STIP Selects Students for 2019 Georgia Innovative Economic Development Internship Program

The 2019 Class of Georgia Innovative Economic Development Internship Program students. From left: Karl Grindal, Ebney Ayaj Rana, STIP Program Director Jan Youtie, and Daniel Schiff. (Photos: Péralte C. Paul)

The Science, Technology, and Innovation Policy (STIP) program at Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute has selected the three students who are the 2019 Georgia Innovative Economic Development interns.


The 10-week, paid internship — open to any graduate student attending a University System of Georgia school — gives interns the opportunity to develop and pursue deep research in an economic development-related project.


At the end of the internship period, the interns, who will each receive a $6,000 stipend, will be able to present their findings to economic development and innovation groups.


“We have three excellent interns who went through a rigorous selection process and vetting from three statewide economic developers who are experts in their fields and are highly respected in Georgia’s economic development community,” said Jan Youtie, STIP program director. “All three are working on topics that are important to Georgia’s economic development future. I think what we will get out these internship research efforts will be seminal for the future of Georgia and we will look back in 5 or 10 years and say we learned a lot from these projects that helped the state go forward.”


The 2019 Georgia Innovative Economic Development Interns are:


KARL GRINDAL: rising 4th year Ph.D., Georgia Tech’s School of Public Policy

  • Research Topic: Analyzing breach notification reports that companies fill out when they need to notify the public that customer data has been accessed or hacked by connecting those reports to corporate and industry level data to help answer questions about which types of companies are being targeted and in which states over time.
  • Reason: “The goal of collecting this data is to help with risk assessment. I was inspired to look at this data because it relates directly to how intellectual property is being stolen or how customer data is being lost. That affects trust in Georgia companies, so by being able to measure the effects of hacking both here in the state of Georgia and around the country on corporations, and ultimately, customers, we can hopefully reduce that exposure and help build trust and protect American innovations.”


DANIEL SCHIFF: rising 3rd year Ph.D., Georgia Tech’s School of Public Policy

  • Research Topic: Looking at artificial intelligence (AI) policy strategies and AI ethics codes/guidelines coming from corporations, governments, and other organizations.
  • Reason: “I want to see what the challenges are we face in Georgia and possible solutions to them. AI has become an important emergent technology in the last five years and that’s spurred a lot of interest in innovation as well as the social, legal, political, and ethical implications. People are starting to worry about and think about how we are to approach these new technologies moving forward.”


EBNEY AYAJ RANA: rising 2nd year master’s, Georgia State University’s Andrew Young School of Policy Studies

  • Research Topic: How high-tech entrepreneurship among immigrants is growing in the state of Georgia compared with the United States overall, and how fiscal policies and economic development incentives can be mobilized even more for the betterment and fostering of immigrant-owned enterprises in the state of Georgia.
  • Reason: “The immigrant-owned, high-tech entrepreneurial enterprises are increasingly growing in other states and they’re outperforming the native born-owned enterprises and industries. So maybe if provided with appropriate economic development policies and with incentives, maybe we can help foster the growth of immigrant-owned, high-tech enterprises in the state of Georgia.”

Finding the Sweet Spot of Community Economic Development

The Community Economic Development Institute, one of the first programs of its kind, was sponsored by the Annie E. Casey Foundation and led by Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute and the University of Georgia’s Fanning Institute.

On a recent Saturday morning, some three dozen residents of southwest Atlanta gathered at the Dunbar Neighborhood and Recreation Center. They weren’t there for a book club or a basketball game, but for a discussion about community economic development.

For six months, this group met every two weeks to learn about concepts, tools, techniques and analysis that will enable them to envision and design their own community. The Community Economic Development Institute, one of the first programs of its kind, was sponsored by the Annie E. Casey Foundation and led by Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute and the University of Georgia’s Fanning Institute.

The curriculum for the six-month program included such topics as business attraction, public financing, small business and transit-oriented development. Instructors came from the private sector, state and local government, non-profit organizations and academia. Following their graduation in October 2008, class participants have been intimately involved in the strategic planning for the creation of a mixed-income, mixed-use development on a 31.4-acre tract of land owned by the Casey Foundation on University Avenue.

The site borders the planned Atlanta BeltLine, one of the most wide-ranging urban redevelopment efforts underway in the United States. The BeltLine project will address regional sprawl by combining green space, trails, transit and new development along 22 miles of historic rail segments that encircle Atlanta’s urban core.

“In a polarized society like the one we’re living in now, it takes a diverse group of people to make community development possible, and this program has provided the impetus and the tools to make the community what it can be,” said Thelma Sonia Graves, a retiree who represented the Joyland community at the Institute. “It empowered us and made all of us potential leaders.”

According to project director Kathryn Brice, knowledge and confidence gained from the sessions encouraged collaboration and dialogue among citizens, public and private agencies. The program, the second such session led by Brice, was enthusiastically received by the diverse participants and has already generated interest from similar, surrounding neighborhoods.

Sig Ehrmann, a schoolteacher at Fulton County’s Mount Olive Elementary and representative of the Sylvan Hills neighborhood, says the program has helped her understand that community economic development is like a puzzle.

“In the past, community projects have been done in crisis mode instead of planning ahead of time,” she noted. “The Community Economic Development Institute has taught me how to take the pieces of the puzzle – housing, workforce, financing, transportation – and put them together to affect change.”

The Community Economic Development Institute was the brainchild of David Hooker, then vice president for community building at The Center for Working Families, an Annie E. Casey Foundation initiative in inner-city Atlanta. In a 2007 workshop, five Georgia Tech graduate students in the School of Public Policy gathered data on the University Avenue neighborhood and reviewed diverse sources describing the area. They added information from interviews with developers concerning housing, zoning, existing land use, and demographic projections.

Under the direction of Georgia Tech faculty member Jan Youtie, the students determined that the area had potential for residential, office, retail, and light industrial development, but found that it also carried risks related to location, crime, vacancy and a mobile population. Their report recommended “a phased economic development strategy that addresses both near-term and long-term uses.”

Samuel Holland, a member of the Pittsburgh neighborhood, got involved with the project as a first-time home buyer. He said learning about community economic development can make a difference in attracting and keeping residents to the community.

“Education is so important,” he said, “and the biggest benefit to attending the workshops is I now know I can make a difference.”

This notion – that the more informed people are about the impacts of their decisions, the more likely they are to make decisions that truly support their own interests – is what instigated the Annie E. Casey Foundation to support this community economic development effort.

“The Casey Foundation has supported and invested significant resources in the development and implementation of the Community Economic Development Institute because we believe it’s a further demonstration of the way we want to do all of our work with the community,” said Mtamanika Youngblood, director of neighborhood transformation for the Casey Foundation. “Whenever we address a public challenge – in this case community economic development – we are committed to helping to build the community’s capacity to address that challenge. When we do both, meet a challenge and simultaneously build community, we call that working in the ‘sweet spot.’”

Even before the two sets of classes had completed their program, the Annie E. Casey Foundation began organizing Institute participants to participate in decisions about what would be built on the 31.4 acres. Based primarily on topics taught in the Institute’s program, participants selected areas of interest in which they wanted to gain further expertise. With the assistance of the foundation’s Neighborhood Transformation team, participants have met with experts in their chosen field, faculty from Georgia Tech and other colleges and universities, and other interested neighborhood residents to make recommendations about the vision they would like to create. The recommendations need to be approved by the Annie E. Casey Foundation after which they will be implemented.

Could this be a refreshingly new way of conducting community economic development efforts in the United States? Brice believes so.

“This was an untested pilot program where for the first time that I’m aware of economic development concepts were formally taught in the hopes of empowering individuals to take more control over their communities,” she said. “It has surpassed the expectations of all involved including, most importantly, the residents themselves. I’m sure this will be the beginning of a new way of approaching community economic development in other areas.”

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Innovation Reward: Study of Georgia Manufacturers Shows Widening Profit Advantage for Innovative Companies

The profitability gap between companies that compete on the basis of innovative products or processes and firms that compete with a low-price advantage has more than doubled over the past three years, a new survey of Georgia manufacturers has found.

The profitability gap between companies that compete on the basis of innovative products or processes and firms that compete with a low-price advantage has more than doubled over the past three years, a new survey of Georgia manufacturers has found.

The 2008 Georgia Manufacturing Survey also found that Georgia companies are making significant progress in adopting sustainable techniques – another form of innovation – though they tend to focus on short-term cost reduction rather than long-term profitability and growth.

Results of the survey, done periodically to assess the business and technological condition of Georgia’s manufacturing community, were released this week by the Enterprise Innovation Institute and the School of Public Policy at the Georgia Institute of Technology. The results are based on responses from 738 companies with more than 10 employees.

“Innovation remains as important as ever,” said Philip Shapira, a professor in Georgia Tech’s School of Public Policy and one of the study’s co-authors. “Those Georgia companies that innovate receive rewards for doing so. But a significant number of companies still have not adopted innovation as a leading strategy.”

The survey showed that companies competing on the basis of innovation had a three-year average return on sales of 14.5 percent – nearly twice the 7.6 percent average for companies competing with low prices. In the 2005 Georgia Manufacturing Survey, companies relying on innovation saw an average return on sales of 6.3 percent, compared to about 3.6 percent for the low-cost competitors. The gap between the rewards for these two competitive strategies nearly doubled during the 2005 to 2008 period.

Slightly less than 20 percent of Georgia manufacturers compete based on price, compared to fewer than 10 percent that use innovation as the competitive edge, the study found. Half of Georgia manufacturers report gaining a competitive edge from quality products or services. Other strategies include quick delivery, adding value and adapting to customer needs.

Wage rates are also associated with competitive strategy. Innovative companies pay an average of nearly $42,000 annually per employee, compared to a range of $33,000 to $37,000 for other firms.

The survey studied innovation in products, processes, organizational structures and marketing. About 70 percent of the manufacturers responding to the survey report that they had introduced a new or technologically improved product or process in 2008.

About three-quarters of the Georgia manufacturers report adopting at least one practice aimed at making their operations more sustainable. These include sustainability considerations in the choice of suppliers, selection of raw materials and processing techniques; application of sustainable principles to product design, processing, facility design, packaging and marketing; employee training in sustainable practices; logistics and transportation services; the use, re-use and maintenance of the product, and product “end-of-life” issues.

However, only one in five Georgia manufacturers has an environmental stewardship program, and just 18 percent have set targets for reducing energy use in their facilities. Sustainability is defined as steps taken to minimize the use of natural resources, toxic materials, waste emissions and production materials over the life cycle of the product produced. But it also includes functions to expand sales, such as green branding and eco-labeling – not just cost savings benefits.

“The importance of sustainability is driven by the growth in energy costs, the rise in the cost of natural resources and of waste disposal, and demand from customers who consider sustainability issues when making purchasing decisions,” said Jan Youtie, a study co-author and manager of policy services in the Georgia Tech Enterprise Innovation Institute. “In the broadest sense, sustainability is about sustaining business, so if manufacturers want to succeed long-term, they need to pay attention to environmental and equity issues, not just economics.”

Manufacturers have long focused on cutting costs through approaches like lean manufacturing, and many companies see sustainability primarily as a way to further those efforts. Such viewpoints may miss important opportunities, Shapira warned.

“Companies continue to focus on near-term cost savings and easily-achievable energy reductions,” he said. “Too few are pursuing the long-term investments in innovation and product lifecycle costing that would help sustain them over the long term.”

Adoption of sustainable techniques varies with the size of companies. “We usually see that large companies adopt new technologies earlier and at a higher rate than small companies, and energy has an inherent scale issue,” Youtie noted. “But there are also benefits for small companies, which can be more agile in adapting to change.”

The 2008 survey is the sixth in the series, and in each edition, manufacturers are asked their top concerns. In 2005, those issues related to process improvement through adoption of lean manufacturing principles. For the 2008 study, those concerns shifted, with a third of manufacturers indicating problems with marketing and sales. Concerns about energy cost grew, with 23 percent of respondents indicating a problem in that area – up from just 10 percent in the 1999 study.

Educational needs also generated attention, with manufacturers concerned about workers having basic skills such as reading and mathematics, as well as more sophisticated technical abilities. Despite the concerns, however, company training investments per employee average only about $150 per year.

The study also found a correlation between the use of public knowledge sources – such as technical or management assistance from Georgia Tech, other universities or public agencies – and higher productivity growth. Companies using outside assistance reported as much as 15 percent more value added for each employee.

And despite its prominence in national public-policy discussions, research and development tax credits were used by only five percent of respondents. This percentage is in contrast to the 45 percent of respondents who said that lack of funds was an important limitation to engaging in innovation.

“Taxes don’t really have a big impact on a company’s strategic decision making,” said Shapira. “If they are doing to do research and development, they’re going to do it regardless. If there are tax breaks available, some companies may apply for them, but we don’t find that the availability of tax credits much affects strategy decisions.”

Support for the study came from the Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership at Georgia Tech, the Center for Paper Business and Industry Services, the Georgia Department of Labor, the QuickStart Program of the Technical College System of Georgia, and Habif, Arogeti and Wynne, LLP. Beyond Shapira and Youtie, authors included Luciano Kay, Ashley Rivera, Bryan Lynch and Andrea Fernandez Ribas.

For more details about the Georgia Manufacturing Survey or to download the 2008 report, please visit (

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