Sometimes public-sector CIOs can play a role in breaking down geographic barriers to economic development. One example is the Chesapeake Crescent Innovation Alliance, an effort to link businesses with valuable university research resources in Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C.

The university alliance was formed in June 2008 to examine areas of potential cooperation in regional centers of excellence, entrepreneurial development and early-stage investment involving the University of Virginia, Virginia Tech, George Mason University, The George Washington University, the University of Maryland and Johns Hopkins University.

"We realize that traditional lines that separate governments may not match with the innovation economy," explained Aneesh Chopra, Virginia's secretary of technology. When corporations determine where to locate a facility, research capacity can be key. For instance, Chopra said Virginia's success in attracting a Rolls Royce jet engine manufacturing facility was enhanced by advanced manufacturing research centers on its public university campuses that are about 100 miles away from the manufacturing site.

"If that research facility 100 miles away is important, it is silly to restrict those development efforts to research just available in Virginia," he said. "If a Johns Hopkins biotech researcher can help a company locating here, we want to help them make that connection. So we are finding a way to stitch together the economic prospects of these six major research universities with more than $1 billion in research and development funding."