“As a nation,” said Ms. Lew, “we need to accelerate the transfer of technology from lab to market. The challenge we face in Hawaii and in many regions of the country is how best to connect innovative entrepreneurs to research institutions and other key partners.” She noted that the Obama administration had designed specific policies to encourage cluster formation. The role of the federal government in doing so, she said, was based on knowledge sharing and networking rather than on large investment of resources.
9For a review of the role that state and federal policies can play to foster innovation clusters, see National Research Council, Growing Innovation Clusters for American Prosperity: Summary of a Symposium, Charles W. Wessner, ed., Washington, D.C.: The National Academies Press, 2011. For an assessment of recent economic development policy initiatives, see Junbo Yu and Randall Jackson, “Regional Innovation Clusters: A Critical Review,” Growth and Change, 42(2), June 2011.