Crossposted from the Herald-Times, this is The Mill’s regular column, written by Pat East, Executive Director.
Late last month, I summarized The Mill’s and our startups’ accomplishments for 2023. It’s great to take stock of the big wins and get motivated for the upcoming year. With that in mind, what does The Mill’s future look like? Here are our top 5 priorities and objectives for 2024:
- Expanding Programming
While we are constantly improving and refining our programming, there are specific expansions we will focus on in 2024. The Code/IT Academy, our code school for the unemployed and underemployed, will expand into Daviess, Dubois, and Orange counties. In partnership with Ivy Tech, we already run cohorts for residents in Monroe, Washington, and Crawford counties, focusing on CompTIA Security+, Intro to Web Design, and AWS Cloud Practitioner, among others. This expansion is supported by a READI grant from IEDC at the State and ROI in Bloomington.
Bloomington Remote moved 19 people to Bloomington last year. These folks generated $2.1million of economic impact in their first year, which compounds annually, and generates tax revenue for the city. They buy homes, support small businesses, and contribute to the vibrancy of our city. One of our first recruits, Pablo Fuentes, sits on the board for the Buskirk-Chumley Theater and founded the Cosmic Songwriter’s Club where singer-songwriters perform their original works. Toward the latter third of the year, we moved 3 per month, with a peak of 7 in October. Our goal for 2024 is 50.
- Building the Tech Center
Last year, the City of Bloomington and The Mill expanded our public-private partnership. The Mill signed an agreement to manage the development and marketing of the Trades District, a 12-acre portion of the Bloomington Certified Technology Park. This expansion will boost Bloomington’s innovation economy, attract cutting-edge companies, and create high-paying jobs.
We made significant progress in the first year. After hiring John Fernandez, our former mayor, to lead the Trades District projects, he secured construction funding from the City of Bloomington in two tranches – $3 million from the City Council and $3.8 million from the Bloomington Development Commission in September. Additionally, John secured $300 thousand from the City of Bloomington Utilities’ green infrastructure fund to cover the cost of the green roof. This is on top of the $3.5 million CARES Act Recovery Assistance Grant from the Economic Development Administration (EDA) to build the Tech Center.
Construction on the Tech Center was expected to begin in the fall of 2023 and John and our partners at Weddle Brothers ensured we started on time. Site and foundation work began in October and continues through the winter, even as temperatures dipped into the single digits. The building is slated to open in January 2025.
Securing additional investments and private development opportunities in the Trades District represent additional priorities for John in 2024.
- Launching a Target Sector Fund
Flywheel Fund, launched in 2020, has a significant impact on our startups’ success, with over $3 million invested to date and $1 million invested annually. Cook, Catalent, Simtra and IU Health and Naval Surface Warfare Center Crane, the world’s third largest naval warfare base, represent incredible foundations for regional innovation clusters that can fuel our economic development opportunities. Leveraging these industry strengths, we plan to raise a targeted sector fund, focusing on HealthTech and DefenseTech. In addition to raising capital for this fund, we aim to provide startups with access to a mentor network, helping them find their first customers, refine products, and obtain the resources they need to succeed.
- Starting More New Companies
To have more successful companies, we need more companies to start in the first place. Indiana has historically lagged in entrepreneurship rankings, and we aim to change that. Young companies, less than 5 years old, represent the majority of net new jobs created across the US. We have various programs for this, including entrepreneurship classes, startup acceleration programs, pitch competitions, and funding opportunities. With the launch of Innovate Indiana in 2023, we will have an even stronger partner at IU focused on creating more startups.
Beginning in 2024 and continuing well into the future, we need to help our residents start more companies. If you’ve been thinking about starting a company, how do we get you to make the leap? What resources do you need to de-risk it? Perhaps you don’t want to be an entrepreneur, but you understand how to solve a really difficult problem in a significant market that your current employer doesn’t want to focus on. Could we pair you with a cofounder?
- Hiring New Staff
The Mill has an extraordinary, hardworking staff, and we need more talented individuals to help us fulfill our mission of launching and accelerating startups, as well as our vision of becoming Indiana’s center of gravity for entrepreneurship. We started the year with 12 team members—10 full-time and 2 part-time. This year, we plan to hire 7 new full-time employees. Some of these hires are new positions, while others are replacements for those who have left, like our former head of operations who is now the Deputy Mayor for the City of Bloomington. These new hires will include a Head of Flywheel Fund and a Program Manager for Code/IT Academy and the Trades District. They will support the expansion of existing programs and ensure they are properly resourced to continue creating a positive impact. As we grow our programs, we need to dedicate the time and resources required for their success.
I’m excited about our plans for 2024. If you would like to participate in any of them, please email at firstname.lastname@example.org.