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Innovation and Tuolumne County

As many of the regular readers of MyMotherlode News have seen, the InnovationLab and Maker Space has opened in the former Tuolumne General Hospital. What many readers may not know is that the InnovationLab and Maker Space is just one component of the greater Innovation Plan that the TCEDA has outlined and is currently working on.
While the InnovationLab and Maker Space is the physical component of the Innovation program, the following are additional areas in the plan.

Attraction – The Innovation plan and the InnovationLab gives us one more “tool” in the economic development “tool box” as we try to attract businesses (with their higher wage jobs) and residents from more urban areas of California.

Capital Club – The Capital Club is a TCEDA program of local investors (both Angel and Venture) in which we match up small technology and manufacturing firms with local investors who not only have the financial means but are interested in investing in companies that will help the local community grow.

Small Business – Small businesses tie into the plan by providing users of the InnovationLab (both the company and their employees) internship opportunities for our students in local schools, Columbia College and UC Merced, providing job opportunities for our students in local schools, Columbia College, UC Merced and other local residents. They also provide an opportunity to mass produce and sell a product that maybe the inventor does not want to do themselves.

Schools – The Innovation plan has a major emphasis on education of not only current technology and manufacturing employees, but also a heavy focus in training the next generation of technology and manufacturing employees by getting kids interested in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) careers. We are working very closely with all education providers in Tuolumne County to partner when possible to bring more technology training to our students.

Community – The community is another important component to the success of the Innovation plan in Tuolumne County. They provide the members and referrals to the InnovationLab and the Maker Space so that individuals can become part of a “technology and innovation community”. As this “technology and innovation community” grows it provides chances to share ideas, concepts, plans and innovation among members which helps not only those who share but the community as a whole.
Sonora Area Foundation – One of the major partners to the success of this InnovationLab is the Sonora Area Foundation. They have provided grant funding for the initial equipment purchase for the lab and have assisted the Economic Prosperity Council’s staff in establishing two funds (EPCTC Fund and a STEM Fund) whereby local businesses and citizens can make tax-deductible donations to further the work of the Economic Prosperity Council/TCEDA projects like the InnovationLab.

Columbia College – Our local college is the next step for many of our students who call Tuolumne County home. We are working with administrators and staff to provide training and fill gaps in knowledge for our local technology workers, businesses and training programs.

UC Merced – By design, the InnovationLab has designated space and resources to engage UC Merced, the first research university in the 21st century. Students and faculty will have access to space, computer and social media technology, and conferencing capability. They will have a chance to build relationships and collaborate with community members as well as students and faculty from Columbia College who are active in the InnovationLab. The goal is to create bi-directional projects, where ideas and talent are shared between the community and the university with the potential for faster innovation tied to real-world problems. Projects will apply science and technology to solve business and community problems. One goal is catalyze social enterprises that grow the economy and address urgent community concerns as in health care, education, and environmental sustainability.

Venture Conference – One future component of the Innovation plan is a future “event” that will highlight all the innovation and technology possibilities that are available in Tuolumne County and will be promoted to both local and state-wide based businesses.

Vendors – We are already working with many local vendors who can provide space and additional services for growing and expanding “technology and manufacturing” companies. As the number of projects grow, more and more vendors will be needed.

City of Sonora and the County of Tuolumne – They provide the base and project funding to the TCEDA that allows TCEDA staff to spend the time and resources needed to launch this innovation plan in Tuolumne County.

As you can see there are many components to this plan and there are many more not outlined in this blog. As additional components mature we will add them to the list of tools that are available to innovators who call Tuolumne County home.

For info on the InnovationLab: