Today, Tulsa Innovation Labs (TIL), Aspen Institute, and Heartland Forward are proud to release the Economy Forward Framework, the first framework to measure inclusive economic growth in midsized American cities.
“The Economy Forward Framework is a new blueprint for inclusive economic growth. We’ll be using it in Tulsa to ensure that our innovation economy is growing in a way that expands opportunities for all Tulsans,” said Nicholas Lalla, co-founder and managing director of Tulsa Innovation Labs.
This effort began as a way for TIL to measure the growth of Tulsa’s knowledge economy. We struggled, however, to identify an existing framework or set of success metrics that reflected their aspiration for inclusive growth in a city like ours.
The knowledge economy is quickly disrupting legacy industries and labor markets, and growth metrics of the past are losing relevance in our society’s increasingly tech-centered paradigm. Traditional metrics, such as jobs created or average wage, for example, can often exclude more nuanced analyses that address the inclusion, diversity, and resilience of jobs.
“Coastal tech hubs will have increasing competition from dynamic mid-sized cities who are intentional in how they position their local economies and how they support and retain talent with cultural amenities and affordable lifestyles,” shared Richard Florida, PhD, professor at the University of Toronto’s School of Cities and Rotman School of Management.
TIL recognized that given this once-in-a-generation shift to the knowledge economy, a new tool was badly needed to gauge readiness, track progress, and ensure that growth in the knowledge economy is reducing inequality rather than exacerbating it.
Realizing that such a tool might be helpful to similar markets across the country and not only for Tulsa, TIL partnered with Heartland Forward, a Bentonville, Arkansas-based nonprofit pioneered by the Walton Family Foundation and the Aspen Institute, a think tank in Washington, D.C. to establish the Economy Forward Framework.
The Inclusive Growth Metrics model is a set of nine performance indicators that midsized cities can use it to track the inclusive growth of their local economies. The new model includes metrics across three categories: industry; accessibility; and vibrancy.
“The urgency of repositioning local economies for the 21st century is particularly stark in Heartland cities because of increasing risk of automation. Human capital, talent, research and innovation, entrepreneurship, health status, digital access, and quality of place are the new keys to successful regional economies,” stated Ross DeVol, president and CEO of Heartland Forward.
To put our new methodology into action, we compared 38 mid-sized cities, with an MSA population between 750,000 and 1.5 million, based on their knowledge economy trajectory and our unique analysis of the inclusive growth metrics.
“As cities consider how to strengthen their economies, they must carefully evaluate which communities these future tech economies are designed to serve. These economic transitions are occurring during a charged political climate and have accelerated the need to build more inclusive knowledge economies,” said Cordell Carter, executive director of the Aspen Institute’s Socrates Program.
What matters most is organic growth designed to expand opportunities. This is complex and painstaking work, and it takes large-scale, thoughtful strategies. Cities will not see instant results, and communities cannot attract their way out of stagnation. What the Economy Forward Framework proves clearly is that merely importing talent or chasing the latest corporate headquarters will not work. The surest way to achieve and sustain inclusive growth is for cities to build capacity at their key institutions, leverage local assets, and grow from the inside out. We look forward to hearing your thoughts on how we may work together to achieve the goals we’ve set for Tulsa, and thanks for reading.