Every city needs a vice president of innovation who shepherds partnerships with other businesses and public sector agencies, according to Skyler Logsdon. Logsdon is co-founder and CEO of Boomerang, a technology platform that connects people with their lost items. He says such a liaison could help him cultivate partnerships with Metro and Los Angeles International Airport to create new jobs to benefit the local economy.
He envisions this individual advising business leaders, “You tell me what you’re working on and if it makes sense, I’ll take your hand and make sure you don’t get stuck,” said Logsdon. Logsdon spoke during the morning kick-off panel “Community of Innovation” at the South Bay Cities Council of Governments’ (SBCCOG) 22nd General Assembly March 24. A theme of “intentionality” in attracting and retaining businesses and talent to the region, emerged across the event’s discussions.
Event moderator Drew Boyles, mayor of El Segundo and board chair of the SBCCOG, assembled leaders from the region’s private sector to inform cities how to “reimagine the South Bay’s future.”
Logsdon and other speakers responded to Boyle’s question, “How can we help? How can we in government foster innovation, entrepreneurship, and ultimately economic development to benefit our cities?”
During the second morning panel, “A Glimpse into the Future – Aerospace and Defense – Federal/Local Intersection,” speakers continued to examine how cities can leverage a new multi-dimensional world, which includes soon to be launched innovations such as 3D rocket printing and manufacturing in space. They addressed how communities can create a business-friendly
environment, well-trained workforce, and a sustainable, livable community.
Ben Marcus, co-founder and manager of Santa Monica-based UP.Partners shared the example of Bentonville, Arkansas, as a model of the “intentionality” cities should strive toward. As a transportation innovator, Marcus takes frequent trips to Bentonville. The city is home to three of the largest companies in the world—Walmart, Tyson Foods and J.B. Hunt, the leading trucking and logistics company in North America.
Marcus observed that the Walton family, founders of Walmart, has made substantial investments in the community and has worked to diversify the local economy. Projects include hundreds of miles of hiking trails, enhancement of schools, and the founding and development of the Crystal Bridges Museum of Art—home to a world-class collection of American Art. The intention, Marcus said, is “to attract the most wonderful people to Bentonville, Arkansas not just to go to work for Walmart, but to build new businesses. It makes it an exciting place to be.”
“It’s about not only having an open door, but asking people to come in. When there’s an entrepreneur…who wants to do business in your community, you should be all over that person, [saying] ‘what can I do to get you here? What can I do to help you?’” he said.
Aerospace panel speaker Laura Crabtree agreed with Logsdon’s earlier suggestion that a dedicated point-of-contact would have been useful as she founded her company Redondo Beach-based Epsilon3. The firm is working to modernize space missions and complex engineering. Crabtree is one of a growing number of entrepreneurs leaving larger South Bay companies, such as Northrop Grumman and SpaceX, to start smaller companies where innovation can more nimbly develop. In just three years Epsilon3 has grown from 30 to 700 employees.
Crabtree emphasized that retaining highly-skilledworkforces will require addressing the “elephant in the room”—protecting single family housing. Help is needed to give families a path to home ownership—a challenge as prices and property taxes skyrocket.
Despite challenges, the consensus is that there’s never been a more exciting time to be a part of the South Bay workforce, especially in the transportation and aerospace sectors.
“I’ve never seen space exploding and evolving as fast as I have in the last three years,” Colonel Jennifer Krolikowski, chief information officer, Space Systems Command, told the audience. “I’m really excited to be able to see where it goes, where it takes us, and how we can keep our competitive edge in the world, and being able to use space as an asset to us.”