The winners are announced and the reviews are in for the MTA Genius Transit Challenge, a state-funded prize intended to spur innovation in the increasingly troubled NYC subways. Even at the time of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s initial announcement, the prize was mocked as trite symbolism not especially relevant to the system’s short-term needs. Once the winners were known, the judgment of non-government experts like Alon Levy and Benjamin Kabak was little kinder. I have no reason to quarrel with the judgment of the Internet’s top transit commentators, and yet I feel that the Governor’s initiative still contains the kernel of an idea worth pursuing as an economic-development initiative, if not the most-direct path to improvement of subway operations.
I am pleased to announce my selection as a subcontractor to the NYU Wagner School on a major, new grant from the U.S. Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration (EDA). Under this project, a consortium of experts will help clarify for state and local governments how they can best advance their own economic-development goals by accessing relevant federal programs.
For information beyond this brief summary, please see the complete news release from NYU, which was drafted with input from the project managers at the EDA and all the consortium members.
Among the outcomes of this project will be a publicly available “one-stop” platform allowing communities to choose more easily which federal programs are best matched to their needs. This resource will help communities make more effective cases for integrated federal support of complex regional partnerships for economic development. The project supports the newly created Office of Economic Development Integration at EDA.
The winning consortium consists of senior researchers and program administrators from NYU’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, the International City/County Management Association (ICMA), and Jobs for the Future (JFF). The principal investigator is Dr. Neil Kleiman, who teaches at the Wagner School and directs its Innovation Labs.
I look forward to speaking with many of my economic-development colleagues about aspects of this important project.
Word came recently, via one of those catch-up obituaries in The New York Times, of the passing of Bob Allen, who had been the chairman and CEO of AT&T during a time of merciless transition in the telecom industry during the 1980s and 1990s.
I have a reminiscence to offer, not as a criticism of Allen, who by all accounts was a decent man and strove mightily to reinvent AT&T in the wake of the forced 1984 divestiture of the regional operating companies, but to underline an example of “innovator’s dilemma” with which I had direct experience.