2015 Archives

What makes an innovative city?


The following is from the Feb. 25, 2015, edition of The Dallas Morning News. Trey Bowles is an adjunct professor for Entrepreneurship in SMU's Division of Arts Management and Arts Entrepreneurship; the co-founder and CEO of the Dallas Entrepreneur Center; Chair for Startup America; and co-founder of the Mayor’s Council in Dallas.

March 3, 2015

It’s people — not cities — who innovate, invent and create things that benefit all of us. Still, cities play a central role in innovation by providing the necessary ecosystem that allows ideas to flow, take root and flourish.

“The Innovative City” is one of five topics featured in the Dallas Festival of Ideas, presented by the Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture and The Dallas Morning News. We asked four panelists on the Innovative City team to offer their thoughts on this question: "What makes an innovative city?"

Right people, bright ideas, sense of responsibility are key, says Trey Bowles

Trey Bowles
Trey Bowles

Many things go into making a city innovative. Some would argue that a city is innovative when it has impressive infrastructure. Others might suggest impressive educational institutions. Still others might say an innovative city draws major corporate headquarters.

Dallas has all this and much, much more. We can boast the nation’s largest urban arts district and the largest light-rail system. The list can go on and on. These accomplishments and projects are very impressive and are definitely key to making a city innovative.

However, I would suggest that although many of these elements are important, no factor is more vital than having the right people to build an innovative city. It is the people who design and build infrastructure, develop key solutions for philanthropy and grow entrepreneurial ecosystems. It is not only the leaders of a city who make it innovative, although having strong leadership — as we do in our mayor and other civic leaders — is crucial. You also need individuals who have the courage to dream, the bravery to act and the fortitude to implement these plans.

What we need to focus on in Dallas is creating an environment that encourages innovative thought process. We need to start with our children and empower them with the right tools and educational environment. We need to create a community where our college and university students want to stay in Dallas after they graduate because they have been convinced that their role in the future of our city is of utmost importance.

And we need to engage all of our citizens in such a way that they realize their responsibility to not simply settle for the status quo but rather continue to reach beyond where we are today. Our future is in the hands of the people of this great city and the innovators who exist throughout our community.

This is about northern and southern Dallas becoming one city where people are judged by the merit of their ideas and, most important, by the quality of their impact.

Having lived in many of our nation’s great cities — from Nashville to New York, Birmingham to Los Angeles and several places in between — I believe none has more opportunity and potential to be innovative than Dallas does today. We are in a crucial part of our history where it is time for true innovators to rise up among us.

We must now work together as a city — young and old, black and white, Republican and Democrat — to put the needs of our city first and begin to think of creative and innovative ways to provide the best Dallas for all citizens.

Read other essays about "What makes an innovative city?"


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