Building an innovation district takes technology and more, a Brookings Institution fellow told a cadre of Carson City leaders Friday.
Jennifer S. Vey of Baltimore, an advocate of overlaying urban technology with collaboration and “connectivity” to build on existing community strengths, called innovation initiatives an effort to capitalize by growing a “convergence economy” in a community and region.
She said where it has worked, people understood building on former industrial and research park models includes a need to see the modern commercial and future-oriented world as open rather than cut off, closed or secretive.
“Now innovation is much more open and much more collaborative,” she said. She said it also must capitalize on millenials and empty-nesters seeing urban environment advantages and moving into core communities rather than sticking with suburban lifestyles.
Technology was a core message, however, as she cited a projection from Enrico Moretto, an economist, one tech job mushrooms into five other jobs in an area. For many in the audience at the Silver Oak Executive Conference Center breakfast gathering — all invited by the Northern Nevada Development Authority (NNDA) — the Brookings’ fellow undoubtedly was preaching to the choir.
Among those on hand was Matt MacRitchie, Chicago-area developer for the anticipated Capitol Mall project planned near the Carson Nugget casino that will include a hotel and technology conference center, along with parking, retail shops and restaurants. Also on hand were Mayor Robert Crowell, City Manager Nick Marano, various Chamber of Commerce representatives, and Don Lehr of Cubix Corp., whose Ormsby House hotel and Ormsby Club are downtown.
Among others in the crowd were Ronni Hannaman and Terrie McNutt, Chamber leadership, along with as former Chamber board heads Stan Jones and Gil Yanuck, as well as Bill Miles of Miles Construction and Mark Beauchamp of Shaheen Beauchamp Builders.
Library Director Sena Lloyd, whose calling card includes tech-savvy approaches, Michael Salogga, city business development manager, Rob Griffin, director of the Adams Hub tech and business incubator, and Miya MacKenzie of the Hop & Mae Adams Foundation also were in the crowd. The foundation has much of the land on which the Capitol Mall project is going and Steve Neighbors, foundation point man, has long advocated tech development.
Rob Hooper, executive director of NNDA and MacRitchie’s co-managing partner in the Capitol Mall project’s limited liability company, introduced Vey. He also followed her remarks by saying Carson City has the building blocks and can leverage them into something like the innovation district model of which she spoke.
In addition to tech, Vey advocates building a connectivity network that includes key people in the region as well as the city.
“You need to overlay this with networking to bring people together,” she said, “creating that network both within the district and outside the district.” She said the path forward includes not only building the tech and people-oriented networks, but knowing who you are as a community and setting your purpose. Goals include growing talent, finding investment capital and promoting an inclusive, equity-driven environment.
An overarching message, she emphasized, was to know yourself and build on that by thinking strategically as a community.
The mayor wrapped up the breakfast session, building on Vey’s connectivity and collaboration themes by warning against “silos” he said can cut people off from each other in the community or region.