On Being An Economic Ostrich

Published: Thursday, 07 August 2014 19:26
Written by Don Musilli

All I See Is Sand!


One of the distinct features of the Ostrich is its ability to run quickly at speeds up to 43 miles per hour when threatened by a predator. It will also lay down on the ground with its head slightly buried in the ground to look like a mound of dirt if it finds itself in a position where it can’t run or hide. While this does nothing to protect it from the reality of being attacked it believes that if it can’t see them they can’t see the Ostrich.


Here in the greater Englewood area we look at new business ideas as a predator and bury our proverbial heads in the sand, ( because we believe this will solve all our problems) while the start-up companies in California look at sand as silicon… and there-in lies the problem. The sun, water and sand are just one aspect of what makes southwest Florida communities viable. What’s missing, is the energy, determination and collective risk involved in turning OUR sand into silicon.


Fixing The Barren Landscape


When I started EIC in August of 2012 the mission statement included the statement, “changing the economic landscape,” when referring to our goal for the greater Englewood area as a business incubator. That has not changed. One of the main reasons I felt our type of organization was necessary was the lack of effectiveness by the Economic Development Commissions in both Sarasota and Charlotte counties. This is not to say those individuals who head up those organizations are not trying to make a difference. I personally know these people and they are working hard at trying to bring new companies into our area. The problem is the tools they are using in their sand box are shovels and pails, just like the ones used 50 years ago.


In the past 5 years only 80 companies across the entire U.S. made any significant move to another state or location. Every state is trying to lure companies in their direction. Why? Because they understand the only other option is to grow their economies organically…and that is more difficult and takes longer to affect economic change. Yet this is the only way to change the landscape. The sand box must be removed and replaced with something that makes us uncomfortable, a silcon box.


The Digital Divide


There is no doubt that the advent of bringing 3D Printing (Additive Manufacturing) into EIC’s operation was a great turning point in our program. We now have the right tools ( in our silicon box ) to take the digitally wired youth and entrepreneurs and turn their ideas into hard products overnight. The ability to create a prototype of a 3 dimensional drawing is perfectly suited to the new “digitally wired” generation. In addition, those individuals who previously had to spend thousands of dollars to have someone design and fabricate a prototype of their ideas can now have that done ( in most cases) for less than $100.00. This opens the door for more innovation and the real potential to develop new products and create new companies right here in Englewood.









Page 2. Economic Ostrich


This connection tool ( printer) is also important because it is quickly becoming the most disruptive technology on the planet and the adaption rate of the younger generation to this technology is absolutely astounding. One of the challenges I have when discussing our program and this technology with many of the local businesses and older retirees is their inability to see our vision.


It has always been my nature to seek out those individuals who were “smarter than me” in areas of technology that I needed to use but which I had little knowledge or technical understanding. Over the past 40 years I always looked up to those senior engineers and experienced technicians to assist me in developing new products or solving technical problems.


Today, I mostly look down. Down to the Middle school and High school STEM engineering students, down to those young people who can write computer code, down to those geeky kids that can make a 3 dimensional file of an object in less than an hour and send it to me via email so I can send it to our 3D Printers, down to those 8 year old students at Englewood Elementary school who can design simple objects on Tinker Cad and print it out on their new MakerBot Replicator 3D printer. Yes, if we are going to change the economic landscape in our community these young people and entrepreneurs are the ones who will help us get out of our sand box.


It has often been said that one can’t soar with the Eagles when they hang out with Ostriches. While the Ostrich can run fast and does have feathers, for all its effort to try…well… it just can’t fly.