Pittsburg chosen for national Rural Innovation Initiative

  Tuesday, February 5, 2019 3:00 PM
  Milestones, News, People and Society

Pittsburg, KS

Block22 Rural Innovation

Pittsburg was recently selected as one of nine communities nationwide to take part in the inaugural Rural Innovation initiative, a national program aimed at promoting digital economy jobs in rural communities.  

Sponsored by the Vermont-based Center on Rural Innovation (CORI) and its sister organization, Rural Innovation Strategies, Inc. (RISI), the Rural Innovation Initiative is made possible via a cooperative agreement between RISI and the U.S. Economic Development Administration.  

Nine communities were chosen to be part of the first cohort to participate in the initiative. Block22, an innovative living-learning community in downtown Pittsburg, was chosen to represent Pittsburg in the program. Other communities include: 

  • Cape Girardeau, Mo. 
  • Emporia, Kan. 
  • Grinnell, Iowa 
  • Independence, Ore.  
  • Pine Bluff, Ark.  
  • Red Wing, Minn.  
  • Traverse City, Mich.  
  • Wilson, N.C.  

“These nine communities represent the best of what rural America has to offer: strong visions for the future, solid infrastructure, excellent quality of life, and the talented workforce needed to engage at a high-level in the digital economy,” said Matt Dunne, CORI founder and executive director of RISI.  

Dunne is also a former executive at Google, where he started Google’s Community Affairs division out of a former bread factory in White River Junction, Vermont.  

“We heard from more than 130 rural communities that are interested in pursuing an innovation hub strategy and these nine stood out,” Dunne said. “We are excited to work with them and know that their energy, local assets, and innovative strategies are sure to deliver results for their communities.” 

As part of the initiative, the participating communities will receive a range of support, from on-site and video conference time with RISI staff to templates and written resources as they execute an innovation hub strategy. An innovation hub is an economic development model that works to educate and train local residents in digital skills, employ them in new economy jobs, and empower them to launch the startups that will drive their digital economy. 

Rural Innovation Initiative participants will have access to significant technical assistance to refine their economic development strategy, help them identify partnerships, and leverage existing resources.  

Representatives from CORI visited Block22 in January for a tour and a discussion with members of Pittsburg State’s University Strategic Initiatives (USI) office. The USI office is located at Block22, and the USI team serves as the university’s lead facilitator of the project.   

Shawn Naccarato, PSU’s chief strategy officer, said he’s honored to see Block22 chosen as part of this national initiative.  

“We’re incredibly grateful that Pittsburg, represented by Block22, was chosen to be part of this national effort to promote innovation and entrepreneurship,” Naccarato said. “The things we’re accomplishing here in Pittsburg would not be possible without the strategic partnership between the city and the university, and we believe that partnership could be a model for how many communities our size accomplish big things.” 

Block22 features residential, commercial, dining, and entertainment spaces. It combines nearly 100 units of student housing for PSU students with more than 16,000 square feet of innovation space for students to explore their own entrepreneurial ventures, while also contributing to the success of local entrepreneurs.   

Block22 is made up of four historic buildings that are being both renovated and restored. The historic properties included in Block22 are the Commerce, Baxter, National Bank, and Opera House Hotel buildings.  

The total cost of the project is approximately $19 million and is paid for through a mix of private contributions and public funds. More than $10 million of the total cost is paid for through historic and new market tax credits secured by The Vecino Group, the Springfield-based development company leading the project. The City of Pittsburg has invested nearly $2 million, and the Pittsburg State University Foundation has secured private donations of more than $1 million.    

Learn more about Block22 at www.block22psu.com.   

Learn more about the Rural Innovation Initiative at https://ruralinnovation.us/rural-innovation-initiative