Innovation is the future.
It's not enough for Mayor Alvin Brown and other City leaders to sit on the sideline and applaud those in our community who are working hard to make a difference.
They have to provide aggressive leadership that opens more opportunity for economic growth through innovation and become bold partners as we look globally to strengthen our future.
There's no reason why we can't build a creative community that can be competitive with any city in America.
Through technology, we now have the ability to inject intelligence into economic development, transportation, education, public safety, health care delivery and environmental protection.
We can be innovative and build the technological infrastructure that will attract economic investment and create job growth.
Right now there are more than 10,000 children enrolled in kindergarten in Duval County. How many of them will have good job opportunities in 20 years?
We can be innovative and use technology to educate our children to their highest level of achievement and prepare them for high-tech jobs and life in the 21st century.
These are the homeowners of the future. Many will build and sell Jacksonville's homes and work in our hospitals, hotels and retail businesses. Some will be Jacksonville's future leaders.
We need to use technology and innovation to prepare them now while creating an exciting city filled with opportunity for their futures.
Jacksonville has the assets; we're located in the right place; we have the capabilities; and we should not limit our thinking.
There is no question that innovative cities — especially in this fast-paced and high-powered environment — are good places to do business and fun places to live.
That's good for business and the housing market. Bright people with more money want to be there, engaged in creating something special.
Being an innovative place is not necessarily a reputation that Jacksonville has enjoyed, but that could all be changing.
Let me explain.
A couple of years ago, two well-known Jacksonville men, Dr. Wayne Wood and Doug Coleman, had an idea. Why doesn't Jacksonville host a huge weeklong festival Downtown where innovation is celebrated and people who create things compete for big prizes?
After all, Wood and Coleman are the two guys behind the Riverside Arts Market, a good idea that is a huge success on Saturdays under the Fuller Warren Bridge canopy on the riverfront in Riverside.
After laying the groundwork, the pair turned their idea over to a group named One Spark, composed of younger and energetic out-of-the-box thinkers who have a real commitment to Jacksonville.
One Spark hit the ground running. In April, innovators, inventors and creative people will come to Jacksonville for the festival. They will compete for cash prizes in the fields of science, technology, engineering and the arts.
The One Spark pot was recently sweetened when Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan, who has made it clear that he is a full partner with Jacksonville, offered the potential of up to $1 million in capital investment for big ideas that catch his fancy.
It's a sweetener that will no doubt increase both the volume and quality of the participants.
"Jacksonville is the perfect host for this festival and I believe One Spark has the potential to inspire some really big thinking from the brightest minds in the area and beyond," said Khan in announcing the substantial offer from his company, STACHE Investments Corp.
And that's the point. Big ideas are coming to town. All of us should embrace this opportunity as another way to enhance Jacksonville's identity with the potential to grow our economy.
If Jacksonville can become known as a city where someone who invents the next world-changing electronic gadget is uncovered, the gadget is capitalized and the creator becomes a partner with the owner of our NFL team, Jacksonville can become a hotbed for innovators and a laboratory for new ideas.
This first One Spark festival already has more than 250 registrants, and some 70 Downtown venues signed up to host the creative exhibits.
One Spark puts an entirely new focus on Jacksonville. It gives us a new and exciting narrative to help sell Jacksonville to the world.
It could be the impetus to give bright people, many of them young, creative pioneers, a great reason to move here and buy homes.
And, why not? If inventors and artists find support and a fertile environment for growing ideas, enjoy our beaches and river, and like our weather, why would they want to live anywhere else?
I think we should recognize Khan's pledge of up to $1 million as another strong sign that he is putting skin in the game to help us grow and become a better city through innovation.
All of this is good for local business and real estate here in Jacksonville.
When Khan agreed to play Jaguars games in London it was a great idea and a big plus for Jacksonville. Playing in London will not only carry our story to the world, it will open doors — with Khan at the lead — for our business leaders to sell our city internationally.
That, too, is very good for our housing market. Take a look at Miami, which has been discovered in a big way by Brazilians who have purchased lots of real estate for lots of money.
If our leadership takes advantage of the doors being opened in London by Khan, in the future we could be doing business with our new friends in Europe.
As many of you know, I've long believed we shouldn't put any boundaries on our imagination.