Chapter 3: Local champions: entrepreneurs’ transition to philanthropy and the vibrancy of place
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Often the story of successful places is predicated on the story of an individual who was instrumental in creating institutions and making connections that were transformative for a local economy. Certainly this is the case for Silicon Valley in California and Fred Terman, the Dean of Engineering at Stanford University, USA, who offered his garage to his students, Hewlett and Packard, and encouraged other start-ups. Or George Kozmetsky, the founder of Teledyne, who created the Institute for Innovation, Creativity and Capital (IC2) and mentored over 260 local computer companies in Austin, Texas. Any reading of the lives of these individuals highlights their connection to community and motivations beyond making profits. These individuals are ‘regional champions’ (Feldman and Zoller, 2012) – highly connected individuals who live and work in a region and take responsibility for the stewardship of the place. This defines a class of individuals who have attachment to a community and who, through their actions, make a difference in the economic vibrancy and prosperity of a place. Driven by an attachment to a place, facilitated by a developed ability to perceive opportunity, and aided by a longer-term perspective, entrepreneurs are ideal agents for engaging the vibrancy of place. It also makes good business sense for regional champions as they expand their firms. Rather than unique individual stories, these actions appear to be fairly regular events, consistently making a difference in local economies.

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