Mid America EDC Celebrates National Inventors Month in May
Tuesday, May 24, 2022
May is National Inventors Month, and utilizing Inventors & Entrepreneurs (I&E) Clubs in our region is a great economic development strategy for many reasons, including that I&E Clubs provide a cost-effective way to cultivate new businesses and business ideas. In addition, these clubs provide valuable contributions to the local economy in every community, regardless of size, location, or budget. The exchange of ideas, resources, and networking opportunities that are available through an I&E club makes it an effective way to turn ideas into thriving businesses, creating jobs and a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship.
According to existing club organizers, one of the keys to establishing a successful I&E Club is to have a mixture of inventors, entrepreneurs, businesses, investors, and economic development professionals. In addition, a lively and engaging facilitator who is well-connected to other community resources and who is able to provide introductions provides another layer of connection that leads to business success for the participants.
Tamaya Loewe of the Juneau County Economic Development Corp (JCEDC) shared some insights into why the I&E Club of Juneau County, Wisconsin has been so successful. The Juneau I&E club began early 20 years ago when several JCEDC directors formed a distinct non-profit 501(c)3 under the umbrella of JCEDC in order to support local inventors and entrepreneurs with education, resources, and mentors. The purpose of this, explained Loewe, was “so that the inventor/entrepreneur could be successful without losing their life's savings.”
Terry Whipple, the JCEDC Director at the time, stepped up to facilitate the I&E Club meetings and events. According to Loewe, “having a champion who is passionate about I&E and keeps showing up every month to offer training, networking, and support is critical to the long-term success of any I&E program.”
For economic development organizations that want to create a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship, Loewe suggests embracing the values and concepts of flexibility and adaptation, cultivating self-awareness of strengths and weaknesses, and striving to find partners that complement these values. Loewe also shared that it’s important to “take risks without fear of failure and to celebrate failures as powerful lessons towards success.”
Wondering how to start your own I&E club? Loewe suggests finding “a champion who will be the facilitator, organizer, and cheerleader,” adding that “minimal funding is needed if the champion seeks other local business leaders and educators to offer free presentations, a room/ venue is donated periodically, and potluck or light snacks are provided.”
New ideas are often the first step toward creating a thriving business. Through clubs and other organized groups, inventors can receive the support they need to turn their innovations into viable, scalable businesses. Some of the areas inventors often need help with are legal consultation, especially patents and trademarks, marketing and public relations expertise, and manufacturing, technology, and engineering help. Strategic advice is also key, as it helps entrepreneurs determine how to turn their idea into a product or service that can be scaled and sold to the general public.
The Mid America region counts many notable inventors throughout history. Here are just a few of the inventors who have made amazing discoveries and contributions:
- Thomas Edison, inventor of the light bulb (OH)
- Mary Sherman Morgan, inventor of hydyne, liquid fuel that powered the Jupiter-C rocket that boosted the United States' first satellite, Explorer 1 (ND)
- Henry Ford, inventor of the automobile (MI)
- Wright Brothers, inventors and builders of the first motor-operated airplane (OH)
- John Deere, invented the steel plow (IA)
- William Lear, inventor of the Lear Jet airplane and the 8-track stereo (MO)
- Garrett Morgan, invented the three-light traffic signal (OH)
- Mary Florence Potts, inventor of an iron that was lighter weight and had a detachable handle that made ironing easier (IA)
- Dasia Taylor, inventor of color-changing sutures to detect infection (IA)
According to Loewe, the National Inventors Club (NIC) can be a helpful resource. NIC provides monthly live virtual presentations on various topics relevant to inventors for free.
When thinking about what’s next for your community, consider working with local I&E Clubs. And it’s never too early to start fostering a love of inventions and innovation in students. Look into programs to encourage young inventors, like the educational programs at the Canton, OH-based National Inventors Hall of Fame, that teach science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) concepts while maintaining a focus on hands-on fun and creativity. Founded in 1973, the National Inventors Hall of Fame also celebrates innovation at all ages, and the history of ingenuity and invention in the United States.