Placemaking and the Making of Entrepreneurs

By: Karl R. LaPan, President & CEO, Northeast Indiana Innovation Center

There is a real power in place when it comes to entrepreneurship. Sociologist Ray Oldenberg is credited with coining the term “third place” to describe the important places in our lives other than home or work where people can go to unwind and feel part of a community. Think coffee shops, libraries, public markets, bars, and even entrepreneurial resource centers like the Innovation Center.

Oldenburg’s third place concept aligns well with the Knight Foundation’s Soul of the Community study, which “found that three main qualities attach people to place: social offerings, such as entertainment venues and places to meet, openness (how welcoming a place is) and the area’s aesthetics (its physical beauty and green spaces).”

What’s particularly interesting is these locations have set the stage for entrepreneurs in poorer, ethnically distinct neighborhoods to start small businesses that serve a cultural need. Restaurants, cafes, art galleries and other niche shops, often pop up to serve a unique population. As this crossroads, a sense of place begins to evolve and it can attract people from outside the neighborhood to further spur economic development.

One of the most successful examples of a third place, as a hub for entrepreneurship, has been public markets. Public markets were the nexus of many historic cities, because of their economic, social and cultural values.

Unfortunately, many cities today in the U.S. lack historic market buildings and public market traditions. Consequently, many entrepreneurs feel locked out by long-term leases for commercial space in buildings and other start-up barriers.

Luckily entrepreneurs in Northeast Indiana don’t have to wait for Fort Wayne to invest in a large-scale public market.Instead they can turn to the Innovation Center’s facilities, which provide an alternative to traditional commercial offices. Regardless of where you are in the stage of development of your idea or venture, we have flexible, growth options for you. The Innovation Center has the largest number of entrepreneurial start-ups in NE Indiana under one roof.


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