When seasoned innovator Nick Tietz wanted to start his next venture in Minnesota he actively looked outside the Twin Cities. “I wanted to find a spot where I could plant my next idea company in an area where there was less competition, but also in a spot where people would want something like a company that generates new ideas to exist.”
Tietz visited multiple other locations in Minnesota and the Dakotas but eventually settled on St. Cloud for his new company ILT Studios. “What we’re really committed to is systematizing innovation and entrepreneurship to help ideas succeed and help them reach their maximum growth potential.”
“It became really apparent that there’s a desire in this area for this to happen, but the challenge is how do you turn that on and how do you really get it going?”
A number of St. Cloud residents and advocates are trying to answer that question and turn the city into a true entrepreneurial hub.
Making a city or region into a startup or entrepreneurial hub is a common conversation these days throughout the country. There are conferences, websites and organizations all designed around the concept of ecosystem building and how to do it. In fact, we talk about it quite a bit in the Twin Cities.
As to why different cities or areas are trying to build up these hubs, it often comes back to some common major themes, particularly when it comes to economic development.
“From my perspective it’s vital to business health,” says Patti Gartland, the President of the Greater St. Cloud Development Corporation, or GSDC. “It’s vital to have that entrepreneurial ecosystem within your business environments, it’s really paramount to being able to sustain and grow your businesses.”
Tom Grones, the founder and current Chairman of the Board of GeoComm (a St. Cloud based provider of public safety GIS systems) agrees and joined the GSDC’s Business Startup /Entrepreneurial Ecosystem sub-group. He shares first-hand experience of how a startup can affect an area such as St. Cloud. “My company has, over the course of 25 years, redirected the lives of a lot of talent here in the community,” says Grones. “We have a lot of talent. We have three major universities here. My company, our needs were to keep that talent here. We were able to be successful in redirecting talent that would’ve otherwise bled away. We’ve provided an opportunity for local young people as well as young people who have come from out of town to the universities. We’ve helped begin careers for them here in St. Cloud, kept them here, had them grow families. It’s just part of sustaining a quality of life here that we think is exceptional.”
By Stephanie Rich. Originally published at Starting Up North on November 21, 2019.