I am often asked "How does St. Petersburg compare to other Innovation Districts?" I have visited several Innovation Districts and met virtually with more. Each one is based on the same framework, sometimes explicitly and sometimes by happenstance. But their focus is different. For those that are not contiguous geographies, they are working on place assets - building street by street. For those that are greenfield, their focus is on economic assets - attracting companies to create a community where one did not exist. For those that do not have a strong set of partners, they are emphasizing network assets - bringing together networks of people that have not been in a room together.
We are fortunate that we started seven years ago with a strong foundation. We had place assets (640 acres of south St. Petersburg adjacent to downtown), economic assets (leadership of government, anchor institutions and numerous partners), and network assets (a big small town where we are willing to forge new collaborations and build trust). Our focus has been on the convergence of these assets. To facilitate a flow of new ideas and to encourage transformational solutions that would not exist otherwise. The comparison of Innovation District can be summed up in metrics such as number of new jobs, number of new companies, revenue generated, wage growth, research funding found, etc. I would also argue that there are other metrics that are harder to pinpoint - the change of perception about a community, number of connections that spurred a new opportunity months or even years later, the mindset to take chances with new technology and/or ideas, and the attraction of likeminded talent.
All of this is to say... we still have work to do to strengthen our Innovation District. We will be embarking on a strategic planning effort to set new goals and push ourselves further. I am looking forward to the next stage of this journey!
(This article was first featured in our September newsletter - to subscribe to our monthly newsletter click here)
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