Why Hartford, CT, Is a Rising “Knowledge Capital”

October 25, 2016

2:30 pm

Successful entrepreneurial ecosystems generally have three common attributes:

  1. Quality Talent
  2. Access to Capital
  3. High Education

Recently, the Brookings Institution released a report, “Redefining Global Cities,” that classified Hartford as a “knowledge capital,” putting it in the same class as regional leaders aspire to be, namely, Austin, Boston, San Francisco, Seattle and Atlanta.

So What Are Knowledge Capitals?

Brookings defines knowledge capitals as:

“19 mid-sized, highly productive innovation centers in the United States (e.g. Boston, Dallas, San Jose, Seattle, etc.) and Europe (e.g., Amsterdam and Zurich) with talented workforces and elite research universities. These regions are at the world’s innovation frontier, and thus challenged constantly to generate new knowledge and ideas to sustain growth.”

In the report, Brookings, found Hartford surpassed some larger cities in the value of what its workers create and the number of patents they’re awarded. Hartford is a high production region, which is important because Hartford is the smallest urban area of the 19 knowledge capitals.

Hartford’s GDP per capita of $84,029 sets the region apart. In fact, only Silicon Valley has a higher GDP per capita than the greater Hartford area. The value of what workers produce, which compares GDP per worker, also helps Hartford compare to other knowledge capital peers. The average value produced per worker in the Hartford region is $158,428, which places Hartford 4th among other knowledge capital cities.

Hartford Pulls Its Weight

Joseph Parilla, co-author of the report, noted that Hartford has been extremely innovative (particularly in the aerospace sector) without proximity to many world-class educational institutions or access to venture capital. Hartford is weak in foreign investment and venture capital.

Brookings says that metro areas like Hartford need to develop strategies that ensure the competitiveness of its key industries, such as better coordination among educational institutions, training and mentor programs and engagement with corporations. For example, knowledge centers engage firms as critical drivers of prosperity and competitiveness. The reason that Charlotte, N.C., a city that Hartford has repeatedly lost jobs to, is only considered a ‘middleweight,’ and not a knowledge capital, is because more of its economy serves its own local region. The Hartford region exports more of its products, whether insurance or aircraft engines, outside Connecticut.

Parilla notes Hartford’s inclusion on the knowledge center list “really is this acknowledgment that a small place, but with a couple of very significant specializations” can be a significant player on the world stage.

Overall, the classification as knowledge capital means Hartford continues to make strides to engage local talent and demonstrate an opportunity to build a sustainable company in the area.

Image: Wikimedia


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Joel Whipple works to help businesses grow. Joel balances an understanding of entrepreneurship and digital media to help companies identify, develop and leverage an engaged audience.

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