City and The Mill Sign Innovation Partnership Agreement; Trades District and Tech Center Surge Forward
Today, the City of Bloomington and The Mill announced they have formalized a new partnership to expand Bloomington’s innovation economy, attract cutting-edge companies, and create high-paying jobs. According to the Innovation Partnership Agreement approved by the Redevelopment Commission (RDC) on January 23 (https://bton.in/nuuxS), The Mill will now manage the development and marketing of the Trades District, a 12-acre portion of the Bloomington Certified Technology Park.
The first priority will be establishing an executive director position for the Trades District and Tech Center, finalizing the vision for the Trades District Technology Center (https://bton.in/aI8lp), overseeing its construction, recruiting tenants, and building collaborations and furthering partnerships with the City, BEDC, Indiana University, and private sector leaders.
“Innovation-based startups and growth-stage companies are critical for building a dynamic economy that creates good jobs for our region,” said Mayor John Hamilton. “This partnership positions us to quickly move forward and build on the long-term work of many partners. Since opening in 2018, The Mill has transformed our tech sector economy. Their startup expertise, operational experience, ecosystem connections across the state, and programming resources align with what we need to develop the Tech Center and the Trades District into a thriving hub of innovation.”
The Mill, a nonprofit center for entrepreneurship and coworking, offers entrepreneurial community, training, mentoring, and capital. Since its launch in 2020, Flywheel Fund, The Mill’s micro-investment fund, has invested $1.6 million in 29 Indiana-based startups (flywheelfund.vc). According to The Mill, that seed funding has allowed those small, fast-growing companies to attract $8.9 million in additional outside investment. The Kauffman Foundation, a nonprofit that tracks entrepreneurial growth, regards access to early-stage capital as critical to increasing business starts and creating jobs.
In 2022, Flywheel and The Mill helped propel Bloomington to #15 in the Midwest Startup City rankings, despite Bloomington being the smallest city in the top 20 and one of the smallest in the list as a whole. TechPoint, Indiana’s nonprofit industry group for the tech sector, named Bloomington Indiana’s Rising Tech City Award in 2021 and singled out The Mill as instrumental.
“To accomplish the economic development goals for our region, the Tech Center must become not merely a physical space but a hub of connectivity that sparks innovation and opportunity and attracts talent and investment. We’ve seen at The Mill how clustering tech companies in close proximity has a compounding effect on innovation. Multi-disciplinary, private/public partnerships will be essential in that network of connections,” said Pat East, Executive Director for The Mill. “The City and RDC have made a deep, visionary investment in the Trades District, and with the Bloomington Economic Development Corporation (BEDC) secured critical federal funding for the Tech Center, now is the time to take action and turn vision into reality.”
Construction on the Tech Center is expected to begin in the fall of 2023. In 2021, the Economic Development Administration awarded the RDC and the BEDC a $3.5 million CARES Act Recovery Assistance Grant to build the Tech Center. Acting on behalf of the City, the RDC will match the federal investment with a $1.6 million pledge to the project. The EDA projects that the grant will create 530 jobs and generate $51 million in private investment in the region.
“We're excited for this next stage of the Trades District and Tech Center development, which The Mill is very strongly positioned to carry forward,” said Jennifer Pearl, President of the BEDC. “It builds on our earlier work with the City and other partners to foster an innovative economy while redeveloping the Trades District for our community’s future.”
Since the designation of the 65-acre Certified Technology Park in 2005, of which the 12-acre Trades District is part, the site has seen the transformation of the historic Dimension Mill into a business incubator and co-work space. Infrastructure improvements in the form of new streets, walkways, and other environmentally friendly amenities, and a new 350-space parking structure (the first in Indiana to achieve Parksmart certification, a sustainability credential) have made the area a benefit to Bloomington and friendly to visitors utilizing various modes of transportation.
Recently, in December 2022, the Showers Administration Building at 601 N. Morton Street (https://bton.in/_QO1n) was sold to Eurton Qualified Opportunity Fund, LLC, who is performing a preliminary restoration of the building’s interior and intends to solicit potential technology and innovation tenants this year. In November 2022, the Showers Brothers Furniture Factory Kiln Building at 642 N Madison Street was sold to The Kiln Collective (https://bton.in/XP3Pb), who will renovate the structure and occupy it with their respective ventures.
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