SPONSORED CONTENT PROVIDED BY GIRARD NEWKIRK – CO-FOUNDER & CEO , GENESIS BLOCK

What is an innovation neighborhood?

Plainly stated, an innovation neighborhood is a dense hub of social and economic activity where innovation, creativity, entrepreneurship, and community collaboration intersect. They are neighborhoods that are capable of attracting a unique creative community of innovators but are inclusive regardless of the education level or economic class. Their inclusive nature is ideal for community collaboration and to provide a framework for equity in entrepreneurship particularly in under resourced communities.

Would the innovation neighborhood concept be a fit for Wilmington, North Carolina?

According to the Startup Genome, https://startupgenome.com/, Wilmington has the 91st best startup ecosystem in the world. Founders lead the way, but local governments, anchor institutions and the community at large would benefit from planned neighborhoods designed to build on the existing startup infrastructure in Wilmington. Intentional planning aimed at fostering entrepreneurial inclusion would make these neighborhoods a hub for collaboration, business development, and community prosperity.

A study conducted by United Van Lines, showed that Wilmington was the #1 city for inbound moves in the United States in 2020. We all know that Wilmington is a great place to live but now we have data to prove the rest of the country thinks so too. The residual effects of Covid-19 have created a “remote workforce” that is not bound to corporate offices of major metropolitan areas. Innovation neighborhoods would provide the ideal environment to lure these creatives into our community to drive innovation.

Live Oak Bank, nCino, the expansion of the Port of Wilmington, PPD, and robust transportation networks make Wilmington and the Cape Fear region an ideal location for high growth and economic activity. We could harness these components in a dense hub setting anchored by innovation neighborhoods to accelerate community prosperity in our region.

Innovation Neighborhoods vs Gentrification

The innovation neighborhood model allows communities to grow with revitalization efforts, not be replaced. Growth and change are inevitable, however current residents want to make sure that they are included in the process with cultural preservation, contract procurement, and community access being prioritized. Innovation neighborhoods bring together communities with capital resources, facilities, and programming to drive collaboration.

For example, the ten companies that are members of the first cohort of the Genesis Block Minority Accelerator could form the foundation for a vibrant neighborhood. There are 3 companies in the food services sector, 2 health and wellness companies, 1 company in specialized athletic training, 2 real estate companies, creative arts, and digital printing round out the cohort. Imagine if these companies had a district or innovation neighborhood prepared for their growth as they receive capital to scale. The positive impacts to the community and Cape Fear region as whole would be exponential.

The future of Genesis Block as an anchor institution for minority and women owned business development is to support the expansion of innovation neighborhoods as a bridge to equity in entrepreneurship. Community, collaboration, and creativity will thrive in these environments.

Girard Newkirk is the Co-founder and CEO of Genesis Block. He is also the Founder of KWHCoin and is a native of Pender County. He moved back to the Wilmington area by way of San Jose, California in November of 2018. In 2019, his company KWHCoin won the Coastal Entrepreneur Award for Emerging Company which focused on the company’s work with combining renewable energy and blockchain technology to provide off-grid energy solutions. In 2020, he was named to the Top 100 Business Leaders in Wilmington by the Greater Wilmington Business Journal for his work with Genesis Bock and Building the Entrepreneur Class. Genesis Block, in partnership with NC IDEA and New Hanover County, has developed the Genesis Block Back on the Block Minority Accelerator to advance entrepreneurship in minority communities.

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