Mary Good, a member of the National Academies Board on Science, Technology, and Economic Policy, opened the symposium at the William J. Clinton Presidential Library and welcomed the distinguished participants. She said that the symposium would address the opportunities and challenges of building a vibrant innovation economy in Arkansas.
Dr. Wessner began by remarking that while Washington DC has a concentration of policy experts, it is in the regions, states, and cities where policy is implemented and tested. State and local leaders, he added, understand the realities of “locational competition” for jobs, companies, and facilities. Modern communications technology and transport systems mean that businesses have the opportunity to switch to suppliers and manufacturing sites around the world.
To stay ahead in this competition, states and regions need to compete by offering fiscal, cost, and other incentives. Moreover, they must compete on the quality and training of their workforce. In this environment, he said, “we must break away from a pro-business or anti-business dialog” and find out what companies really need to prosper. Universities too must work more closely with industry to understand and meet their workforce needs.
He cited a series of “global mega-challenges” faced by the United States and every other country, including fostering economic growth, developing new sources of energy, addressing climate change, improving and “personalizing” health care, and improving security. “The way we can meet these challenges is by innovating,” he said. “The pace of competition is increasing, and we need to innovate through public-private partnerships that