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Innovation to Drive Pasadena’s Economic Future

By Andy Wilson — June 24, 2013
Now that we are ready for prime time, I thought it would be valuable to look back on the editorial I wrote for the Outlook more than 6 months ago when we had just kicked-off our planning workshops with Innovation Council Steering Committee (below). Though the name has formally evolved to Innovate Pasadena (ironically a URL that I reserved in August 2012), I think the driving rationale and strategy remains largely in tact. Furthermore we now have active programs underway including Friday Morning Coffee Meet-ups, Tech Sparks social events, bi-monthly Tech Leaders Forum and quarterly special events. I am also struck by the broad-based involvement from our local innovation/start-up community that is well beyond the initial team. While 7 months ago this was just idea, it is clear that we are formally launched and on the pathway to do something wonderful for our community. This is indeed the exciting stage of any start-up! ------------------------------------------------------- Article as published in Outlook on December 13, 2012 ---------------------------------------- Twenty years ago, local preservationists, the City and a wide range of investors led revitalization efforts for Old Pasadena and created an exciting new chapter in the economic evolution of the City. By all measure this work has been a terrific success; marrying thoughtful retail development to historic preservation. Old Pasadena’s renewal clearly elevated our quality of life and the regional stature of our City. Now as we dig out of the “Great Recession” we must again proactively position our city for meaningful and sustainable economic growth and vitality. Innovation was one of the four key areas that was identified in a recent report of Pasadena’s Economic Development Task Force that will foster long-term economic benefit to all. While we value our retail base, it is unlikely to be the economic engine of the 21st century. Fortunately, we have an extraordinarily rich legacy and diverse base of research, invention and innovation as exemplified by leading organizations such as Caltech, JPL, Art Center and Idealab. By organizing and leveraging these valuable building blocks (and others like them), Pasadena can further solidify its role as a prominent hub for technology innovation. As Enrico Moretti states in “The New Geography of Jobs,” while innovation will unlikely be responsible for the majority of jobs . . . it has a disproportionate effect on the economy . . . and has the largest multiplier of all: about three times larger than that of manufacturing. With this objective in mind, a cross section of community leaders from the City, leading educational institutions (initially Caltech, Art Center and USC Marshall), prominent tech entrepreneurs/CEO’s have organized to form the Greater Pasadena Innovation Council. Initially we have established a steering committee (which I co-chair with Mike Giardello) that will develop an innovation strategic plan. Potential recommendations may include the establishment of a physical center as a nexus of innovation activity, the opening of co-working space to house entrepreneurs and small start-up teams and the development of new cross-disciplinary entrepreneurial training programs. The goal of the Steering Committee is to formalize these programs and identify relevant leaders and resources that can help turn these ideas into reality. While we are very grateful for the enthusiastic support of the Mayor and the City, we want to emphasize the organic nature of this effort and the diverse base of support from key institutions and prominent business leaders. As Brad Feld writes in his recent book “Start-up Communities,” future economic growth of cities, regions, countries and society at large is dependent on creating, building and sustaining a fusion of entrepreneurial and creative energy that promotes new ideas. The Innovation Steering Committee realizes that this will be a long-term effort but believes our community has the raw material, foresight and conviction to proactively author its next exciting chapter in its evolution as a world-class city. Feld further states “The most critical principle of a startup community is that entrepreneurs must lead it.”
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