The Creative Coasts blogspot is Savannahs sounding board for local thinkers, innovators, wanderers and wonderers. Guest bloggers share their thoughts, opinions and creative noodling from all over the map. This weeks blog is from Susan Isaacs, incoming Chairperson for The Creative Coast and Head Strategic Focus-izer with the Paragon Design Group. Read on to see what Susan and The Creative Coast Team are focusing on for 2012……
I first came to Savannah in the fall of 1996 when the historic downtown was in many ways a scary place. Broughton Street was a hodgepodge of boarded-up windows, oddballs peddling suspect goods, and guys cat-calling as you walked past.
Then, during the course of my five years at SCAD, I watched as things changed. The scary began to disappear and I got the sense this town was resurrecting herself into something new and amazing. I was so taken by this that my plan to leave when I graduated was replaced by a strong desire to stay and become a part of the new Savannah. I was not alone in that hope; many of my college friends felt the same way.
Ultimately, I was able to stay because some friends and I started our own company. Every one of our peers, with rare exception, had no choice but to leave town in the hopes of finding a “real” job. All of these years later, I find it a remarkable exercise, to scan the business landscape and see how many creative start-ups have popped up since then. The number of bright, young professionals who have dug their heels in, working for others or starting their own ventures, is an endless source of inspiration for me. The rebirth is continuing, and we are helping to make it happen.
Of course there are challenges. I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know, but if you are a young professional (or a slightly-less-young professional) Savannah can have its drawbacks. There are some ingredients that remain underdeveloped or are missing entirely when you compare Savannah to other towns with a growing start-up, technology and creative community. We still don’t have any real venture capital resources or incubator facilities. Our city ordinances are struggling to adapt to the newer requirements of our technology-driven companies. Our public school system leaves a lot to be desired, and looking at our community as a whole presents the sobering truth that too many of our citizens are living below the poverty line.
If you are a young professional who can see past these challenges, you might still find yourself wishing there was more happening on the music and nightlife scene, and wondering if we’ll ever have a mobile food scene.
But I don’t intend for this to be a depressing post. Quite the opposite really. The great news is that you are lucky enough to be here at a critical period in defining what our city looks like in the future. And there has been some progress in all of the aforementioned areas.
With a goal of overcoming many of these challenges, The Creative Coast (TCC) is working with others to help design and build this better future for Savannah, and we are looking to you to speak up and get involved.
An essential part of TCC’s strategy is to ensure that you have the opportunity to flourish here. Whether that entails help navigating red tape at the city level, introducing you to like-minded companies and individuals, or even by being a sounding board when you start worrying that you’re operating in an echo chamber. And while we do have limitations in terms of manpower and resources, we have an entire community of people who are willing and eager to help. When you add events designed to promote knowledge-sharing and further education or to help start-ups find funding, I think we are well on our way to nurturing new and innovative endeavors.
Additionally, if you’ve been paying attention over the last year you may have noticed some very interesting events that were facilitated or supported by The Creative Coast. From discussions between business owners and city officials about food trucks, to events like the Savannah Stop-Over Festival and Vogue’s Fashion Night Out, to the recent Refresh that brought our tech community together with the City IT department to brainstorm about the technological future of the city.
Every time TCC hosts or helps to facilitate one of these events (more than 40 in 2011), I am inspired by all of you who show up and make them a success. The energy and enthusiasm you pour into these events is exactly what we need to accelerate the rate of reinvention of our city. That fact that the number of attendees continues to broaden and grow tells me that our “tribe” is multiplying, and that might be the most exciting part.
The holy grail of branding is tribal identity. It’s that magical scenario where people so strongly identify with a brand’s values that they intentionally associate themselves with that brand, often recruiting new believers. Think Apple or Mini Cooper. The result is a tribe of enthusiastic people who support that brand over the long term.
The Creative Coast has been very fortunate to connect with so many of you who believe in a new and bright future for Savannah. This passion for a reinvented city is what our brand is about.
Those challenges I mentioned earlier can only be met by people like you. People from every industry, stage and walk of life, who are dissatisfied with the ways things are but aren’t waiting for someone else to address them.
This is The Creative Coast tribe. A tribe of blue-sky thinkers and doers. A tribe that continues to grow because you have been inviting your friends and colleagues to get involved.
So to our tribe, to all of you with wild and amazing ideas for yourselves and Savannah, to all of you who give your time and talent to support The Creative Coast, I want to say a big THANK YOU!
We are really looking forward to working with you in 2012!