Friday, August 8, 2014

WISCONSIN, Eau Claire - The Accidental Innovaton District???

Sure, Eau Claire Wisconsin might look like a typical midwestern city of 65,000 with a branch of the University of Wisconsin campus.  

But visit. (these folks will help you plan a visit) Talk to the fans of the champions and you will get a strange sense that something very special is taking shape in Eau Claire.

Eau Claire will be cooler than Austin soon. 

Eau Claire has an impressive healthcare industry, a vibrant music scene, TWO gracious rivers, an authentic downtown, an enlightened redevelopment authority, a big time software company, performing arts, a delightful farmer's market, and more craft beers at brew pubs imaginable. 

The champions? Young and smart. Passionate and dedicated to Eau Claire's potential as a fantastic livable place. Hear the commitment in their voices.

The Confluence™ happening in Eau Claire is more than a development project. It is a confluence of intentions of champions and droves of Eau Claire supporters including city personnel, town fathers, UW-EC alumni, business leaders, and visionary citizens. Read THIS

You can't go pubbing or shopping in Eau Claire without crossing paths with fans of those three champions. Stop in The Local Store at Volume One and chat with Bonni Knight, a former high school teacher and you will soon understand why people are moving to Eau Claire and are so enthusiastically supporting their town's evolution. 

Two other metrics revealed the DNA of Eau Claire; the compassion of a city can be reflected by their public civility and generosity

Through casual conversations I had with strangers on the streets there were undeniable clues Eau Claire has a long history of compassion. They told me the warm story of the Hmong inclusion of the 1970s and current embracing of the 1,500 Hmong descendants. And several people made sure I knew about the places where a homeless person could get a good meal. Both of these stories show a civic pride in the compassionate culture of Eau Claire. 

Public civility is easy to measure as a woman wandering solo through a new place (and even pubbing alone); citizens were always appropriately friendly, respectful, and genuine. 

Another feature of personal civility I noticed was a playful willingness to connect. Each time I told someone that I was visiting from Oklahoma, they made a huge effort to connect with my home state even though it was obvious tourists from Oklahoma are rare in Wisconsin. Rare but very welcomed.

Jay at Ray's Place has a famous horsetrading uncle in Oklahoma. The bartender at the Red Room has a former roommate attending OU. Vickie's friend Peggy, a retired nurse, has a daughter and son-in-law pursuing a doctorate at OU. This tells me citizens of Eau Claire invest in strengthening new relationships, the mark of a city wanting to knit together pieces. It is also an indicator of the cities openness to experience scale

Is an innovation district right for Eau Claire? Maybe. That is their business, literally.

But it is a topic for them to explore. 
And the best place to do that is at the beginning of this blog on page 1.

By collaborating with the university the private downtown developers can provide student housing, students provide economic patronage, and tech transfer provides research to entrepreneurial ventures. Every university is a potential pipeline of interns and inventions.  The innovation district playbook is the guide for how a university can play in a new sandbox off-campus. 

Branding a geographical area as an innovation district is a public declaration of sustainable economic development capable of attracting those with similar intentions. 

Why do I refer to Eau Claire as an "accidental innovation district?" 
Consider the local champions: a publisher, a software inventor, a musican. All creative endeavors. They are so CREATIVE, in fact, they couldn't be anything else other than innovators. They want a cool quality of life to be the defacto experience in Eau Claire.

They don't innovate on purpose, but their innovation contribution isn't really a random accident either. Innovators innovate out of absolute alignment with their core selves. They are people with a sincere desire to improve the world for themselves and others. 

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