America21 highlighted in Forbes by Nortech CEO

INCLUSION: The Missing Link in Economic Competitiveness

By Rebecca O. Bagley
President and CEO, Nortech
Aug. 15, 2012
(See original column in Forbes)

As I continue to engage with companies, universities, government leaders, investors and economic development practitioners in Ohio and across the country, I can’t help but notice the lack of diversity in high growth technology sectors.  How can the U.S. reach its full potential as a global leader in technology and innovation if all citizens do not have the opportunity to participate?

Most economists and experts agree that economic competitiveness is tied to innovative technology development and new product commercialization. Among the challenges inherent in this path is high growth entrepreneurship and access to talent. Creating companies and growing industries that generate jobs, demands exponentially more entrepreneurs and workers who have STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education, high-level training and the corresponding skills to perform in a technology-driven world.


According to the Brookings Institution, on average, U.S. metropolitan regions produce 85 percent of business start-ups; 69 percent of high-growth companies; 81 percent of research and development employment; 96 percent of venture capital; 78 percent of patents; 75 percent of GDP and 68 percent of all jobs.

Although the overwhelming portion of the nation’s innovation assets, jobs and wealth productivity are located in metropolitan areas — where 74 percent of African Americans and 80 percent of Latinos live (who combine to comprise nearly 30 percent of the U.S. population) — today, African and Latino American businesses produce less than three and one-half percent of gross domestic product and create few jobs, averaging less than one employee per business.


At the heart of this issue is Inclusive Competitiveness — the practice of metrics and strategies to improve the performance of diverse populations within innovation ecosystems, emerging industry clusters and other areas critical to economic competitiveness. The concept was developed by Johnathan Holifield, co-founder of The America21 Project, a national initiative connecting African and Latino Americans to the 21st century Innovation Economy, through STEM education, high-growth entrepreneurship and private capital formation and investment.

Holifield is now Vice President of Inclusive Competitiveness at NorTech.


In Northeast Ohio an analysis was recently conducted by PolicyBridge and Cleveland State University (Report: The FUSION OF INCLUSION), which indicates that African and Latino Americans comprise approximately 20 percent of our region’s population. Yet they account for only about two percent of tech-based businesses; slightly more than one percent of sales for technology businesses; less than 10 percent of employees in tech-based industries and less than two percent of our area’s gross regional product.

“The lack of inclusion in technology-intensive, high growth industries is a national issue in America that threatens our ability to be competitive in a 21st century economy,” said Randell McShepard, co-founder of PolicyBridge, and vice president of public affairs of RPM International.

He continued, “In Northeast Ohio, we have taken a bold first step to measure the competitiveness of African and Latino Americans in regional innovation clusters and develop a plan to achieve collective impact on this important issue.”


Read original column at


Our region’s bioscience sector is a good example of the challenge.

“Minorities represent less than 5 percent of the growing biomedical industry workforce,” said Baiju Shah, CEO of Cleveland-based BioEnterprise, a business formation and recruitment initiative designed to commercialize bioscience technologies.

He continued, “We are missing an opportunity to engage minorities in this rapidly growing sector of our economy.”

That’s one of the reasons why BioEnterprise and The America21 Project partnered to produce the nation’s first Minority Biomedical Entrepreneurship Conference (MBEC) this past May in Cleveland. The effort was focused on connecting minority professionals, entrepreneurs, investors, students and industry leaders to engage, network, collaborate and exchange ideas.


Northeast Ohio has incorporated Inclusive Competitiveness into its regional cluster development efforts. The region’s innovation ecosystem is focusing its collective attention on four main areas of Inclusive Competitiveness: employment in technology-based industries; entrepreneurship in high growth areas; engagement with African and Latino Americans; and STEM education.

We recognize that our economic competitiveness depends on a strong, diverse talent base through the full spectrum of entrepreneurs to employees – from entry level to CEO level – and that we must provide more opportunities for minorities to engage and join the 21st century Innovation Economy.

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(Note: Section headers, photos and insertions of some links not part of original column at Forbes)


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3 Responses to “America21 highlighted in Forbes by Nortech CEO”
  1. This kind of reality makes one wonder where common sense has gone. Will do my best to pass this important article on to my network.

  2. Chris Davis says:

    the stats buy cab you tell me how and where I can find the information for the Saint Louis,MO area and how I can contract you to help put something in place if nothing exist.

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  1. | says:

    […] The economic strategy that omits inclusion is unsustainable. That was the formula for getting to this point of economic distress. The industry is now beginning […]

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