Guest essay piece written by Steven Overman for Rochester’s Democrat & Chronicle.
Where will future big ideas and new ventures come from, when global creative capitals like New York, San Francisco, London and Tokyo are increasingly unaffordable for the young creative risk-takers who drive the next wave, the next economic paradigm?
When I think about the future, I see a different urban model. A human-scaled, liveable place, where existing structures are continuously re-adapted for new purposes including light manufacturing, the production of sustainable energy, and social enterprises. I see vibrant markets for sustainably grown food, an education magnet with lively universities and colleges that specialize in future sources of value, expertise in engineering, creativity, science, healthcare. I see an ecosystem of established companies, family businesses ,and entrepreneurial ventures, all thriving, competing, collaborating, and nurturing each other. I see Rochester.
Now could be Rochester’s moment, because a new wave is coming, brought about by concurrent shifts in technology and social behavior. A generation of young people around the world have been reared on the internet, continuously connected to each other through mobile devices. They share concerns about pressing environmental, social and health issues. They are driven to make a difference in the world they’re inheriting. They expect business to get with the program. And why shouldn’t they? As a civilization, we’re heading into uncharted territory of population growth, climate change and resource scarcity. Meanwhile, increasingly accessible information technology empowers us with more agency than any generation has enjoyed before.
The consequence of the digital revolution is the rise of a global conscience, a globally-felt sense of good and bad, of right and wrong. After all, your own conscience needs just two things in order to thrive: a sense of interconnectedness and a means of self-expression. This is exactly what the mobile internet has provided to billions around the world.
Rochester could be a beacon of the conscience economy in action. Entrepreneurs need space and inventors need labs. We’ve got plenty of both. At Kodak, one way we’re working to catalyze a Rochester renaissance. with what we call the Kodak Space Project. The idea is to provide ultra-low rents to incubators and start ups …and to non-profits as well – especially those who are focused on economic and environmental sustainability.
And over in Eastman Business Park, , we’re in the process of converting its infrastructure to new uses. Tenants can tap into more than 100 years of deep technical expertise in materials science and groundbreaking technologies. Already home to dozens of tenants, the Park has the potential to make Rochester a worldwide hub for the clean tech industry, with a particular focus on functional films, biomaterials and energy storage.
Let’s put our collective vision to work. Because the transformation from Rochester, a place we love, to Rochester, a place the world looks to for inspiration as it drives the next economic paradigm – starts with each of us, and with how we each see not only this place, but also our potential to transform it for good.
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