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Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership: Leveraging Strengths for a Stronger Future

Charles Shoopman, Assistant Vice President, UT Institute for Public Service

Guest blog post by Charles Shoopman, Assistant Vice President, UT Institute for Public Service

On June 23, 2014 I received a letter officially designating the 69-county, four-state DRIVE! for the Future region as one of the nation’s first 12 Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership (IMCP) communities. Serving as the primary contact person for a public-private partnership effort involving more than 15 organizations, I could hardly wait to send copies of the letter to my colleagues.  After all, we had invested hour after hour in crafting consensus around a shared work agenda and at least grudging acceptance of a narrative describing that agenda in the context of a 35-page proposal (plus appendices!) that was due in Washington, D.C. by April 14, 2014.

Receiving notification of the designation was exciting, but was simply the beginning of a non-stop effort to actually deploy the ideas we had so painstakingly assembled during the January – April proposal development period. In short, receiving the designation didn’t complete anything; we simply were given an opportunity to go do what it was we wrote we wanted to do!

Granted, after investing the energy and effort to develop the partnerships, shared vision, defined work agenda, performance metrics, and a governance structure our partners could agree with, we much preferred to have the IMCP designation. However, our partnership noted that working together to build the proposal we had developed a fact-based plan that needed to be deployed within our region, whether or not we secured the designation as an IMCP community. So, at a minimum, the IMCP solicitation process had motivated us to assemble our team, affirm our shared interests and aims, and develop a written plan to actually accomplish a work agenda that will help citizens throughout our community improve their quality of life and build a more sustainable future.

Since receiving our designation we’ve been able to meet colleagues from across the nation who also are actively working to grow their economies and who are willing to share ideas and lessons learned. We’ve been introduced to federal leaders who’ve become our BFFs in helping us navigate the federal assistance infrastructure, introducing us to potential new allies and funding partners, and serving as our advocates within the federal government in sharing our needs, frustrations and successes. We have launched our efforts to build stronger working partnerships throughout our DRIVE! region that help us more effectively leverage our existing assets while positioning our firms, communities and workers for an even brighter future.  We are proud to be part of a national effort that is actively working each day to help the federal government find innovative ways to more effectively accomplish its work by partnering across agency boundaries, leveraging the strengths of local communities to Invest in Manufacturing Communities Partnerships that get results.

The deadline for round 2 applications is April 1. For more information on how to apply visit:

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