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Innovation for Everywhere

When I entered the technology and innovation sector a decade ago, the focus had shifted outside of Silicon Valley into additional metropolitan areas and markets. The work of inclusion and equity began with the understanding that ‘innovation is for everyone,’ and everyone deserves the opportunity to access new ideas, technologies, and products to improve the world. 

The shift is happening again, and I believe I’ll be rooting for ‘innovation to be everywhere’ in the next decade. In the U.S., the midwest and south have opportunities to leverage culture, natural resources, affordability, and new opportunities for innovation and technology hubs. 

Want real tech innovation and growth? Think heartland, not coasts,” an article published in Fast Company this past month recounts the many inventions and innovations that have occurred outside the coasts over the years. The National Science Foundation recognized the need and opportunity and, in 2022, announced its Regional Innovation (NSF Engines) program. The program aims to expand U.S. innovation capacity by investing in areas of economic investment to improve the nation's economic and industrial competitiveness. With proposals in all fifty states, there is a clear signal that the reemerging industrial center of the country is planning for innovation and how to grow and attract a skilled workforce. 

I’ve seen this growth with our work across the country as regions have developed their outdoor recreation and cultural economies. We’re also working with communities to navigate the challenges of a lack of affordable housing and childcare; two continued issues that communities across the country say are barriers to having a competitive workforce with opportunities for long-term residents. Overall, the sentiment of investment in capital and infrastructure is to continue looking outside of the coasts to grow opportunity. 

I’d love to hear from you about your community’s strengths and where you’re focusing attention this year, especially if you're in a midwest or southern state working on something new and exciting. 

In cities like Tulsa, we’re also passionate about supporting and celebrating our innovators. You’d be hard-pressed to find more community pride than in the Midwest. It’s the new American dream: People in mid-sized cities see the gaps in society, get creative with their resources, and have the space and support to explore their big ideas and make dreams a reality. -Nicholas Lalla


cities & places, economic development, equity and inclusion, sustainability, strategy & policy