Ron Cunningham: Myth buster
Published: Sunday, November 18, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, November 16, 2012 at 6:38 p.m.
The way Gov. Rick Scott keeps popping into town to laud Gainesville's exploding innovation economy, we're going to have to give him a key to the city or something.
One day, he's here offering congrats to home-grown startup Prioria Robotics. Then, he's back for Mindtree Limited's ribbon-cutting.
No surprise that our "Let's get to work" governor is a frequent flier to Gainesville. We've got plenty for him to brag about.
This year alone, eight local startups landed more than $50 million in financial backing. And UF's Innovation Hub, its paint hardly dry, has already attracted $72 million in private investments.
So, I'm glad Gov. Scott took the opportunity this week to explode one of the most enduring and misleading myths about Gainesville.
You know the one. Repeat after me: Gainesville is anti-business.
But apparently, Scott didn't get the memo.
"You have demonstrated your commitment to being a business-friendly community, and companies around the world are noticing," our CEO-turned-governor said this week.
Gainesville's supposedly anti-business rep hasn't been deserved for a very long time. Mostly it's trotted out by wannabe commissioners in need of a provocative campaign slogan, or by disgruntled letter writers whose candidates lost.
Usually, it's code for: Gainesville has too many business-killing regulations.
But, if the speed with which the city moved to accommodate UF's Innovation Hub is any indication, they are quite capable at City Hall of taking a machete to Gainesville's regulatory jungle when the occasion demands.
Which brings me to that other tired old myth: All a community needs to do is slash regulations, and the business world will beat a path to its door.
It's not the regs, folks, it's the quality of life that's bringing entrepreneurs to this university city and keeping them here.
Gainesville has been methodically laying the groundwork for the innovation economy for the past two decades.
You can see the results in new urbanist planning policies that have revitalized once decaying urban neighborhoods.
You can see it in a downtown that is a beehive of activity.
You can see it in an beautifully redesigned Southwest Second Avenue that neatly ties together UF, Innovation Hub and downtown.
You can see it in what is indisputably one of Florida's most successful transit systems.
And we're not done.
Just wait until that former hazardous-waste site across the street from Prioria's new headquarters — which is being built complements of a partnership with the city — blossoms into a vibrant urban park — with ponds, trails and a Cade Museum dedicated to the celebration of ideas and innovation.
And wait until Depot Avenue is redesigned, and the untapped economic potential of south Main Street becomes apparent.
Business is beating a path to Gainesville's door precisely because this is more and more becoming a community where creative people want to live, work, play and collaborate.
But don't take my word for it.
Just ask Gov. Scott.
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