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egional Infrastructure ForumAppreciative Inquiry (AI) Regional Infrastructure Forum:

“Tech Valley and Beyond: Growing Sustainable
Infrastructure at the Speed of Life”

Wednesday, October 30th and Thursday, October 31st
Desmond Hotel and Conference Center

The Situation:

We have seen transformational growth in the Capital Region with recent public and private sector investments such as CSNE, SEMATECH, Global 450 Consortium, GLOBALFOUNDRIES, GE, and Regeneron. The Governor has recently announced his new Tax Free Zones and many excellent local initiatives have been launched as a result of the efforts of our Regional Council and the CFA process. All of these activities have provided the Capital Region with tremendous opportunities, and at the same time demanded that we move faster than ever before. Is our region poised to get the returns on those investments and realize the potential of the opportunities at our door? Are we equipped to move at the speed of life? Having the right infrastructure at the right place at the right time will be critical. Collective attention on the quiet crisis of infrastructure to meet the needs of our communities and businesses today and tomorrow is needed.

Strategy:

  1. Hold a Regional Infrastructure Forum on October 30 and 31 that will convene stakeholders to align the efforts currently underway and invite communities to participate and share issues/strategies so that we can begin addressing our infrastructure issues and form a strategy for the region.
  2. Develop a Steering Committee to frame up the main issues for the forum and to indentify who we need to engage in the event to move those issues forward. (Diverse group of local, regional, state, public, private, union, non-union, young, old, etc.)
  3. Center for Economic Growth and National Grid to partner with additional sponsors to bring in key speakers, host and tape the two day forum.

Tool:

Appreciative Inquiry (AI) is a high engagement, strengths based approach to strategic planning and transformation. The methodology was successfully used to help design the “economic engine of the future” for Cleveland’s Green City on a Blue Lake and for National Grid’s Green2Growth Summit to design a Smart Grid pilot in the city of Worcester. AI is a large group planning, designing, and implementation meeting that brings a whole system of 300 to 1,000 or more internal and external stakeholders together in a concentrated way to work on a task of strategic, and especially creative, value. It is a meeting where everyone is engaged as a designer, across all relevant and resource rich boundaries, to share leadership and take ownership for making the future of some big league opportunity successful. It is about combined strengths, configurations, and interface. AI is a whole-system, multi-stakeholder approach developed by David Cooperrider and Ron Fry at the Weatherhead School of Management, Case Western Reserve University. (http://appreciativeinquiry.case.edu)

July 18th Steering Committee Meeting Summary:

On Thursday, July 18, 2013 Center for Economic Growth and National Grid hosted Dr. David Cooperrider and a group of 45 regional stakeholders to develop a steering committee for the two day forum. Dr. Cooperrider walked us through the process of AI and gave us many successful examples of previous work he had done along with some best practices that he took away from his many experiences with the methodology.

We left the meeting with these four workgroups to further assist in the planning of the Forum: Pre-Summit Momentum Building, TASK, Stakeholders, and Post-Summit Follow-through. The objective and goals of the forum that the steering committee developed are as follows:

Objective:

The Forum will bring together a diverse group of stakeholders to co-design infrastructure solutions that can be prioritized and implemented to enhance the economic ecosystem of Tech Valley. The Appreciative Inquiry Process will be incorporated to help stakeholders build consensus on the region’s future, maximize its potential and establish a process so the right infrastructure can be in place where it’s needed – at the right time and cost. A guiding principal will be to act regionally when planning for the future of Tech Valley, but honor locally by being inclusive of all stakeholders in the 11 county region.

Specific Goals:

  • Establish a platform to enhance communications between and among stakeholders of infrastructure projects; promote the transfer of good ideas/projects which may be models for consideration by other communities, and help ensure that projects complement each other. (The posting of projects and five year capital plans would allow for everyone to become more aware of what is planned, what is needed, where we can maximize symbiotic opportunities and can collectively go after resources.)
  • Establish a road map of how to strategically move forward to implement the critical elements of the CREDC Regional Plan with definitive action steps to meet targets and identify responsible parties to implement the action items.
  • Build upon the existing efforts currently underway including, but not limited to, the Regional Council, Infrastructure Subcommittee, CEG Infrastructure, Cleaner Greener Communities, NY Works, Opportunity Areas, The Energy Highway, and Metropolitan Planning Organizations and work to ensure efforts and actions are complementary.
  • Streamline various rules, regulations, permitting and other approval processes to enable the Region to respond at the speed of business and position it to be at the ready for economic opportunities.
  • Establish operational definitions of infrastructure such as hard infrastructure, education, health care, etc. as each are key to the Region’s economic vitality.
  • Establish a clear vision of the hard infrastructure in the region: an infrastructure asset inventory that identifies infrastructure strengths, weaknesses, and prioritized development needs. The focus of this forum will be infrastructure such as roads, bridges, water, sewer, gas, electric, waterways, airports, rail, telecommunications, bike trails, and mass transit.
  • Develop a site inventory that matches economic development opportunity types/needs to available infrastructure.
  • Establish a process for breaking down barriers to regional cooperation – identifying funding sources, including revenue sharing.
  • Identify key infrastructure projects that make the most sense for regional economic investment.
  • Establish a true regional plan with buy-in from government and business leaders.
  • Achieve sustainability in the region by identifying how conservation and alternative technologies may be able to mitigate or minimize infrastructure needs.
  • Improve all municipalities’ understanding and utilization of the existing Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) platform for transportation projects which prioritizes the transportation needs of the region with the available resources.
  • Achieve a deeper understanding and appreciation of the public and private planning processes between and among public and private sectors.
  • Develop a better means to communicate what the ripple effect a project in one community has on the entire region.
  • Support efforts by system administrators/operational managers to make forward focused assessments on the capability of their systems to accommodate future growth needs in addition to immediate needs.