Innovation Districts

To support entrepreneurial enterprises and grow startups, states can create innovation districts. Innovation districts are geographic areas where anchor institutions and companies cluster, connecting with startups, business incubators, and accelerators. The districts are compact, transit-accessible, and technically wired. These live-work-play districts offer mixed-use housing, office, and retail. Examples of successful innovation districts can be found in Chattanooga and St. Louis; both cities created collaborative advisory boards. Key to their success was a group of leaders from universities, businesses, and government coordinating a centralized plan for growth. Chattanooga, the first mid-sized city to form an innovation district, is a collaboration between the city’s public utility and the city and county governments; universities, such as University of Tennessee at Chattanooga; and private companies and foundations, including the Lyndhurst and Benwood Foundations. The Cortex is St. Louis’s innovation hub and technology district, and is supported by tax increment financing (TIF), which helped overcome the cost of infrastructure improvement and site preparation. Since its inception, the Cortex has constructed one million square feet of new and rehabilitated space through investments totaling $350 million and has generated 2,500 technology-related jobs.