Minister Adrian Taylor is taking on an additional role: leading Innovation Gainesville. But, his mission remains the same.
“As a minister, I understand community, collaboration and inclusion,” said Taylor in commenting of becoming vice president of innovation for the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce.
Taylor, minister of Springhill Missionary Baptist Church, also brings experience as a corporate trainer and manager with IBM and other companies to the chamber position.
In addition to leading iG, the initiative that coordinates the chamber’s efforts to involve people from throughout the community in attracting and retaining business, Taylor will lead the chamber’s regional efforts, which include working more closely with small communities in Alachua County.
Taylor has been involved in iG since it began in 2009. He has served on the chamber’s board of directors, and he wrote the report of the organization’s Transportation Task Force.
Taylor was a natural fit for his new work, said Chamber President and CEO Tim Giuliani. “Adrian will help us transition iG from its grassroots beginnings into an integrated model that will become part of the chamber’s daily operations,” Giuliani said.
“We know from his experience and leadership in the community that he has the right combination of consensus-building and entrepreneurial spirit to advance the vision of iG to build an innovation economy in the Gainesville region.
Taylor discussed his plans with Business in the Heart of Florida.
What attracted you to this role?
Since I have been engaged with the chamber and been a board member, it is a natural transition. It has been exciting to be a part of a community initiative that has successfully focused the energies, passions and efforts of various segments in our community, leveraging our assets.
Were you surprised that the opportunity presented itself?
I was surprised and humbled when Tim approached me to serve in this role. Serving on the board of directors in the leadership line was a challenge, and honor, but it was a shock to be offered a vice president position. I am grateful that Tim saw the potential in me to provide impact in this part of the organization.
What accomplishments of iG do you want to build on?
iG does a great job in connecting various groups together in a collaborative way to address long term-strategic initiatives for our community and region. The initiative has also been a great branding tool that has benefited our region, including businesses and people who were not directly involved in the iG planning, implementation or financial investment.
I’ve been amazed to travel across the country for meetings and conferences, unrelated to chamber business, and still meet people who ask how we “pulled it off.” We’ve built a great platform with iG, yet the challenge remains in drilling down to average people in the community and getting their buy-in that they, too, have a contribution to make to the ecosystem in Gainesville and the surrounding areas.
iG is not just for startups, entrepreneurs and IT professionals. It is, rather, a paradigm shift in realizing that every person in our community is a vessel for innovation. We want to enable our workforce to begin to identify new career opportunities, seek certifications and trainings and prepare for growing economic sectors.
What new initiatives do you and the chamber leadership have in mind?
First, new people. We want to figure out how we can incorporate a new groups of people affected by the iG initiative. We will work to ensure that there are substantive job opportunities to assimilate trailing spouses into our economy.
Second, new partners. We want to connect unusual public-private partnerships. One example is a partnership in which IT technicians and farmers together are developing new production methods.
Third, new professions. We envision creating a new category of workers in the innovation ecosystem that will help fill our talent gaps.
Why is your role as coordinating “regional” chamber activity focused on involving the small towns important?
Collaboration is what made iG so powerfully unique. We do not look at the outlying municipalities as small, but rather as essential partners in building a strong and competitive innovation economy.
We regard our partners as critical players in helping increase our appeal to national and international firms. In addition, regional collaboration is essential to addressing the needs of local businesses wanting to expand their physical presence.
How do you see iG and the chamber helping spread the benefits of attracting new companies to people with low incomes and low levels of training?
Our work means a greater diversity of employers and increased wages. Increasing the amount of money in the economy will, in time, naturally create opportunities that were not present. As we continue attracting new companies and growing local companies, there will be more opportunities for career advancement. The workforce will evolve with people obtaining certifications in the target fields.