(Idaho Falls, ID) -- The City of Idaho Falls, in partnership with Regional Economic Development for Eastern Idaho (REDI), has been awarded an economic development grant from Battelle Energy Alliance, operator of Idaho National Laboratory (INL), to begin conceptual development of an innovative new project called the Idaho Falls Innovation District.
“There are less than a handful of innovation districts in this country that converge on science and cutting edge research,” said Idaho Falls Mayor Rebecca Casper. “I expect some very big things will happen here in the future and it’s thrilling to know that the city will have played a significant role in helping to launch this kind of creative space right here in Idaho Falls.”
The $55,700 grant award will be used to develop a master plan for the district, which is designed to focus on developments that support start-up companies, business incubators and accelerator type businesses. Innovation districts also often include a larger, main anchor-type business in addition to housing, office space, research facilities, retail, and hospitality areas.
“Working towards an Idaho Falls Innovation District is an effort that has the potential to impact our community in a profound way. There is prevalent demand and interest, and it is our job now to provide a study and framework that can lead to implementation,” said Dana Briggs, Economic Development Coordinator for the City. “I appreciate the funding granted by Battelle Energy Alliance to move the project forward, as well as the support and work of other partners and stakeholders.”
According to Briggs, who will also be the manager for the Innovation District project, the plan currently is to focus on the area around MK Simpson Boulevard near the INL. The goal of the plan is to create a dedicated area where public and private partners can work together to attract businesses and organizations that generate ideas for technology advancement and economic growth.
“Idaho Falls has experienced tremendous growth over the past few years, and now is the right time to take a look at fostering an innovation district,” said Marsha McDaniel, Senior Advisor with Idaho National Laboratory. “Idaho National Laboratory looks forward to supporting the city in its efforts.”
Innovation districts are commonly used in an effort to create new products, technologies, and market solutions by grouping together what can often be disparate sectors and specializations. With an area dedicated to keeping these groups in close proximity to one another, collaboration is richer, incubation of ideas is more efficient, and a synergistic dynamic is created.
“REDI is thrilled to be invited to work with the City of Idaho Falls as they investigate the design and development of an Innovation District,” said REDI CEO Teresa McKnight. “These unique districts are catalysts for tech-oriented areas adjacent to research-intensive anchor institutions like the Idaho National Laboratory. Not only are they catalysts, they are also place makers for feeding startups to drive advanced industry growth.”
The City and REDI will work with the consulting firm of Agnew::Beck, a multidisciplinary consulting firm from Boise, on the initial design. The 12 month planning process is anticipated to involve a variety of steps including stakeholder outreach and engagement, focus group interviews, technical research, a land use site plan, and implementation report. The project is anticipated to begin in March 2021.
“Idaho Falls has a proven ability to both dream big and be practical,” said Ellen Campfield Nelson, Principal and Owner of Agnew::Beck. “As an Idaho-based planning and public engagement business, we are excited to be part of helping shape and implement the community's vision.”
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Media Note: For more information or to arrange an interview with city staff, please contact City of Idaho Falls Public Information Officer Bud Cranor at 208-612-8306 or at [email protected].