Financial Advisors

Celebrating a Tampa Bay Innovation District

Tampa Bay skyline
Credit: Adobe

There was a celebratory gathering recently in northern Tampa on the University of Florida (USF) campus that deserves wider attention. The Innovation Gathering event held a few weeks ago was Tampa Innovation Partnership’s signature annual event created to call attention to innovation in the area and their accomplishments toward the growth of a concerted innovation district there. Known as Tampa !p, the organization’s efforts have successfully turned their local community – with diverse industry clusters of technology, health care, education and entertainment - into one of Tampa Bay’s technology hubs and major startup business incubators.

The evening vividly and impressively showcased the remarkable ability of individual leaders in a neighborhood to build and nurture community collaboration and innovation development. By creating a unifying vision for the growth of the region, they were able to jointly determined $11.3 billion in annual potential economic impact for their 19-square-mile business region. This active working relationship was exhibited by key partners speaking from the University of South Florida (USF), Hillsborough County, the City of Tampa, the state of Florida, and the private sector about their enthusiastic commitment to help leverage the strengths of “Uptown Tampa” for the purpose of driving Florida’s innovation economy and creating high-wage jobs.

After an intensive hour of networking and local “Taste of Uptown” eatery noshing, here’s a brief overview of key remarks from some of the speakers:

Organized Innovation

“This is about all of us coming together with a collaborative set of guiding principles and vision that is going to be able to lift up this area for everyone. That’s what is important. I’m looking forward to that collaborative partnership.” - Jane CastorTampa Mayor

 “This collaboration across institutions is what we see when we look at other regions that are mature ecosystems at commercializing technology. This is what we call orchestrated commercialization through organized innovation. We as leaders can create the organizational conditions where innovation flourishes… a lot that has to do with network dynamics. This is where great things happen in networks and events like this tonight. It’s about the connectivity and the ideas among us that develop out of our interactions. What we can do as leaders in this innovation network is to help co-ordinate this network and orchestrate this commercialization process.” - Steve Currall, USF President

Social Change and People

To highlight that this economic development is as much social as business oriented, special recognition was given to leaders of The Community Enrichment Labs (cel) whose goals are to make sure that residents and the human element stays a major part of the area’s growth agenda:

“There is a tremendous amount of procedural, tactical, political actions needed to get this point. But, most important and exciting is the social. There are right here, around us, problems worth solving. There are people who need lifting up.  There are great ideas and innovations, phenomenal institutions and innovators, we can connect and put them to work all around us. We can connect all the pieces that are here in the most meaningful and impactful way so we can fill the gaps and fulfill the social potential of the area.” -  Shilen Patel, Chairman, Community Enrichment Lab

“Everybody has an agenda - it is human nature - but we have to find the common ground to move forward together. It is important to note, even in today’s immediate digital world, that this is a long time process. But, we are seeing tangible change especially when you realize that human relationships are key - that’s what brings fuel to the fire. It is an openness to anything and everything that creates place making and opportunity and buzz.  When great institutions and people come together, you can do amazing things.” – Christian Leon, Executive Director, Community Enrichment Lab

An Extremely Practical and Do-able Process

Let me emphasize that this strategic community building endeavor is no “pie in the sky”, half-baked exercise. It is firmly grounded in the real world and rapidly becoming an integral part of the new cross-industry business operating environment of accelerating change.  All industries, especially financial services, should take note that dynamically partnering with your community should be part of every firm’s business model. It positions your firm and your thinking at the speed of change, helps you be part of the change around you, and ensures you remain relevant with rapidly evolving competition and client expectations. While it entails time and effort, the actual process to develop this new business dynamic in your community is not rocket science. Guidance provided by leaders in the Tampa Bay effort underlines how the process is eminently doable!

“We are celebrating the spirit of the Innovation partnership. A lot of great things that happen in innovation are about dot connection. It isn’t really more complicated than that. It’s set up your environments to connect and the more dots you connect, the more wonderful it is. It’s an incredible process…we are all part of helping to create an innovation movement.”  - Chris Bowen, Tampa !p Board Chairman and (Chief Development Strategist for RD Management – owners of the University Mall property)

“One of the first things I started doing from the beginning of this effort was to ask “Who are the people behind these great companies in our area? Moffitt Cancer Center? Yuengling brewery?  MOSI? Advent Health? That’s how this organization works. I said how do we talk to these guys and someone said I know somebody that may know them. We called and setup an appointment and then shared with them the vision for the area. Most thought about it and wound up agreeing that they also wanted to do something big and joined the growing innovation district. We now have 230 diverse members as partners and… It all started with a conversation!” - Mark Sharpe, Executive Director Tampa Innovation Partnership

A Call to Action

The Institute believes that reporting on regional innovation efforts, such as Tampa !p, is an important heads-up for the financial services industry. These regional innovation districts and initiatives are emerging and at different stages of development all across this county. Successful efforts clearly illustrate how regional innovation and economic development can be proactively developed and energized by business leaders with vision.  Broadcasting these business and community building activities hopefully inspires financial advisors and industry leaders to become an integral part of the economic development of their local communities.

The Institute for Innovation Development is an educational and business development catalyst for growth-oriented financial advisors and financial services firms determined to lead their businesses in an operating environment of accelerating business and cultural change. We position our members with the necessary ongoing innovation resources and best practices to drive and facilitate their next-generation growth, differentiation and unique community engagement strategies. The institute was launched with the support and foresight of our founding sponsors - Pershing, Voya Financial, Ultimus Fund Solutions, Fidelity, and Charter Financial Publishing (publisher of Financial Advisor and Private Wealth magazines). For more information click here.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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Bill Hortz

Bill Hortz is an independent business consultant and Founder/Dean of the Institute for Innovation Development- a financial services business innovation platform and network. With over 30 years of experience in the financial services industry including expertise in sales/marketing/branding of asset management firms, as well as, creatively restructuring and developing internal/external sales and strategic account departments for 5 major financial firms, including OppenheimerFunds, Neuberger&Berman and Templeton Funds Distributors. His wide ranging experiences have led Bill to a strong belief, passion and advocation for strategic thinking, innovation creation and strategic account management as the nexus of business skills needed to address a business environment challenged by an accelerating rate of change.

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