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Consultant will begin developing plan for Innovation District

Date: 11/3/2010

Nov. 3, 2010

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

HOLYOKE -- The creation of an "innovation district" in the city took another step forward last week when HDR Inc. was announced as the consultant to the Innovation District Design and Development Task Force.

The meeting of the task force was a standing-room-only event at the Holyoke Heritage State Park Visitors' Center. It was the task force's first meeting since July.

HDR is an employee-owned architecture, engineering and consulting firm with headquarters in Omaha, Neb.

According to its mission statement, the task force has been charged, in part, "to articulate the innovation-based economic development opportunities associated with the emergence of an innovation district anchored by the proposed location of a high-performance computing center in Holyoke's Canal District . to engage with key stakeholders and expert organizations in the development of a strategy that will help attract advanced computing talent, entrepreneurs, investment and firms to Holyoke and the Pioneer Valley."

Patrick Larkin, the director of the Massachusetts Technology Center's John Adams Innovation Institute, said the Green High Performance Computing Center (GHPCC), the $100 million public and private collaboration that has broken ground in Holyoke, is a "catalyzing event."

Larkin could not predict what kind of technology businesses would be attracted to the city because of the GHPCC or what unrelated businesses would start or go because of the center.

"We don't know what those are today. It's a journey, it's a process we've started," Larkin said.

Larkin explained among the goals HDR Inc. will be asked to complete an "action strategy" for the innovation district that will include determining what are the best industries for the district; how to leverage the colleges and universities in the "Knowledge Corridor" that is defined in the Hartford, Conn. through Northampton area; and how to best improve the innovation "eco-system" in the area.

Dan Hodge, the principal economist and project manager for HDR Inc., said over the next nine months his firm will work with the task force to develop this plan. The plan will tie into the city's urban renewal plan and will identify who will be responsible for implementing it.

Other innovation districts worldwide will be examined to see how they work and what businesses have grown in them, he added.

Hodge's colleague James Moore added the public would be invited to participate in this process through meetings and surveys.

"The goal is to establish a process that will work here in Holyoke," Moore said.

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