March 22, 2004

Digital Corridor partners with Case Western Reserve

Sarah Moise  /  CRBJ

As it continues to roll out a series of dramatic new initiatives, the Charleston Digital Corridor has announced the formation of a partnership with the Center for Regional Economic Issues at Case Western Reserve University in Ohio.

Case Western's REI has a national reputation as a leader in producing actionable information, insights and initiatives for regional economic development. Its executive director is Edward F. Morrison, author of the recently released comprehensive economic strategy for the CharlesĀ­ton region.

"The partnership will allow the growing entrepreneurial community to share resources and information and embrace new strategies," says Ernest Andrade, director of the Charleston Digital Corridor.

The corridor has been focused on diversifying Charleston's economy with high-wage, knowledge-based employment opportunities, and Andrade says that REI's tools will provide more stimulation in the area's economic development sector. "REI is monitoring the economic situation both nationally and internationally, so we stand to benefit locally. The dynamics of the global economy require us to think and act differently," he says.

The Center for Regional Economic Issues is developing new Internet-based tools to facilitate community collaboration, according to Morrison. "Part of the challenge in economic development now is extending public participation in making economic development decisions."

Morrison believes that the Internet allows the building and management of relationships and knowledge. "We're moving into an age of network capitalism. The tools that we're creating facilitate the building and development of these networks," he says. "The way to diversify the Charleston economy is to strengthen the network of entrepreneurship and innovation. And we need to provide the infrastructure, because we can't just talk about it-we have to do it."

When Morrison worked on the first report for Charleston in 2002, he used an Internet interviewing technology that allowed over 300 interviews with Charleston-based business executives in the tri-county region, exploring in depth their attitudes toward economic development. "That's a good example of one of these tools, and we have several others in the process of being developed," he says.

REI will offer these tools to enable the Charleston Digital Corridor to launch Internet-based interviews as well as provide an Internet platform to conduct online conferences. "And we will provide the Digital Corridor with a new tool to understand social networking," Morrison adds. I

n return, the Digital Corridor will be one of Case Western's partners in evaluating their Internet tools and work with the school in their deployment. "Case Western gets a real life market tester. Working with Ernest, we're going to be able to take some of these leading edge tools and refine them in practical settings," says Morrison.

Andrade has already identified some practical uses for REI's networking technology. "One of the things we're proposing to incorporate into the initiative is "Fridays at the Corridor," where we create an interactive environment for our companies. They can meet other companies and present to interested parties on relevant technical issues. Companies can demonstrate products and benefit from an "Entrepreneur-in-Residence" initiative we will soon roll out."

Charleston Mayor Joseph P. Riley, Jr. applauded the partnership with the Weatherhead School, citing the Digital Corridor's collaborative nature as being responsible for its continued success. "In the 21st century, we will build on our exceptional physical environment to ensure that we can compete in today's world market."