The start of a new year is always a time to take stock of our lives and to look forward to what we hope to accomplish. For many people, 2020 was a time of loss. The COVID pandemic has cost lives, health, jobs, and opportunity. Our freedom of movement and to spend time with family, friends, and colleagues was curtailed.
At IC2, we looked for opportunities beyond the clouds as we continued to study and develop programs around the economic challenges faced by small communities. Our second cohort of Home to Texas students did their internships in 9 regions throughout Texas. We launched the Regional Economic Recovery Initiative in which student researchers analyzed the challenges and opportunities in over 70 communities. That led gracefully into Regional XLR8 where over 150 leaders went through a strategic planning process for future economic development. Our second George Kozmetsky Memorial Student Challenge allowed student teams to compete for prizes solving real problems submitted by participants in Regional XLR8.
Much as we all hoped that flipping the calendar from 2020 to 2021 would lead to an immediate shift in the world situation, we know that change comes slowly. With the hope of a vaccine on the horizon, we can see the light at the end of the COVID pandemic tunnel. Events at the start of this year have highlighted the deep political divisions in this country.
We look forward to a year of continued research and engagement to help rural regions and small communities to thrive. In addition to refining the efforts we began last year, we aim to better understand ways that infrastructure improvements can benefit economic development. We plan to illuminate how regions can be turned into neighborhoods by developing trusted networks that allow people to work across communities to take advantage of new opportunities. We will support a new round of research projects by the great faculty at the University of Texas. And we will continue to expand the number of students we engage in research projects and programs like Home to Texas. Indeed, in a few months we will reach beyond UT to organize the first interscholastic pitch competition that we’re calling March Economic Madness.
We appreciate your interest and engagement in our activities. We invite you to find ways to participate in our efforts in the coming year.
I hope that 2021 is a safe, healthy, and prosperous year for you and all your loved ones.
Art Markman, Executive Director, IC2 Institute