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Expert Interview: Fostering Innovation In Reno

Alexa Ard

In the past, innovation often took place in isolated, suburban office parks where businesses could keep their "secrets secret." That's according to Jennifer Vey, a fellow for the Brookings Institution who studies the revitalization of urban areas and metropolitan economies.

A growing national trend Vey is studying now in cities of all sizes is the formation of innovation districts, urban areas where large firms, startups, anchor institutions like universities, and other players come together in a much more open and collaborative environment.

The Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada, or EDAWN, invited Vey to visit Reno and offer her input on how to cultivate innovation in the Biggest Little City, so Reno Public Radio's Michelle Bliss caught up with her to learn more.

After touring Reno, Vey described the city's innovation district as nascent, with a mixture of startups, restaurants and shops, along with the University of Nevada, Reno's forthcoming innovation center all converging downtown.

Credit Alexa Ard
A section of First Street in Reno, between Virginia and Washington Streets, has been dubbed Startup Row since several entrepreneurs have made the area their home base.

From studying other similarly sized cities, like Chattanooga, TN (just a hair smaller than Reno), Vey has found that the key to fostering long-term innovation in Reno will be recognizing and effectively promoting the city's unique assets. She also highlights the importance of creating educational pathways, so the local workforce is ready for the opportunities that new industries will offer.

Michelle Billman is a former news director at KUNR Public Radio.
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