Babcock Ranch received the Pivot & Persist award from the Florida Economic Development Council at the 2021 Annual conference held in Orlando October 13-15.
FEDC hosts the Florida Economic Development Conference each year and takes the opportunity to recognize Florida’s best economic developers during the conference.
2020 disrupted nearly everything in economic development and hit local businesses especially hard; however, with crisis comes the opportunity to innovate and pivot, staying true to established goals under unprecedented circumstances. This award is to recognize those EDOs who rose to the occasion and persisted, demonstrating dedication and commitment to the local economy while proving to be a critical resource during the crisis and into recovery. Examples may include crisis communications efforts, recovery campaigns, attraction campaigns, and support of local employers and/or partners.
Established in 1987, The Edison Best New Product Awards™ recognizes excellence in new product and service development, marketing, human-centered design, innovation excellence and leadership. The competition is open to innovative organizations across the globe, and each year a diverse field of finalists ranging from small start-ups to Fortune 500 companies convene for presentation of the prestigious awards. When the Edison Awards agreed to move the annual event to Fort Myers for three years beginning in 2021, we saw an opportunity to reach key decision-makers for the type of companies we’re working to attract to our innovative, sustainable new town. By coming on board as a sponsor, we would have a prominent speaking role during the traditional educational forum and innovators showcase to be held at the conference leading up to the awards gala. We were able to expand on that by securing an opportunity to host a tour of Babcock Ranch as one of the optional field trips offered for attendees on the day following the awards.
In early March, with registrations for the April 22nd event severely lagging due to corporate restrictions on attendance and participation in indoor events due to COVID-19, the Edison Awards team had two options – take everything online, or find an outdoor venue to accommodate a hybrid live/digital edition of the 2021 Edison Awards. A visit to Babcock Ranch on March 6th sparked the idea of boosting attendance by making the “Meet the Innovators Forum” an outdoors Earth Day Celebration at the world’s first solar-powered town. With just 45 days notice, we embraced the challenge to pivot into the role of primary host of a hybrid live/live-streamed production reaching a global audience.
Educational presentations and panel discussions, moderated by renowned PBS and CNN journalist Miles O’Brien, took place under the band shell for the outdoor audience as well as digital attendees around the globe. The Edison Awards replaced its traditional trade show exhibition hall with socially-distanced field trips showcasing key competitive advantages of Babcock Ranch. While pre-recorded segments streamed to the global live-stream audience, we were able to do industry-specific deep-dive familiarization tours providing small group immersion experiences in targeted sectors of STEAM education, sustainable technologies and green energy.
In addition to the live and digital audiences reached via the live-stream program, video segments showcasing innovations recognized with 2021 Edison Awards, including Babcock Ranch, were part of a half-hour program produced and distributed by Miles O’Brien. The Babcock Ranch feature story also aired on NPR’s Evening Edition newscast.
The pivot to an outdoor event proved successful in boosting live participation. More than 200 key influencers made the trip to Babcock Ranch for the Earth Day event, including decision makers for targeted industry leaders such as Arthrex, Ampaire, Lanzatech, Black & Veatch, EcoSpears, Redwire and FutureLogic.