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Mayors Unveil Initiatives to Improve Cities' Competitiveness

August 11, 2011

From undertaking a joint regional initiative to improve two cities' competitiveness in advanced manufacturing to launching an effort for engaging venture capital companies and bringing in top university students to showcase area opportunities, mayors in Lexington and Louisville, Boston and Chicago recognize the value in promoting their cities as top destinations for growing tech-based economies. While each of the three recent announcements detailed below target different sectors of the innovation economy, they share the same mission of making their region more desirable for startups.

Launching a venture capital initiative, opening an innovation center, and designing a solar challenge are among Mayor Thomas Menino's plans for the city's Innovation District in the upcoming year. Boston's Innovation District was launched last year as a home to startup, research-based and other innovative companies on the South Boston Waterfront. Adding to the strategy, the city will establish Venture Boston, an effort to encourage more venture capital companies to move to the area. Many of these firms are now located in Waltham or Cambridge and the idea is to cluster the companies around entrepreneurs, similar to a Cambridge initiative called CriticalMass, reports The Boston Herald.

The mayor also announced plans to open an innovation center, envisioned as a place for companies to meet, network and interact with peers and a solar challenge initiative that aims to generate a megawatt of solar powered electricity in the district within two years. Read the press announcement.

In an effort to attract top-performing students from regional universities to Chicago in hopes of founding the next Groupon or Google, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced the ThinkChicago initiative. The program, which kicks off in October, is designed as an annual event to expose students to the city's business climate through meetings with industry leaders and visits to business headquarters around the city. Students selected for the program also will receive free admission to the TEDxMidwest conference where they will hear from private sector, nonprofit and government leaders and will participate in the first annual Chicago Ideas Week. A planned tour of Chicago's cultural attractions and nightlife also is included in the agenda. The competition is open to seniors from colleges and universities in Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, and Wisconsin. More information is available at: http://www.thinkchicago.org/.

Lexington Mayor Jim Gray and Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer recently entered into a joint regional economic development initiative aimed at improving both cities' competitiveness in advanced manufacturing. A committee appointed by the mayors will undertake an 18-month project with help from the Brookings Institution to study ways for the cities to build on existing strengths of key industry sectors by working with businesses, higher education and civic leaders. The goal is to grow jobs around advanced manufacturing sectors by creating a "super region" to strengthen Kentucky's position in the global marketplace, according to Mayor Fischer's press release. The mayors are expected to provide more details on the regional plan in the next two weeks. Read the press announcement...

Illinois, Kentucky, Massachusetts