Innovation is the future

13 Jan

Yesterday I attended an event hosted by The Tomorrow Plan. I had never heard of the group but was invited by some YPC-types so I figured it would be good networking (and a chance to check out the recently renovated World Food Prize headquarters). The topic was ”what it means to live in a regional city” with speakerBill Fulton, former mayor of Ventura, Calif. who now works with Smart Growth America.

The hour-long presentation turned out to be very interesting and served as an affirmation of what my employer, StartupCity (as well as the entire tech community in Des Moines) is doing.

“The jobs that will drive your community into the future are not routine, ordinary jobs,” Fulton said. “The way you are going to compete is by encouraging people to bring creativity and innovation to everything they do everyday. The people who drive the new economy are not people who want to spend their weekends driving a lawnmower.” Hallelujah!

Fulton’s speech was focused on how changing demographics will affect city planning. Suburban sprawl is likely to become a thing of the past, he said, as Baby Boomers retire and seek walkable communities and as Millennials continue to favor urban dwelling over cookie-cutter lifestyles. Quality of place and sense of community will continue to be important to the next generation of workers. If a city is to survive and thrive in the next century, it must address those desires, not just in housing options but also in the types of jobs available.

Fulton’s discussion had me beaming with pride for the Des Moines tech community (StartupIowa, the businesses that make up Silicon Sixth AvenueSilicon Prairie NewsTechnology Association of Iowa, and so many more). We are creating exactly what Fulton has prescribed for the future growth—a sense of place.

While everyone I meet in the local startup scene is fiercely competitive (that’s one key element of the entrepreneurial spirit, after all), they are also incredibly encouraging of each other. Everyone is quick to offer advice, connect people, share resources, and promote each other. They are protective of this community that is being built—unwilling to let anyone plant a treacherous seed that could fracture the solidarity.

I strongly believe that the continued effort to create a solid tech startup scene in Des Moines will serve to make the city stronger and the kind of city that Fulton believes will grow in the future.

Unfortunately, the audience at the event yesterday was heavily weighted toward the public sector. To succeed in its mission, The Tomorrow Plan must involve the private sector as well. Clearly, we know how to make things happen!

To learn more about The Tomorrow Plan, attend its first public meeting on Jan. 31 from 6-7:30 pm at the Eastside Senior Center. Conveniently, the event starts immediately after the city’s first Startup Fair.

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