Emerging areas of innovation across the country and the world are in part a recognition that close physical collaboration can nurture creativity. Putting people with an exploratory mindset together in a narrow urban block dedicated to inspiration, imagination and innovation is just genius. It can foster the kinds of formal and informal communications that spark great ideas and pioneering movements.
Ask random respondents to name some areas of innovation, and their ideas are more likely to gravitate toward coastlines. San Francisco, Seattle, Boston, and Brooklyn will likely be named before other cities. But with innovation zones scattered across the country, the heart of America proves that there is no let up in attracting the resources, companies, and technology infrastructure needed to lure talent into their creative zones.
Want examples? Citing Cincinnati, many will likely picture a huge soap company, a giant grocery chain, or even a quintessentially hot pepper. But the old riverfront city of Ohio last year officially launched the Cincinnati Innovation District (CID), a partnership that includes Ohio Governor and Deputy Governor Job Oyo, the University of Cincinnati and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. As envisioned, CID will serve as a springboard to help companies of all sizes – including giants P&G and Kroger – attract talent and forge partnerships that accelerate innovation.
David J. Adams, Executive Director of CID notes, as more well-known innovation centers gain traction, “What is really important is that we maintain and grow the talent base not only here in Cincinnati, but throughout the heart of the region . . . at the pace of change, We seek to enhance the ability of skills to adapt to the ever-changing technologies of the world. An interdisciplinary research institute like the Digital Future Complex that we are building here in the region will help drive this digital transformation.”
In Fort Wayne, Indiana, Hoosier’s second largest city, a huge industrial campus that formerly housed General Electric employed up to 40 percent of the city’s workers. Today, in one of the largest development developments in the Midwest, it is being transformed into a 1.2 million square foot, 18-building, mixed-use innovation district. The campus will include a STEAM school, co-working spaces, a dining hall, a farmers market, and eventually residences. The first phase of the multi-phase project on the southwest edge of the revitalized downtown is due for completion next fall.
Indiana’s largest private company, Do it Best Corp., will move its international headquarters to Electric Works at that time. Dan Starr, the company’s CEO, says the move “will allow for continued growth and position us to provide the best possible service and support to independent home improvement businesses around the world.”
“The electrical business is a unique and transformative project. We believe that moving our global headquarters there will give Do it Best a competitive advantage as we retain our roots in the community we have called back home for 75 years.”
In Houston, Texas, a former six-story corporate building owned by Sears has been repurposed into The Ion. Objective: To attract the city’s academic, corporate, and entrepreneurial leaders into the 266,000-square-foot structure, where collaborative spaces and programs have been created with the idea of stimulating innovation. Halfway on Houston’s four-mile Innovation Corridor, The Ion will house an incubator space, playing a vital role in the 12-city Innovation District.
Jean E Odegaard, CEO of Aeon, noted that Houston has always been seen as a destination in energy, cancer treatment, and aerospace. “But then, Houston was not seen as a destination for technology and innovation,” he notes. This region has a primed ecosystem for startups and innovation, but it has not been perceived in this way. Ion was created to raise awareness and provide a central location for strategic partners geographically spread over a large area.”