By Chris Eversole
iG 2.0 got off to a thunderous start Thursday, with a packed house at the Santa Fe College Fine Arts Hall responding enthusiastically to a call to action.
The action at hand is to volunteer for task forces planning the second generation of Innovation Gainesville, the four-year-old successful effort by the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce to foster broad involvement in economic development.
Task forces will address some new topics, such as helping “trailing spouses” find jobs, as well as finding new ways to address other challenges, said Chamber President and CEO Tim Giuliani.
In January, iG 2.0 will kick off, moving forward on the task forces’ recommendations, he said.
Two national leaders in economic development and planning for the future inspired and challenged people attending the iG event.
Amy Holloway, president of Austin, Texas-based Avalanche Consulting, reported on her extensive research on the Gainesville economy.
The only hindrance she found is that Alachua County’s population growth is at a standstill and that the community is below the national average in people between ages 30 and 60—creating a shortage of professional and managerial talent.
The list of positive news is longer, she said. It includes:
- The community abounds in assets of all sorts, including educational, research, cultural and business resources.
- The University of Florida is a leader in research and teaching in not only fields such as medicine and engineering but also in agriculture.
- Companies involved in software, biomedical products and other types of innovation are growing rapidly.
- Venture capital investment is increasing.
Wages are relatively low in the county, which is an advantage in attracting new companies but has a downside as well. “We want to bridge the wage gap so that everybody here can prosper,” Holloway said.
As iG moves forward, it needs to continue to promote “collisions,” opportunities for people of various fields to work together, Holloway said. “Things happen organically when you create a healthy competitive environment,” she said.
Rebecca Ryan, founder of Next Generation Consulting of Madison, Wisc., and the author of books about present and future challenges, touted the Gainesville area’s commitment to moving forward in economic development.
The U.S. is in a winter season, hibernating from the downturn in the past few years, she noted. “Gainesville is on the early side in preparing for spring,” she said.
The community can succeed by making the area attractive for college grads to stay and for new people to relocate, Ryan said. “Many people can work from any zip code,” she said. “We have to make them want to choose here.”