United States Of Innovation

CLICK THE FIRST LETTER OF THE STATE to browse 51 — yes, we included the District of Columbia! — bold ideas and brilliant urbanites who are helping to build the cities of America's future.

UNITED STATES OF INNOVATION

Illustration by Peter Oumanski
CLICK THE FIRST LETTER OF THE STATE to browse 51 — yes, we included the District of Columbia! — bold ideas and brilliant urbanites who are helping to build the cities of America's future. A | C | D | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | R | S | T | U | V | W

ALABAMA: BIRMINGHAM
Meagan and Darrius Peace | Magic City Black Expo
Three years ago, the Peaces, owners of a cosmetics company, decided that young black business owners like themselves needed a local showcase. Today, the Magic City Black Expo is a nexus of entrepreneurial camaraderie — and so important locally that it's a regular stump stop for area politicos.
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ALASKA: ANCHORAGE
Michael Sobocinski | Seeds of Change
Community gardens are not new. Nor are efforts to aid youth in the juvenile-justice system. But merge the two, as Sobocinski did, and add a social enterprise selling vegetables from the gardens — then you have a program with the potential to change lives on multiple levels.
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ARIZONA: PHOENIX
Nicollette Lewis and Priya Nathan | Partnered For Success
This project, started by Arizona State students Lewis and Nathan, pairs foster kids with local collegians who can lend listening ears and the wisdom of their years.
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ARKANSAS: BENTONVILLE, FAYETTEVILLE, JOHNSON, LOWELL, ROGERS, AND SPRINGDALE
Razorback Regional Greenway
These cities united to support the Razorback Regional Greenway, a 36-mile hike-and-bike trail to link all six. No one city could have footed the $38.5 million bill. The collaboration scored $15 million from the federal government.
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CALIFORNIA: SAN DIEGO
Voiceofsandiego.org
The staff of this website has set the standard for online, hyperlocal investigative journalism. Every city could use such in-depth reporting, which has held local officials to account and prompted reform.
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COLORADO: DENVER
The Reverend Ambrose Carroll | the Renewal Worship Center
Carroll has taken faith-based initiatives to a new level with what you might call initiative-focused faith. His inner-city church has an explicitly environmental emphasis and an outreach arm that offers green-job training and placement.
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CONNECTICUT: NEW HAVEN
Ben Berkowitz | SeeClickFix
When Berkowitz saw graffiti near his home, he tried to notify the right authorities. Not easy. So he built SeeClickFix, a site where citizens can post such alerts and flag any they deem urgent. Some 30 cities use a premium version of the site.
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D.C.: WASHINGTON
Affinity Lab
A model incubator that's part shared office and part creative collective, Affinity Lab is nurturing both for-profit and not-for-profit businesses.
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DELAWARE: WILMINGTON
West End Neighborhood House
An old settlement house turned full-scale social-services provider, West End offers low-interest payday loans as an alternative to the typical high-interest kind. It also lends money for security deposits and utility payments. All services come with financial counseling.
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FLORIDA: MIAMI
P. Scott Cunningham | University of Wynwood
Imagine the brainy stimulation of college without the loans or homework. That's what poet Cunningham sought when he started the University of Wyn-wood to hold events promoting contemporary literature.
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GEORGIA: ATLANTA
Michael Rich | Emory Community Building and Social Change Fellowship
This interdisciplinary program, created by poli-sci prof Rich, gives Emory University students hands-on experience with community development.
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HAWAII: KAUAI
Justin MacNaughton | GreenCar Hawaii
MacNaughton's startup takes car sharing in a clever, locally driven direction perfect for tourist-centric communities: the hotel. Guests can rent by the hour, via kiosks in the hotel lobby.
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IDAHO: BOISE
Trey McIntyre Project
The story of how this avant-garde dance troupe, a 2008 transplant from N.Y.C., seduced its new hometown — and how Boise has embraced it — is a lesson in both arts marketing and the cultural sophistication of the heartland.
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ILLINOIS: CHICAGO
Adrian Holovaty | EveryBlock
A hyperlocal-news aggregator from web developer Holovaty, EveryBlock emphasizes data that are often hard to access, such as crime statistics and restaurant-inspection info.
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INDIANA: INDIANAPOLIS
The National Design District
This redevelopment, centered on an old auto factory, aims to build a neighborhood-wide incubator. Its live-work spaces are meant for professionals in the design fields.
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IOWA: DUBUQUE
Smarter Sustainable Dubuque
With a helping hand from IBM, the city of Dubuque is using cloud-computing technology to gather data on — and ultimately cut levels of — water and electric usage.
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KANSAS: OLATHE
Olathe Works Well Clinic
This pioneering clinic for current and retired city employees, which charges no copays and focuses on preventive health, is shaving millions of health-care dollars a year from the municipal budget.
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KENTUCKY: LEXINGTON
Eric Patrick Marr | Lexenomics
How can Lexington spur growth? Via communication and inspiration, Marr thinks. So he built Lexenomics, a project that holds networking gatherings and ideas-based events, including a speaker series to bring big thinkers to Kentucky.
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LOUISIANA: NEW ORLEANS
Byron Mouton | Tulane University/Urbanbuild
Mouton, an architecture professor, needs to train his students. New Orleans needs houses. Thus, Urbanbuild was born, with architecture students creating sustainable modern housing in the Lower Ninth Ward.
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MAINE: PORTLAND
Susan Conley, Sara Corbett, and Mike Paterniti | The Telling Room
At this writing center founded by a trio of journalists, youth are using storytelling to help boost literacy and self-confidence.
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MARYLAND: BALTIMORE
The Baltimore Free School
Anyone can teach and all classes are, yes, free at the Baltimore Free School, created by some of the staff at Red Emma's bookshop. The eclectic curriculum includes classes on film, font design, and European politics.
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MASSACHUSETTS: BOSTON
Health Leads
For the past 15 years, the not-for-profit Health Leads has been redefining medical care. In its holistic model, doctors can prescribe food, job training, and housing aid as easily as pharmaceuticals.
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MICHIGAN: DETROIT
TechTown
A stunning factoid: The fastest-growing tech-job market in the U.S. over the past year was Detroit. A key part of the equation is TechTown, an incubator started in 2004 by Wayne State University that's now home to 220 firms.
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MINNESOTA: MINNEAPOLIS
Metro Transit Ride to Rewards
In the nation's first public-transit frequent-rider program, you can collect points — tradable for ride credits or Visa gift cards — both by using the system and by shopping at partner retailers.
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MISSISSIPPI: PASS CHRISTIAN
Evelina Shmukler | the Pass Christian Gazebo Gazette
This newspaper, born after Hurricane Katrina, quickly became vital for a city that lacked a resource for local news and information. Started, owned, and operated by journalist Shmukler, the Gazebo Gazette doesn't claim to be objective; it's a proud community cheerleader.
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MISSOURI: ST. LOUIS
Schlafly Bottleworks
Over the past 20 years, this microbrewery has blossomed into a community hub, hosting lectures, foodie gatherings, and even a special series of Washington University classes.
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MONTANA: MISSOULA
Urban Fringe Development Area Project
This dynamic road map, coordinated jointly by the city of Missoula and Missoula County, is used to allocate where growth should go. The goal: to balance the needs of the booming population and Montana's fragile ecosystem.
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NEBRASKA: LINCOLN
StarTran
The local public-transit authority has worked hard to help reduce driving miles in the city to the lowest of any U.S. metro area with a population under 250,000. Also awesome: a program offering monthly bus passes to low-income residents for just $7.50.
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NEVADA: RENO
Jason Geddes | City of Reno
There's much talk of wind power today, but which turbines work best? Geddes, Reno's environmental-services administrator, is testing them side by side in a project that has deployed nine turbines in Nevada's third-biggest city.
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NEW HAMPSHIRE: MANCHESTER
Emily Shakra | Building on Hope
After Extreme Makeover: Home Edition did an episode in New Hampshire, Shakra was inspired to continue in that spirit, uniting local builders to aid those who need building help. Her current project: a group home for boys.
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NEW JERSEY: CAMDEN
Dr. Jeffrey Brenner | Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers
Brenner learned that 1% of those who used Camden's hospitals and clinics racked up 30% of costs. He hypothesized that microtargeting them for treatment would slash city health spending and save lives. He was right.
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NEW MEXICO: ALBUQUERQUE
Calott + Gifford Architecture
This award-winning firm specializes in city-revitalizing "infill" and brownfields projects.
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NEW YORK: BINGHAMTON
The Design Your Own Park Competition
Too often, amenities like parks are conceived by bureaucrats, not end users. Binghamton changed that with a contest that invites residents to plan revamps of neglected spaces. The first new parks will be finished this year.
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NORTH CAROLINA: CHARLOTTE
The Charlotte Regional Partnership
This group aims to build Charlotte into an energy R&D hub by emphasizing education and training. Its strength: buy-in from all quarters, including big business (Duke Energy calls Charlotte home), city government, and local universities.
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NORTH DAKOTA: FARGO
Karen Stoker | Hotel Donaldson
Every city needs smart entrepreneurs and good hosts. Stoker is both. She's the proprietor of Hotel Donaldson, Fargo's chicest lodging, a repository of creativity (each room was designed by an area artist), and a symbol of and a catalyst for the revitalization of this North Dakota city.
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OHIO: CINCINNATI
Strive Partnership
It takes a village — or a whole city — to boost education. Strive Partnership's "cradle-to-career" model unites more than 300 organizations and interest groups, including businesses, parents, and schools to do that in Cincy.
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OKLAHOMA: OKLAHOMA CITY
Ron Norick | MAPS
Some cities try to lure businesses to restore them- selves. As OKC mayor from 1987 to 1998, Norick realized the city needed to restore itself to lure business. His MAPS plan involved no debt; a voter-backed 1¢ sales tax paid for new infrastructure. Today, downtown is abuzz and the NBA's Thunder call OKC home.
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OREGON: PORTLAND
Cindy Cooper | Portland State University Social Innovation Incubator
Tech has incubators, but not-for-profits and social enterprises? Started last year by Cooper, the SII features a Circuit Program that provides six months of startup assistance to five new social entrepreneurs each year.
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PENNSYLVANIA: PHILADELPHIA
Christian Kunkel | Startup Corps
An initiative to back youth enterprise, Startup Corps has funded ventures such as a hip-hop label, a not-for-profit trying to make prom fiscally viable for low-income students, and a diner.
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RHODE ISLAND: PROVIDENCE
Umberto Crenca | AS220
Crenca has shown how an arts not-for-profit can be a keystone of urban renewal. AS220's studio space, artist housing, and café/bar have helped boost a once-seedy area and lift property values.
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SOUTH CAROLINA: CLEMSON
Jim Oswald | PinPoint Public Works
This GPS — based touch-screen platform, developed by Oswald, enables sanitation workers to log problems — say, a pile of debris. The data are used to create a daily citywide "to-do" map to deploy staff smartly and save fuel.
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SOUTH DAKOTA: SIOUX FALLS
Phillips to the Falls Revitalization | Sioux Falls Convention & Visitors Bureau
The federally funded remake of an industrial riverfront area has boosted the city as a whole and shown the importance of partnerships, public and private.
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TENNESSEE: KNOXVILLE
Alex Lavidge | Knoxville Overground
The city's first coworking space attracts the self-employed who seek collaboration. Lavidge has also created a series of podcasts about Knoxville entrepreneurs.
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TEXAS: HOUSTON
Rick Lowe | Project Row Houses
A community-building program under the guise of a house-rehab/artist-support effort, Lowe's Project Row Houses boasts artist housing, meeting space, and redevelopment in a poor part of Houston.
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UTAH: SALT LAKE CITY
Clear the Air Challenge
Driving less has been a game in S.L.C. during each of the past two summers. Teams, formed to telecommute and carpool, cut pollution and shine a light on bad habits and conservation possibilities. The 2010 contest saved $735,000 in vehicle costs.
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VERMONT: BURLINGTON
John Todd | Living Technologies
Todd reconfigured Burlington's sewage-treatment plant to produce "gray water" that's clean enough for irrigation and toilet flushing. Bonus: Todd's system is half the price of a traditional sewage-treatment installation.
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VIRGINIA: NORFOLK
Hannah Serrano | Art Everywhere
Empty retail space plagues Main Street, U.S.A. Serrano decided to use barren Norfolk storefronts for a two-month-long art fair celebrating local creativity.
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WASHINGTON: SEATTLE
Chris Martin | Dumpster-Free Alleys
Former ad exec Martin started a company that has transformed waste management via a pay-as-you-dump model. Prices for recyclables are the lowest and regular garbage the highest.
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WEST VIRGINIA: HUNTINGTON
Huntington's Kitchen
Jamie Oliver started it in 2009, but keeping this community kitchen open after the cameras left has been hard. The payoff: Hundreds have learned to cook healthily, and Huntington is getting a new farmers' market.
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WISCONSIN: MILWAUKEE
Milwaukee Public Market
In 2005, after a decade of planning, the Milwaukee Public Market opened downtown. The market has anchored the rebirth of the Third Ward, which now typifies urban gentrification, with roaming hipsters and chichi design shops.
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WYOMING: CASPER
Stephen Grimshaw
A one-man low-income housing agency, builder Grimshaw pushes quality, amenities such as public art, and reuse of materials from historic sites. Next up: Wyoming's first LEED-certified residential complex.
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Related:
O Pioneers!
The Evangelist
Fast Cities 2011

Read more of our coverage on Fast Cities 2011

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2 Comments

  • arikabel

    Great list. For the record, the Triangle area of North Carolina, aka Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill, blows Charlotte out of the water every day with innovation. FAIL to not scratch the surface a little deeper. Email me for some more insight when you dig into 2012: arik.abel@gmail.com