Agenda Framework for Ag-Bio Cluster Leadership Council Meeting on February 8, 2010

On February 8th, Ag-Bio Cluster Leadership Council (ABCLC) members will have a face-to-face session to follow-up on several topics highlighted during their previous meeting.  These items are summarized in the posting, Outcomes of Ag-Bio Cluster Leadership Council Conference Call on January 11, 2010.  Consequently, the meeting on the 8th will focus on:
  • Stakeholder sessions underway in the 16-county Northeast Ohio region
  • Ag-Bio Cluster business case assessment and development
  • Ag-Bio Cluster Community Investment Portfolio (CIP) governance
  • Framework for the Ag-Bio Cluster - Phase 1B proposal
As noted in the "Outcomes..." posting mentioned above, ABCLC members posed a series of questions to guide their thinking in advance of their meeting on the 8th.  Updates related to those queries are as follows:

What does the LC want from the stakeholder sessions and what can attendees expect from their participation?

Overview and expectations were presented in a January 18th posting entitled, What to Expect from Ag-Bio Cluster Stakeholder Sessions.  A session was held on February 1st in Portage County (referenced later in this posting).  Sessions in Ashtabula, Geauga, Lake, and Trumbull counties are scheduled on February 10th and 11th.  Additional sessions are in the works.

Where is an editable, online listing of professional service and resource providers we can engage to assist us in the development of business cases?

In response to a one-time funding opportunity through OSU Extension, Brian Raison convened a group to develop a Signature Program proposal on Local Food Systems.  Their Local Food Systems proposal, submitted on October 31, 2009, was not awarded.  However, through Brian's leadership and the commitment of members of the original group, they continue to meet as a Local Food Systems Team (LFS Team) and identify and pursue opportunities in the development of local food systems throughout Ohio.

It is clear by attending their meetings, referring to their minutes, and reading their commentaries posted to the OSU Faculty and Staff group on that the Extension network, both at the state and national levels, provides access to an exhaustive repository of knowledge and resources about areas of interest to the Ag-Bio Cluster.  There is no need to reinvent the wheel with additional structure, processes, and tools.  The existing ones need to be tapped.

Currently, several LFS Team members have identified resources in Ohio and beyond that can be of assistance in readying Ag-Bio Cluster business cases for funding and launch.  They have posted their results and ongoing updates to the OSU Faculty and Staff group.  With a little persuasion, they can form a public forum on that makes their information more accessible.

Chester Bowling, a Community Development Specialist, gives an example of how supportive OSU Extension is through the Business Ideas comment he made in response to Two Potential Business Cases presented by Maurine Orndorff last November.  Chester is one of many in the OSU Extension network throughout Ohio who can bring their experience, connections, capabilities, and information to bear on business case development within the Ag-Bio Cluster.

How do we fund and staff a full-time person to research grants for which we can apply that support Ag-Bio Cluster business development throughout NE Ohio?

Grant opportunities are readily identified by members of the OSU Extension network.  OSU Extension may be the ideal resource to research grants and assist with the proposals.  There is not a grant opportunity for the Ag-Bio Cluster that is released but what OSU Extension does not know about it and can act upon on.  Why not tap their capabilities?

How do we assure sufficient knowledge transfer in support of rampant business development, e.g. educational curricula and coursework, training modules, and certification procedures?

Earlier this week, Ross MacDonald made an in-depth posting that outlined a Framework for Local Foods Curricula to organize thoughts, plans, and actions concerning education, training, and certification across the local food systems spectrum.  The significance of his framework is that it not only facilitates efforts in local foods systems, it can be easily applied to green energy and distributed manufacturing systems.  In other words, the framework is capable of delivering an educational platform that supports sustainable local economies.  It certainly covers the interests of the Ag-Bio Cluster and fits well in the planning for the Ag-Bio Cluster Phase 1B and Phase 2 proposal.  Please read Ross's posting.

How do we apply the mapping function developed as part of an agroecosystem health index in this phase and what additional analytic features and functionality are important to us in the next phase?

Governor Strickland's State of the State address on January 26th targeted several key opportunity spaces directly in line with the Ag-Bio Cluster agenda.  Certainly, the obvious themes of education, training, business development, and job creation were highlighted.  In addition, though, specific mention was made about agriculture and biosciences with direct references to advanced energy, Ohio-grown and raised foods, biorefineries, and maps of local food systems through the Ohio Neighborhood Harvest initiative.

This may be an opportunity to leverage efforts already underway across the state through task forces chartered by the Ohio Food Policy Advisory Council.  Perhaps the play for the Ag-Bio Cluster is to tie these disparate mapping efforts together into a coherent strategy for Asset-Based Community Development, or local enterprise development, or Local Economic Impact Analysis.  Given the wide range of data layers possible through multiple mapping endeavors, options are wide open to discover opportunity spaces and explore them effectively.

What steps are necessary to charter an Advisory Board (or Review Board) to assess business case submissions, oversee their continued development, load them in the community investment portfolio, and stage them for initial funding and launch?

This question covers considerable territory: governance structure (roles, relationships, and responsibilities), assessment criteria (triage), business development toolbox (applications), and project management (commitment and accountability) as the most obvious.  Others will be considered as we move forward.

One way to approach such a complex field of play is to focus first on the major premise around which the collective effort is organized.  The Portage County stakeholder session held on February 1st offers excellent insight into the challenge at hand.  During the course of the discussion, a clear distinction was made between two very different approaches to building local economies through local food systems, green energy systems, and distributed manufacturing systems.

For some, a local economy is production-centered as represented in the graphic above.  In this model, production is the starting point in the center.  Examples include goat cheese (thanks to Abbe Turner and Lucky Penny Creamery for hosting our session!), lambs for meat, and CSAs.  Output, whether food, water, energy, fuel, or housing and clothing, targets specific market niches among people in the outer ring (the arrows point outward). Output has the option of passing through the steps of processing, preparation, and retail along the way.  The system is designed according to three organizing principles: money rules, keep your business to yourself (the brutal free enterprise system at work), and scale up at every opportunity to extract a competitive advantage.

The alternative local economy is people-centered, as depicted in the graphic above.  In this instance the system starts with people as a market block in the center who, collectively, draw the output of the various systems to them based on satisfying a critical need in the most affordable, convenient, healthy, safe, and secure manner.  In other words, people in a local area become the integrative agents who define the system and bring the elements together on their terms.  This can be as simple as serving a plate of food from local sources, or as complex as manufactured components and assemblies in a major advanced energy installation made in local distributed manufacturing operations.

As an aside, the topic of distributed manufacturing / open manufacturing / desktop manufacturing / do-it-yourself (DIY) manufacturing is generating considerable buzz.  Interest will increase and applications of it will become more widespread due to its strong potential for economic empowerment.  A future posting will cover this topic in more detail, but for information now, please read the February 2010 edition of Wired Magazine and particularly an article entitled "In the Next Industrial Revolution, Atoms Are the New Bits" by Chris Anderson, who coined the phrase, "The Long Tail".

To continue, this concentration of people can be residents in a neighborhood or community, employees at their workplace, students, faculty, and administration at a school or university, or staff and clientele at a medical center.  The point of consumption is the most important because it is here that the person in the middle chooses to purchase from a local source based on affordability, convenience, healthiness, safety, and security.  Once that decision is made, the balance of retail-to-preparation-to-processing-to-production flow is organized in support of the consumer (the arrows point inward).  The resulting consumption-first concept is outlined in more detail in the posting, Another Look at the USDA-SCRI Grant Proposal.  The organizing principles for the system are sustainability (resilience and persistence), openness (development and collaboration), and scope (diversity and variety)

The Portage County stakeholder session also illustrated how markedly different strategies to enact a production-centered local economy are from those used to establish a people-centered local economy.  Production-centered systems, which represent the majority of organization design strategies, strike at the top 10% of the socio-economic pyramid to extract the most revenue.  For this reason, most consumers are priced out of the market.  It is also the reason why competition is so tough among participants in these systems.  So much so, that the higher prices charged to patrons are necessary to subsidize the system overall so that producers can cover their costs.  Otherwise, producers are forced to pursue other forms of subsidy such as grants or gifts.  Despite this, participants in the session were more comfortable staying in this intensely competitive, yet familiar, arena.

The people-centered approach starts with the marketing premise that people, given a viable option to choose a healthier, safer, and more secure alternative without having to compromise affordability and convenience (and taste, in the case of food), will take it.  Another premise is that A system designed with attention to sustainability, openness, and scope can deliver a viable option.  An institution-based local food systems such as the Cleveland Clinic - City Fresh / Cleveland Botanical Garden, or Planet Ohio - Ohio University are examples.  This sets the stage for a business case presented by Steve Fortenberry and Goodness Grows to implement a Workforce Food Center concept, whereby a local food system is designed to serve several hundred employees of a large enterprise at great savings to the employer due to reduced health care costs through healthier food choices for the employees.  Everyone wins.  This business case will be loaded into the Ag-Bio Cluster community investment portfolio from which all can learn and benefit! 

How do we integrate the previous six items into the forthcoming strategic plan of the next phase?

And the answer to this question is informed by what happens in the discussion of those same six--especially the question about starting point and what's in the center!  Let's see how it goes on Monday, February 8th.  Stay tuned...

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 Hi Steve, as you know, we at

 Hi Steve, as you know, we at are excited about the idea of "people centered" approaches (we've worked in the past with David Korten and the "people centered development forum" in fact  :-)  )

Instead of just replying here, you inspired us to create an entire post as a response, and we've posted that here:


Thanks, Steve, Casey, and all of you working on this. It's a really valuable initiative and we hope to become more deeply involved in positive ways.

People-Centered economics

Inspired to find this. We're an organisation called People-Centered Economic Development who advocate for localised sustainable economic development on a global basis. We've been focussed for the past decade on problems in Eastern Europe, since leveraging a poverty relief iniitiative in Russia.

Hope you don't mind my linking to your excellent diagrams which really convey what it means to "place people at the center of business and economics" as we put it.

Jeff Mowatt


As a business owner I prefer

As a business owner I prefer business centered economies, it allows me more opportunities to expand my business on distant markets as well. All I really need to do is to develop good business strategy, then apply for the right AFN fund and I'm good to go!

I read before about this kind

I read before about this kind of trends and I must say that I am looking forward to see their effects on the local economies. There are some interesting reports about future trends in productivity on this weed control Phoenix resource. Serious efforts are being put in improving the quality of our crops, the future decades will bring some important changes in the industry.