Innovation, International Cooperation and the Future of Work Take Center Stage at the 2018 NGA Summer Meeting

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock speaks at the closing plenary of the National Governors Association 2018 Summer Meeting. Bullock serves as 2018-2019 NGA Chair.

WASHINGTON—Last week, 21 governors, their staff, policy experts, international leaders and business executives met in Santa Fe, N.M., for the 2018 NGA Summer Meeting. These thought leaders met for three days, and heard from a diverse set of speakers from all corners of the U.S. and across the globe. This annual meeting featured a series of dynamic plenary sessions, workshops and panel discussions on topics ranging from economic opportunity to health care and the environment to international partnerships and emerging technology.

The first day of the meeting focused on international cooperation. Attendees heard from international dignitaries and economic representatives from China, Japan, Canada and Kenya. The first session, entitled “Rebuilding a Silk Road to Economic Development,” focused on strengthening economic ties between the U.S. and China.

The Summer Meeting also served as the launching pad for a new technology workshop hosted in partnership with NGA Future and the World Economic Forum’s Centre for the 4th Industrial Revolution. This interactive workshop included a mix of discussion and group facilitation focused on the intersection of public policy and emerging technological trends. The session was designed to harness the power of new technology to prepare policymakers for future innovations.

Governors reconvened for an afternoon panel discussion focused on the U.S.-China relationship, which featured representatives from Chinese businesses discussing the importance of trans-pacific economic ties. After a networking lunch, governors and key staff listened to Japanese officials and business executives share best practices on how to access Japanese capital. “Joining with Japan” featured Shinsuke Sugiyama, the Japanese ambassador to the United States, and Kentaro Sonoura, special advisor to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

The International Day of Cooperation on Thursday concluded with two sessions focused on global engagement and infrastructure development. Attendees heard from subnational representatives from Kenya and Canada, in a step toward strengthening bonds between subnational leaders and U.S. governors.

The international theme of the conference culminated on Saturday, with a keynote address from General Secretary Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer of the German Christian Democratic Union. The secretary spoke on the importance of balance, “burden-sharing” and “practical partnerships” with allied countries and states. She also emphasized the critical need for leaders to solve common issues through cross-border collaboration to address challenges such as an aging population, rural connectivity and the future of work.

A pervasive theme throughout the international discussions was the future of technology. Sessions on Friday focused on new ways to harness technology to address workforce challenges. Sessions on automation and robotics were held to educate governors on new technologies and how these innovations will fuel economic growth.

Innovation was the centerpiece of the opening plenary session, where Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval’s annual chair’s initiative, Ahead of the Curve: Innovation Governors, officially came to an end. He announced a new NGA initiative: Smarter States, Smarter Communities, which will kick off with a learning lab in Chicago where representatives from Colorado, New Jersey, Nevada, North Dakota and Virginia will meet to discuss opportunities in energy, transportation, public safety and emergency management.

“This multiyear effort to help states use data analytics, advanced communications networks and connected technologies to improve safety, mobility, efficiency and productivity for the citizens of their states,” Governor Sandoval said during the opening plenary.

Technology was not the only source of economic growth analyzed at the Summer Meeting. Governors explored economic opportunities in arts and culture during a Saturday afternoon session called, “The Intersection Between Arts and Commerce in the States.” During this session, governors spoke with historians and business leaders to learn about the economic promise of investment in culture and art. Sumer Meeting attendees also learned about harnessing the economic power of nature in a session called, “Finding Economic Opportunity in the Great Outdoors.” During this session, Governor John Hickenlooper discussed how outdoor activities supports over 300,000 jobs in Colorado alone.

With economic opportunity at the forefront, workforce development was a hot topic and is also the driving force behind Montana Governor Steve Bullock’s chair’s initiative, Good Jobs for All Americans. The initiative takes a holistic approach to workforce development and elevates proven solutions to contemporary economic challenges. Governor Bullock stressed the importance of governors working together to solve workforce challenges, such as displacement due to technology, demographic changes, shifts in the structure of work and skill discrepancies in workers. “Good Jobs for All Americans represents a collective step in the right direction towards an economy defined by upward mobility and economic success,” Governor Bullock said during the announcement. The initiative will hold three regional workshops during the year in Pittsburg, Las Vegas and Des Moines.

The governors will convene next at the NGA Winter Meeting early next year in Washington, D.C.

For full coverage of the Summer Meeting including videos, photos and news visit the new NGA website.

About NGA

The National Governors Association (NGA), founded in 1908, is the collective voice of the nation’s governors and one of Washington, D.C.’s most respected public policy organizations. Its members are the governors of the states, territories and commonwealths. NGA provides governors and their senior staff members with services that range from representing states on Capitol Hill and before the Administration on key federal issues to developing and implementing innovative solutions to public policy challenges through the NGA Center for Best Practices. For more information, visit