As such, I am fascinated by what I call “moments” of business innovation and industry, those times when the planets seem to align, all the right people are in the room, and ideas drip from the walls.
These times can be macro, like the Industrial Revolution, or more localized (but with global impact), like Burbank, California in the 1920’s or Silicon Valley in the late 1970’s. These are standout moments characterized by a wild blossoming of creativity, enthusiasm and production. Businesses are started, communities are revitalized, or even created from scratch. Cultural stimulation follows. Museums appear, maybe a metropolitan zoo, world-class acts start showing up at your new civic arena. With any luck at all, a professional sports team or two comes to set up shop. And the ethnic restaurants. Ooh, the ethnic restaurants.
These are, in almost every sense, exciting moments, and I guess what interests me most about them is not so much the “what” of the situation, but the “how”.
See, I think we tend to look at these times from afar and think those communities must have had something we don’t. Surely there was some genius entrepreneur who moved to town. A generous and civic minded billionaire decided to lavish funds on the people and built them a stadium. Maybe they struck gold in the foothills, whatever.
But that is a myth. Writers like Malcolm Gladwell and Stephen Johnson (authors of Outliers and Where Good Ideas Come From, respectively) have put the lie to the idea that success, idea generation and entrepreneurship are attainable only by a certain few in a certain place.
I am here to tell you that, with today’s technology and economy, any community can make up its mind to create a moment of innovation and industry of its very own. In fact, I believe Bay County has already started.
You essentially need three conditions to create a moment, and they are, ironically, the same three you need to prove a crime. You simply need Means, Motive, and Opportunity. So, let’s look at Bay County and see what we get.
1) Means: In Bay County, we have an interstate, an international airport, a deep water shipping port, two of the most important military bases in the world (which both specialize in Research and Development), two world-class educational institutions (one of which just spent millions to erect a facility with the sole purpose of advancing innovation, education, and job creation in Bay County, the Advanced Technology Center), ample empty pine forests to build on, and what are, without fear of exaggeration, actually the world’s most beautiful beaches. Whew, all in one breath. Are you really going to tell me we don’t have what it takes to stimulate business and culture in our community?
2) Motive: When I first moved here in 1988, I was told I was coming to the “Redneck Riviera”. How charming. Well, that may have been true 25 years ago, but it’s time to bury that fetid moniker in a shallow grave. There is a whole generation of Bay Countians who left after high school, worked for a decade in Atlanta or Jacksonville or L.A., had a couple of kids, and realized they wanted to come home again. They have, but they miss the bustle and verve of the bigger cities and are ready to make a change for Bay County. But not only them; there is a reservoir of drive and ambition among many natives of all ages who have been waiting for the day when they could break free from the good ‘ol boy system of Bay County past and take us forward. We are finding each other, and it won’t be long before we reach critical mass.
3) Opportunity: The Panama City Beach Chamber of Commerce puts on a monthly event called IdeaCamp, where entrepreneurs and business types come together to share enthusiasm, encouragement and, yes, ideas. There are speakers from across industries and disciplines. It’s fun and informative.
Two speakers in particular, Mike Ross and Randall Shepard, Silicon Valley veterans both, have articulated the exceptional opportunity we face right now. These men have each, at different IdeaCamp functions, said Bay County has everything Silicon Valley had just before it’s great moment, only more! These two have seen this special type of innovation-producing climate first hand, and see all the hallmarks right here.
This is happening people. Pier Park, Harley Davidson and the Advanced Technology Center are only the beginning. Keep your eyes open and look for ways you, and your business, can be involved. We are in a special time and a special place, and we are going to have our moment.
Take it to the streets.
Marketing Director at ABT Media and Marketing