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I Have to Ask: Roanoke Innovates

In March 2018, I began leading a new initiative for the City of Roanoke (City) focused on innovation, entrepreneurship, and economic inclusion. This “economic cluster” is housed within the City’s Department of Economic Development, where I have served as Special Projects Coordinator since 2011.

Cluster theory is hardly new, having garnered significant attention since emerging from academia in the early 1990s. As described by ICMA in a 2012 article, cluster-based economic development initiatives are “interventions designed to improve a cluster’s performance by addressing the common needs of businesses in the cluster.”

Upon arriving in 2017, City Manager Bob Cowell immediately recognized the need for the City to be more proactive in aiding and promoting the various innovation and entrepreneurial initiatives developing within our community. To this end, he tasked me and my ED colleague, Aisha Johnson, with making that happen.

In terms of innovation, that meant fostering the City’s already strong relationships with key players in the arena, including Carilion Clinic (the region’s largest healthcare provider) and the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute (now the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC). After these two entities announced their intention to develop a health sciences and technology district along the City’s major north-south arterial, the City began convening meetings of the stakeholders involved with these efforts to identify synergies between partners and to create a formal development plan.

To learn more, check out the whole article below.