The world of economic development is often focused on big deals with large corporations. These are the stories that make headlines and get the most attention. But the Allen Economic Development Corporation is just as committed to helping new startups as it is to assisting large companies.
“We often get calls from businesses that just have two or three employees because they’re brand-new, and we want to be able to provide resources to help those new businesses grow here in Allen,” says Dan Bowman, Executive Director at the Allen EDC.
That’s also why the city has set a long-term goal of creating an incubator facility in Allen, which could offer services to new businesses such as office space at a reduced rate, shared services, management training, and networking opportunities.
“Most of your new jobs are created by smaller businesses,” Bowman says. “So, while we always want to encourage existing companies to relocate to Allen, we also want to have a unified strategy to help small businesses.”
One step in this strategy will happen on April 7, when the AEDC hosts its first Open Innovation event, in partnership with The Bridge Alliance. The luncheon will be at the Hilton Garden Inn in Allen and feature networking opportunities, as well as a line-up of renowned speakers on the topic of Open Innovation.
Innovation isn’t found in a vacuum. It takes partnerships, connections, and the ability to look beyond your four walls to see what’s happening outside, says Ken Koo, the founder and CEO of the Bridge Alliance. Helping to facilitate those connections is the goal of The Bridge, Koo explains—to bridge gaps between large corporations, small start-ups and the academic world—for the benefit of all.
Koo launched his company last fall, after being heavily involved in the startup community and serving as an angel investor for a number of years. In his research he noticed that, despite the ever-growing number of startups in the Dallas area, there was a divide between start-up companies and large corporations.
Keeping it hyper-local
With the idea of changing the status quo and fostering partnerships, Koo began planning the Open Innovation events. The City of Allen proved to be an ideal location.
“I knew that we wanted to go somewhere north of LBJ so we could be hyper-local to the businesses in the area,” he explains. “Allen was very open to the concept and they’re also very good at recognizing the importance of long-term sustainability when it comes to the businesses that they attract.”
Allen’s size, affordable real estate and the fact that they already have a number of well-established corporate offices also make the city the perfect climate for small businesses and new start-ups. “There’s an entire vendor eco-system that exists when connections are being made and deals are happening,” Koo says. “Many start-ups don’t have a home yet, so if they get a contract with a business like KONE or Jack Henry, they’re probably going to move to Allen.”
“Connecting Allen businesses with innovative solutions from the startup and academic community drives economic development,” he says. “We’re excited to be hosting the first Open Innovation event to play a leading role in an effort that benefits established companies and helps incubate startup ventures.”