Leaders Tapped to Guide Innovation District

Leaders Tapped to Guide Innovation District

The Mill announced the formation of a new advisory board to provide guidance and counsel to The Mill’s Trades District development team. The board will advise on developing the real estate and related ecosystem infrastructure to establish the Trades District as a strategic hub for the Bloomington region’s innovation-fueled economic development initiatives.

“We’re very excited to bring together this panel of leaders to help realize the long-standing vision of the Trades District,” said John Fernandez, Senior Vice President, Innovation & Strategic Partnerships at The Mill. “Collaboration across sectors is essential to building a vibrant innovation hub. We’re not just selling real estate. We’re building a dynamic entrepreneurial neighborhood that channels Bloomington’s unique spirit and attracts the young professional talent and innovation-driven companies that can drive our economy forward.”

The new board includes experts from real estate, business, academia, and government, with the majority representing private sector organizations. The board may eventually grow to 15 members, Fernandez said, but is launching with these initial members:

  • Sue Aguila, Founder/Owner, Bloomington Bagel Co.
  • Isak Asare, Consultant, Aleria Research Corp; Co-Director Cybersecurity & Global Policy Program, Hamilton Lugar School of Global & International Studies
  • Jay Baer, Owner, Convince & Convert; Founder, Tequila Jay Baer
  • Erik Coyne, Chancellor, Ivy Tech Bloomington
  • Hamid Farzad, Vice President, Global Business Development, BioProduct Commercial, Catalent
  • Anne Fields Lucas, NavalX Midwest Tech Bridge Director
  • Jon-Paul Herron, Director of Network Services, Energy Sciences Network (ESnet)
  • Michael Huber, Vice President University Relations, Indiana University
  • Bryant Niehoff, CEO, Uplands Science & Technology Foundation

Development of the 12-acre Trades District has accelerated since Bloomington’s Redevelopment Commission (RDC) signed an innovation partnership agreement in January 2023, authorizing The Mill to manage its development and marketing.  The planned development of the much-anticipated tech center is on track for a fall groundbreaking. The tech center, a new 22,000 square foot LEED certified office building, has received $5 million in funding from the City of Bloomington and $3.5 million from the U.S. Economic Development Administration.

The Mill also recently received a proposal for a $35 million boutique hotel in response to the initial Notice of Offering for the development of the district’s four parcels. Fernandez hopes to present that project to the RDC in the coming weeks.

“As a cultural magnet located right at the heart of the sci-tech corridor that runs from Crane to Indianapolis, Bloomington is perfectly positioned to become a regional innovation hub,” Fernandez said. “If you’re a startup or a growth-stage company, you’ve got access to the talent and applied R&D coming out of IU, the incredible IP at Crane, a community of fellow founders, and the startup programming at The Mill—all in a city rich in arts, entertainment, sports, great food, fantastic outdoor recreation. I think we’ll find that even some mature companies will want to tap into that pipeline of talent and opportunity.”

Private development projects in the district are also moving forward. A collective of local businesses are redeveloping the former Kiln Building, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, into tech and startup office space. Renovation is underway on the former Showers Administration building as well.

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