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Oneida County taps Idaho organization to help it grow local high-tech entrepreneurship

By Eric Reinhardt


Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente, Jr. says Coeur d’Alene, Idaho–based Innovation Collective will hold a series of public events as it works at “connecting entrepreneurs to the community resources needed to support them,” per an Oneida County news release. The same group is also assisting communities in Washington, Nevada, and New Mexico. (Photo credit: Anthony Picente Twitter page)

UTICA, N.Y. — An Idaho–based organization that helps communities with economic-development efforts is focused on Oneida County and will begin a series of public events later this month.

Oneida County Executive Anthony J. Picente Jr. sees the work of the Innovation Collective as a new economic-development initiative “aimed at accelerating and growing the local high-tech entrepreneurship ecosystem through innovation and collaboration,” per a county news release.

Picente discussed the work of the Coeur d’Alene, Idaho–based Innovation Collective during a Monday announcement at the thINCubator in Utica. The thINCubator is a business incubator and student accelerator located at 326 Broad St. in Utica, per its website.

Frank DuRoss, VP of community development at Mohawk Valley Community College (MVCC); Martin Babinec, founder/chairman of Upstate Venture Connect (UVC); and various stakeholders joined Picente at the announcement.

“With traditional means of economic development already revitalizing downtown Utica and establishing Rome as a global hub for UAS and cyber-security research and development, adding the Innovation Collective’s unique model for accelerating organic business growth into the mix will take Oneida County to the next level,” Picente said in the release. “I look forward to working together to unleash the entrepreneurial spirit of our residents and unlock the full potential of our community.”

UAS is short for unmanned aircraft system. A UAS includes a drone and equipment used to control its flight. A drone is also referred to in the industry as an unmanned aerial vehicle, or UAV.

The first public Innovative Collective event will be a fireside chat on Sept. 25 at the thINCubator in Utica.

Innovation Collective

The Innovation Collective uses a “bottom up approach” that starts with connecting entrepreneurs to the community resources needed to support them, per the Oneida County news release. The effort involves a multi-year campaign of programs and software “designed to inspire people, foster new businesses and unlock millions in investments.”

It will begin its process in Oneida County with a series of public events that consist of story-telling nights, idea-sharing sessions, weekend-long mentoring summits and a technology festival that highlights the work that people within the community are focused on. The organization plans to convene think tanks; offer mentoring sessions with representatives of Fortune 500 companies; and create co-working spaces.

The Innovation Collective will also work with county government to pass laws that facilitate research and development and create a “unique branding opportunity” for the community.

“When I traveled to Coeur d’Alene and saw first-hand how the Innovation Collective has transformed that community I was truly amazed,” DuRoss said in the release. “I immediately wanted to bring the collaborative sessions I experienced there into Oneida County and have our community see the same explosion of startup businesses and injection of investment dollars.”

DuRoss also serves as executive director of the MVCC Foundation.

Representatives from the Innovation Collective came to the Utica area last fall and winter to assess the current economic environment and understand what resources are currently “making a difference.” They found that Oneida County was “ripe for growth” and devised a $350,000 yearly action plan that will be funded through the MVCC Foundation, with support from Oneida County and a consortium of private-sector individuals and organizations.

More than half of the needed funds have already been committed and the announcement officially launches the capital campaign for the consortium of sponsors “to close the remaining funding gap.”

“Since 2010, [the] nonprofit Upstate Venture Connect has been scaling up a network that helps entrepreneurs get connected to resources they need to start and grow companies in the newer industries,” Babinec said in the release. “With more than 17,000 people now part of UVC’s network, we’ve seen many examples of how communities can plug in and help young companies, which is key to retaining talent in the community instead of losing job creators and our most marketable talent leaving to start or join companies elsewhere. My in-depth exposure to Innovation Collective [IC] made me a believer that their process is unique and now proven with game changing results. Both UVC and my UpVentures Capital fund are committed as partners in supporting IC’s launch in Utica.”

Recent work

Since the Innovation Collective’s launch in 2014, it says it has unlocked $57 million in new investments; helped launch over 50 new [limited liability companies, or LLCs]; encouraged new education programs; and “inspired” more than 15,000 program participants.

Its flagship city of Coeur d’Alene now has “more tech companies per capita than any other city in Idaho,” per the release. In addition to Utica, the organization is also currently establishing presences in Yakima, Washington; Reno, Nevada; and Albuquerque, New Mexico.

“Utica is one of those gems in the world where the people, leadership, technology and history have all converged at the perfect moment,” Chris Cochran, global director of communities for the Innovation Collective, contended in the release. “The Innovation Collective playbook will inspire, educate, and engage the people of Utica to begin building the future, right here in the Mohawk Valley.”

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