The case for growth centers: How to spread tech innovation across America?

Brookings and Information Technology and Innovation Foundation published a new report that looks at the deep digital divide that is created by the industry across the country.  The report argues that the innovation sector has created ‘superstar’ metropolitans where technology gains, wealth, and talents are accumulated which adversely impacts the superstar areas as well as the areas left behind. It calls for federal intervention to transform a short list of “heartland” metro areas with compelling strengths into self-sustaining “growth centers” that will benefit entire regions. Some of the key findings of the report are: a) regional divergence has reached extreme levels in the U.S. innovation sector, b) such high levels of territorial polarization are now a grave national problem, c) markets alone won’t solve the problem; place-based interventions will be essential in ameliorating it, d) the nation should counter regional divergence by designating eight to 10 new regional “growth centers” across the heartland, and e) numerous metropolitan areas in most regions have the potential to become one of America’s next dynamic innovation centers. To bridge the digital divide, the report posits two main recommendations: 1) assemble a major package of federal innovation inputs and supports for innovation-sector scale-up in metropolitan areas not near existing tech hubs; and 2) establish a competitive, fair, and rigorous process for selecting the most promising potential growth centers to receive the federal investment.