I often assign articles for my students to read to augment their text books- but more importantly to provide some real world context to the lessons.  We were discussing the idea of globalization and how technology has impacted economic development so I assigned Richard Florida’s “The World is Spiky” from the The Atlantic. http://www.theatlantic.com/past/docs/images/issues/200510/world-is-spiky.pdf

In recent years, there have been a tremendous number of conversations around Thomas Friedman’s “The World is Flat”; the idea that technology has leveled the playing field for emerging economies and talented professionals around the globe. But it leaves out one very important ingredient. A community of innovation.

As Richard Florida points out- growth and development is happening in concentrated areas; areas that have a reputation for being on the cutting edge of industry innovations. These areas attract talented professionals. These areas attract companies that benefit from that talent pool.  These areas attract financial companies looking to invest into new product developed by that talent and those companies.  And the community of learning begins to form.

So the question for local communities is how to create that same model on a local municipal level.  What comes first the reputation or the innovation?

I would argue the first step is the intention.  Communities that set out to become the definitive source for ( fill in the blank.) Communities that set up a environment that supports that industry- through policy, through education, through community service organizations, etc.  By intentionally creating a environment that is conducive to that industry on an educational, social and governmental level.

There are several examples of communities who have create technology centers to create  a learning environment area software development. Creating a community that wil attract talent, financing and resources in a synergistic model of innovation; A community of perpetual brainstorming and product development.

Local communities from Elgin to Genoa have small community groups who are creating  a model of economic development utilizing the resources that are readily available and a very narrow theme to build upon. The Elgin Technology Center is a non for profit organization with the goal of attracting 115 technology focused business to the Elgin community by 2015.  One of the decisions of the groups is to provide a technology center for professionals to gravitate towards- to share ideas, develop partnerships, brainstorm with technical experts, and surround themselves with like minded professionals with the affordable office space, networking events and educational seminars. There is even free WI-FI.


EVERY community can brand themselves as the definitive place for something. Whether it is technology, medical manufacturing,active outdoor living or vintage clothing… communities need to identify the idea, add some innovation, develop an implementation strategy and engage their community.

Recalibrate your community for the future. It all starts with an idea and a group of committed people. Let’s get started.