Jackson County is one of eight communities taking part in this year’s TVA Economic Development Community Innovation Academy, a program and experience to help economic developers create breakthrough ideas together to better their communities.

Developed by TVA Economic Development and Guillermo Mazier, founder of Collective Intelligence and VP of Global Innovation for Conway Data Inc., the Academy aids in unlocking the tools, tactics and skills to more effectively and collaboratively solve community problems with the goal of sparking more economic growth and shared community prosperity.

Jackson County’s participation in the TVA Innovation Academy is a collaborative effort with Academy local representation including Nathan Lee with Jackson County EDA, Meg Nippers with Northeast Alabama Community College and Sarah Stahl with The Mountain Lakes Chamber of Commerce. With Jackson County Economic Development Authority as the initiative lead.

Lee says, “the TVA Innovation Academy is going to be an awesome avenue to help Jackson County fill in some gaps that we may have. This will allow us to strategically find solutions to problems we face & we look forward to the challenge.”

Over a course of nine months, participating communities are completing community ecosystem maps, performing innovation capacity assessments and engaging in hours of interactive working sessions to identify a critical community challenge and incubating a solution that would solve it and in turn positively affect their local economies.

The Academy will culminate on Oct. 21 in Nashville, Tennessee with a pitch presentation by each participating community outlining an innovative solution to a proposed problem within their community. Teams will be seeking resources (i.e. feedback, introductions, connections, program funding) from the pitch event judges and audience members to strengthen their solution pathway.

 “TVA’s Community Innovation Academy provides participating Valley communities the opportunity to explore fresh and transformational approaches to competitiveness in the economic development industry,” said Heidi Smith, TVA General Manager, Global Business. “We are proud to partner with Jackson County EDA  to help prepare the community catalysts for industry disruptors and support innovative solutions to foster economic growth.”

“Cities and their community networks are incredible vectors to solve complex economic development problems. The growing rate of global change and unpredictable business environments present a profound challenge to our ability to plan, manage and grow our communities these days.  Companies and talent alike are increasingly looking to locate or grow in communities that welcome change, embrace creativity and build innovative environments. Challenges accelerated by the Covid 19 pandemic like workforce availability, small business readiness, corporate growth/expansion and inequality have grown exponentially more complex. How communities effectively respond to those challenges requires new thinking, new models and new collaborations. By applying community innovation, we can help places like Jackson County positively impact their long-term economic future,” said Guillermo Mazier, Founder Collective Intelligence and VP Global Innovation at Conway, Inc.

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