A seat at the table

Amherst, Massachusetts is taking a look at its comprehensive master planning process. What can sometimes feel like a dry, drawn-out, no-quick-results experience is being jazzed up by rainbow colors on the town Web site.

Last night, the western Massachusetts support group Hidden-Tech sponsored a "new media focus group" in the basement of Amherst’s Jones Library. The purpose of the event was to "share short presentations on the growing digital marketplace and discuss how the Pioneer Valley can leverage this sector for economic development."

The list of participants did not appear to include educators, businesses or artists from Springfield. Are there no innovators in my city? No new media folks? Seems hard to believe. More from Hidden-Tech’s announcement of the event:

What’s needed to grow this sector is a synergy between all of these players and the academic community to connect, cross-fertilize and assist each other. Right now academics and new media entrepreneurs rarely connect. The fact that the region is a hot-bed of new media activity is not known to many outside of this niche.

Too true. But how will Springfield connect to these efforts?

In Pittsburgh, a remarkable event took place September 9, a gathering of young, city-based creative thinkers at the Idea Round-Up, sponsored by a catalytic non-profit called the Sprout Fund, part of their ongoing effort called the Engage Pittsburgh Project. Through the Web site, people can submit ideas like ways to encourage people to want to live in the city—marketing to its own residents, or to potentials.

In Detroit, the online publication Model D is sponsoring a speaker series to "hear from the people who are leading the city’s transformation, and driving investment in up-and-coming areas." The first installment on October 6 is called "Creating Neighborhood Tipping Points." It features two speakers: Phillip Cooley of Slow’s Bar BQ, formerly a vacant storefront and now "an exciting new eatery" that has "become a draw for the neighborhood," and Ric Geyer, a consultant who "bought a run-down four-story building on the edge of the historic Woodbridge neighborhood in 2000 and started filling it up with eager young artists."

As the Urban Land Institute visiting panel has told us, if people move to the city of Springfield, particularly to the downtown or the South End, the economy has a chance to improve. Not just the city’s economy, but that of the whole region.

Perhaps we could focus our efforts.

A great place to start could be to follow along with the activities of Hidden-Tech.

Author: Heather Brandon

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