Mayors play an integral and critical role in contributing to the success of these Centers – whether they know it or not. These entities cannot afford to attempt to be all things to all people / industries. A connection must me made to either a specific industry or a segment of the business cycle to contribute to the success of multiple businesses. Developing collaborations between new and existing businesses is a key success factor. Independent efforts may result in ‘cheap’ real estate for a short period of time, but not in the value add option needed for these companies’ success and job creation. Often, these companies can’t afford to go it alone and need connectivity to willing partners’ capabilities.
Mayors create community initiatives that are priorities for both residents and the local business community. Initiatives with community benefit are much easier to attract attention and participation of businesses and residents. Recognizing Innovation Centers as components of community priorities makes it easier to both attract new tenants and also obtaining cooperation of existing businesses. The Center should also focus its efforts toward the community priority and the industrial history of the city.
Mayors are also key connectors at the state level – where potential funding for both the Centers and their tenant businesses may be obtained. Mayors and their communities carry great weight with other elected officials and in turn command attention at state agencies. A drawback may be the lack of being a ‘gateway city’ in MA, but that is a problem that affects the municipality, its residents and local business efforts – like Innovation Centers. It just means that small municipal mayors need to work even harder to draw attention and funding to their community.