Brookhaven, GA, September 7, 2016 – Commentary, by Kris Sokolowski – Every time I go to the Atlanta Tech Village in Buckhead I can’t help but wish Brookhaven would invest in doing something similar. I’ll go to the Tech Village once in a while to hang out, do some work, but mostly to get out of my home office.
Brookhaven is a young city still discovering itself. Does it want to be known for its hotels and over abundant, expensive apartment complexes? Does it want to be known for its parks and greenspace? Or should it be known as the city of the future, a city that other cities strive to be? I personally would hope for the latter and now is the right time.
From the City of Brookhaven Comprehensive Plan 2034 (CBCP 2034): Brookhaven, like most communities, was hit hard by the Great Recession. The city lost 9.8 percent of its jobs between 2007 and 2010. Since then, the city has regained approximately half of those lost jobs. Most companies in Brookhaven have ample talent to choose from within the city—the only sector with a current deficit is Information Technology.
What Brookhaven does today will have a profound affect on many generations to come. I personally don’t see how putting up another 194 units on Dresden benefits the residents of Brookhaven 20 years from now. I believe in bringing jobs into Brookhaven. Technology jobs that pay good wages. This is why having an innovative tech center is so critical to the future of Brookhaven. Picture an incubator that works together with the city to solve complex problems through the use of technology. How come our parks have no play areas that teach kids about science and technology? Wouldn’t it be great to use home-grown technological ideas to solve our traffic issues, lower crime and keep everyone better connected? Startups appear to be gravitating to more energized urban cities, and away from their traditional locations in suburban office parks.
With so many Millennials moving into Brookhaven and a growing number of residents that work from home (8% and growing) it would only make sense, if Brookhaven is looking towards the future, to invest in an environment where our residents can foster new ideas and collaborate with other entrepreneurs.
According to CBCP 2034, “In many communities nationwide, ‘young professionals,’ residents between the ages of 25 and 34 are a coveted group. Brookhaven’s supply of young professionals (25.8 percent) is competitive when compared to the Atlanta metropolitan area (14.5 percent) and the state (13.7 percent). The percentage of population in the young professionals group exceeds the percentage of Brookhaven residents between 55 and 64 (14.5 percent), who are nearing retirement, meaning there are enough younger workers to eventually replace seasoned workers. However, Brookhaven must keep an eye on trends. Between 2000 and 2012, Brookhaven lost population in three key age groups: 18-24 (college-aged residents), 25-34, and 35-44.”
If Brookhaven is serious about “retaining young professionals” and “keeping an eye on trends” it needs to understand what these trends are. It needs to understand what the workplace of the future looks like. It needs to look at who the next generation workforce is. Millennials seek more of a work/life balance. They tend to work more during off hours. A tech center allows them to pitch, vote and collaborate on new business ideas that drive innovation 24 hours a day.
Economic Development is one of the highest priorities for Brookhaven. With that, it should focus on the growth of high-technology businesses and promoting the creation of new quality jobs in the community. Strong, local solutions are needed to grow startup technology companies and that there is a need for a business incentive program which includes access to low-cost space and mentoring programs so startup technology companies can focus on their growth while helping the city.
The primary purpose of an innovation center is to explore technology and also humanize an evolving ecosystem. While disruptive technology was the number one area of focus for innovation centers so was exploring the needs, expectations and behaviors of people. Innovation centers also help cities to stay abreast with the latest developments and upcoming technologies in the market through the use of digital technologies such as Big Data, the Internet of Things or Social Media.
For city governments around the US, innovation has never been more important. Without constant innovation, a city can quickly find their tried and trusted paths to innovation are now dead ends. Innovation centers are proving an effective means to cultivate the agile startup mentality needed to remain at the forefront of the market, in addition they’re helping cities become smarter, safer and better places to live. Let’s rethink the Dresden residential development. This is an opportunity for Brookhaven to recognize it has both a competitor and an ally in closing the gap between government and its citizens.
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