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Clusters on the Brain

Want to create local innovation clusters?

While there is still much debate about cities’ ability to create clusters, Vivek Wadhwa of Duke University’ s Center for Entrepreneurship and Research Commercialization says the answer is to invest in people not real estate.

In this recent op-ed in The Chronicle of Higher Education, he shares his short list on boosting entrepreneurship and innovation:

  • Remove the cultural stigma associated with failure.
  • Teach entrepreneurship to everyone – students and experienced workers.
  • Import skilled immigrants.
  • Create connections among people locally and globally.
  • Improve the local education system.
  • Reward university researchers for creating start-ups and jobs instead of for publishing papers and giving talks.
  • Invest in networks.
  • Link university researchers to entrepreneurs and generate opportunities to exchange ideas.

A recent analysis of Portland’s athletic and outdoor cluster released by Portland Development Commission may also shed light on clusters.

Joe Cortright, a collaborator on the study says:

“The athletic and outdoor cluster is remarkable for many reasons. The jobs in Portland are at the apex of a global industry. Firms in the industry depend heavily on the local talent base, which is producing entrepreneurs and spinoff firms, and also attracting businesses…

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A Kickstart For New Ideas

If your entrepreneurs and creative communities are looking for alternative funding models, here’s a site that offers itself as a platform for funding new endeavors for artists, designers, musicians, filmmakers, journalists, inventors, explorers and more.

Kickstarter taps into ideas of crowdsourcing as a means of funding “creativity and ambition”, in the belief that:

  • A good idea, communicated well, can spread fast and wide.
  • A large group of people can be a tremendous source of money and encouragement.

People can pitch their big idea, request support and offer benefits in online profiles where others can browse these big ideas and pledge a contribution if they wish.

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The Sticky City

We had the pleasure of curating a panel on talent retention at the Council on Foundations' community foundations conference earlier this month. Framed by the Talent Dividend, The Sticky City conversation focused around creating distinctive places, fostering entrepreneurship, connecting talent in place and messaging with authentic voices.

Here are some big ideas that came out of the session:

Eric Avner of Haile/US Bank Foundation in Cincinnati:

  • If you're hemorraghing smart people it is really difficult to do an economic development strategy. 
  • Building a perception of opportunity is so important to cities. (Check out the Ignite Fund in Cincinnati.) 
  • Cities need distinctive places where the talent you want can say, "I see my people here."
  • There are stickier parts of every region. Recognize and amplify them.

Helen Johnson of CreateHere in Chattanooga:

  • Don't underestimate good design and good voice to accompany it in selling cities.
  • Key is retention, then attraction follows.
  • Google your city.  Populate the web with what is authentically yours.

Todd Hoffman,…

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City Tours for Tots

Entrepreneurs are capitalizing on the natural advantages cities offer to kids.  Urban Baby Tours, highlighted in this Pop City article, offers walking tours that explore all the city of Pittsburgh has to offer for parents and their little ones.  What a great ambassador for downtown family living.  My guess is that once parents see all the free amenities the city has to offer their kids - fountains, galleries, parks, people-watching - they'll be back for more...and maybe to stay.

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More on Portland

Joe Cortright, senior advisor to CEOs for Cities, took the day off yesterday to show me two extraordinary streets in his hometown of Portland -- Mississippi and Alberta.  They are both reflections of Portland's entrepreneurs at work, curating their small retail collections,  inventing new restaurant concepts, providing charming places to hang out.  (I'm not sure how people manage to hang out in neighborhood coffee houses throughout the morning or take the dogs for a skateboard run, but I'm jealous.)  Everywhere you look in Portland, there are signs of people inventing their lives.  Not only does it make for interesting shopping and wonderful neighborhood walks, it also reminds you that you are not limited by what others make or prescribe for you.  You (and certainly these entrepreneurs) are in charge.

Joe's report for us, Driven to the Brink, shows a link between housing values and distance from the CBD.  It suggests that as gas prices rise, our housing investments will be more secure if we can reduce the number of car trips. The clearest path to that is dense, mixed use neighborhoods served by transit. 

If we are to have mixed uses closer to home, America will have to re-learn…

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