Kara Swisher, the doyenne of technology, recently interviewed entrepreneurs in Indiana about what makes the Midwest so special (brainpower), why the rest of the country should pay attention (special knowledge of certain industries needed to solve some of the biggest problems of our time), and what Midwesterners can do better to grow prosperous economies (position for innovation).
Setting an intentional economic development strategy and promoting the hell out of your creative industries are best practices other mid-markets can learn from. While neither Austin nor Nashville are perfect, both cities took early leaps into investing in talent recruitment and retention— and as a result, got a good start on other cities just now getting serious about the future.
We’re in conversations right now with some cities struggling to determine whether or not investments in the innovation economy are too risky, or if the change in patterned behavior will be too disruptive. Some cities struggle with competing political interests. While these cities debate and postpone commitment, other cities are eating their lunch, investing big in innovation because they know the ROI will be exponential. Chicago is the latest city to get on the innovation bus. A new $500M public-private investment will (conservatively) create 48,000 “new economy” jobs over the next decade, 27,000 support jobs and help 23,000 people get better jobs. Kudos to Gov. Pritzker, DPI and others for taking the hard, risky leap into the future. Chicago will put itself on the map again because of investments like these while others languish and get left behind.
The World Economic Forum recently released a report re: the fastest growing occupations. Which rank at the top? Artificial Intelligence specialists, medical transcriptionists, data scientists, customer success specialists and full stack engineers.
Reinvention is a long game. Rushes to find partners, make commitments, or set trajectories will be met with certain failure.
Cluster strategies don’t always apply. Leveraging a market’s natural strengths makes sense for some, but not all markets in the middle U.S. Strengths in declining industries don’t always translate into success in innovation ecosystems, so new strengths must be imported and built. Place matters. I know we’ve all heard this, but it can’t be repeated enough. Next-gen workers rate environment much higher than former generations. Catering to their needs is not optional.
No One Can Do It Alone is Cortex’s slogan and its rung in my ears for weeks. Single entities (municipalities, universities, corporates) who have invested independently of one another in innovation efforts are already finding the error of their ways. While it’s understandable—this is a new game after all—institutions becoming inter-dependent will become the new skill, art, and key to success.
While St. Louis folks will tell you they’re still fighting for more growth, more inclusive prosperity, declining populations, and unequal access to education, they’ll also tell you there’s never been a better time to be in St. Louis. I would have to agree. To be affiliated with a project that has, against all the odds, made such progress in such a short amount of time tells me the flywheel is spinning and the future super bright. Kudos to the unsung innovation superheroes of St. Louis, Missouri.