Innovation, Collaboration Thriving

I had lunch with a long-time area resident and former University of Florida employee the other day when the subject of Innovation Square
came up.

He pointed to it as an example of the dynamic change innovation is bringing to Gainesville. While I agreed, I said the new construction and the promise that accompanies it aren’t the most compelling parts of the local story. Rather, it’s the sea change in attitudes among the city’s key players.

Think back a decade to the ways things were in Gainesville: Through regulation and action, city government made clear it saw the business community as an enemy; businesspeople were vehemently opposed to city officials and their “liberal” ways; and the University often operated without much concern for the local community that surrounded it. Now, while there’s still some grumbling around the edges, each of those parties is pretty much working with the other to realize a common goal of building a vibrant and successful local economy that will benefit all of us.

Part of the driver for this newfound cooperation is simply the economy: When you’re in a boat that’s leaking, it makes a heck of a lot more sense to bail together than argue your way to the bottom.

But another major driver is the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce. When chamber leaders decided in 2009 that generating jobs should be one of their top priorities, they started an effort that produced Innovation Gainesville and now all these subsequent offshoots of cooperation.

iG has not yet reached its full potential but it is already clear that it and the chamber’s efforts to improve Gainesville are paying dividends.

Hats off to the chamber and the local volunteers who have contributed to this community-changing effort. Now let’s all pitch in to make sure this spirit of cooperation continues, for it surely is essential to the area’s economic rebirth.

An Advocate for Nonprofits

Speaking of community-changing, there’s a new group in town that may soon lay claim to that title too. Founded in 2010, the Nonprofit Center of North Central Florida has a simple mission: to help charitable groups and other nonprofits become better at what they do so they can serve more people.

To achieve that goal, the Nonprofit Center is starting small by offering programs on such subjects as effective networking, financial literacy, revenue generation and HR management—basically all the issues for-profit business owners have to master to keep the doors open. The Center also wants to promote collaboration among charitable groups so they can share expertise and resources and reduce duplication. And long-term it hopes to become a major advocate and rallying point for nonprofit groups across North Central Florida.

These are ambitious goals, but similar centers already are thriving in Jacksonville and Sarasota. With the leaders and the backing the Nonprofit Center of North Central Florida already has attracted, there’s good reason to believe it will prosper too.

I urge you to visit ncncf.org to learn more about the group, or to attend its first nonprofit summit June 30 from 8am to 4pm at the University Hilton. The focus will be The Spirit of Collaboration: One Sector Together.

I suspect you’ll come away impressed and ready to support this important group.

 

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