Innovation? We got’cher innovation right here!
Forbes magazine recently published its list of the 10 Most Innovative Cities and right on its heels was a Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine article on the 10 Best Cities for the Next Decade. Of course, Kiplinger defines best as “most innovative”. Granted, they only focused on large cities, so it’s not surprising that Austin was #1 on the Kiplinger list and #2 on the Forbes list. But it got me to thinking – how would my favorite, sleepy little beach town, Port Aransas, Texas, stack up if anyone at Forbes or Kiplinger were “innovative” enough to check it out?
Here’s my take.
Forbes said; “Over the last year residents of Austin have patented inventions including a laser-guided nail clipper for dogs and cats, an electronic fishing reel system, a fertilizer that also functions as a pesticide, and a gadget that can detect explosive chemicals with microphones–along with about 2,900 other ideas, the second-most per-capita of any metro area in the U.S.”
Ok, perhaps we don’t have 2,900 ideas – heck, we barely have 2,900 full time residents. If you look at ideas per capita, we only need about 15 good ones and we’ll have Austin beat hands down. Besides, who needs a fancy nail clipper for pets, just run ‘em on the beach and they naturally wear their nails down. An electronic fishing reel system? How long do you think that expensive toy would last in our salt air? Pesticide in fertilizers? You’ll have to ask “fido” about that one. And as for explosive chemicals and microphones – I’m sure I saw something like that on stage at Sharkey’s last Saturday night.
Kiplinger said, “Austin is arguably the country’s best crucible for small business, offering a dozen community programs that form a neural network of business brainpower to help entrepreneurs. Now overlay that net with a dozen venture-capital funds and 20 or so business associations, plus incubators, educational opportunities and networking events. Mix all these elements in what many call a classless society, where hippie communalism coexists with no-nonsense capitalism, and you’ve got a breeding ground for start-ups.”
Now, to be real honest, I’m not sure I understand even half of what that said. But I do think I’ve come across a “neural network of business brainpower” in action recently. The other day, I heard two guys talking about how to make a fishing lure using metal screws, eyehooks, crazy glue and an empty beer can. Most of the conversation focused on how to make sure the beer can was empty. Of course, this was taking place in one of Port Aransas’ finer “business incubators” – The Back Porch Bar. And that part about hippies and capitalism mixed together? Heck, 90% of Port Aransas residents are hippie refugees from the big city just trying to eke out enough of a living to feed their fishing habit. That’s no-nonsense capitalism with a purpose.
I do think Kiplinger hit on the most important factor in ranking its 10 Best Cities when they said, “Don’t discount the fun factor.” Granted, Austin is a pretty fun place to hang out, especially when SXSW or ACL Festival is on. You can’t beat it for the live music scene. But what to do the other 48 weeks of the year? Seems to me that a whole lot of Austinites spend their summers and weekends on the beaches of Mustang Island. Now, what does it tell you when people who live in the “Most Innovative” and “Best City for the Next Decade” voluntarily spend their free time someplace else?
You can decide for yourself. Me, I’m hanging in Port Aransas this summer.
The Commons at Seashell on Mustang Island, Port Aransas, Texas