Gainesville’s Charm Praised at iG Forum

Why Gainesville? That was the questioned answered by eight unique innovators at the iG (Innovation Gainesville) Forum last Wednesday. The event drew more than 100 people.

Josh Greenberg and his co-founders had dreams of working in Silicon Valley when they started Grooveshark as freshmen at the University of Florida in 2006. Yet, Gainesville’s supply of student workers and low cost of living contributed to the company’s survival as other startups failed in the Valley. Today, the music streaming business has nearly 100 employees and 25 million monthly subscribers.

Chad Paris, of the design firm Parisleaf said he is inspired by Gainesville. “In Gainesville, we felt something different,” he said. “We felt a palpable entrepreneurial spirit.” Paris said he wants to create videos to showcase what Gainesville has to offer as a form of recruiting tools.

Molly Delattre and Emma Sullivan, UF students who decided to stay in Gainesville after forming CollegeVox and Gainesville Scene, said they believe there is a pure and untapped potential here and believe the time has come for Gainesville to reveal the “it” factor.

Ken Peng, who studied business at UF, explored Gainesville and fell in love with its restaurant scene while his friends enjoyed nights out on the town. He now reviews restaurants in the food blog “Ken Eats Gainesville,” while working in finance by day.

160over90, a Philadelphia-based branding and advertising agency, opened an office here in October. Greg Ash, the company’s creative director, said he recommends spending a weekend in Gainesville to discover the adventures the city offers.

Ann Christiano, a public interest communications professor at UF, showed what Gainesville can bring to the table by using the Hippodrome stage instead of a hotel ballroom and coffee shops instead of windowless rooms for breakout sessions for her Frank Conference last February. “I want us to be the South-by-Southwest for social change,” she said, mentioning the annual music and tech conference in Austin, Texas.

Anthony Lyons tackled the ever improving community front by talking about the many Gainesville Community Redevelopment Area projects. Lyons said the CRA is not well known because instead of promoting itself, it focuses on the redevelopment projects that include the 13th Street overpass, the Lunchbox and Southern Charm restaurants as well as the Depot Building in Depot Park.

The iG forum was a wonderful event that Front Street was lucky enough to attend for the second year in a row. The energy and vibrancy of Gainesville is something that's drawing attention on a national scale. What we have here is really something special, success in our future will take hard work and thought, but looks brighter than ever. 


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Nick Banks

Nick created Front Street Commercial Real Estate Group in 2002 and spent the first eight years developing and acquiring office and retail projects in South Florida as well as North Central Florida. In 2010 the focus of the firm was shifted to primarily serve third party clients and perform brokerage, property management and mortgage banking functions. Nick has personally developed and acquired nearly 200,000 square feet of office and retail properties in markets throughout Florida. Prior to founding Front Street, Nick was the Director of Finance and Dispositions for Stiles Corporation in Fort Lauderdale where he financed and sold over $500 million in commercial real estate. Before joining Stiles, Nick was an Associate Director at GE Capital Real Estate where he sourced over $200 million in financing throughout Florida. Nick is a graduate of the University of Florida with a degree in Finance and a concentration in Real Estate. He serves as a board member and current vice-chair for the United Way of North Central Florida where he also chairs the Development Committee. Nick is actively involved with the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce where he serves as a board member and committee member for the Council for Economic Outreach. He is also a recent graduate of Leadership Gainesville which is a year long leadership program hosted by the Chamber. He is a member of Grace United Methodist Church where he has served as finance chair and as a member of the leadership council. Nick serves as an advisory board member of the University of Florida Bergstrom Center for Real Estate Studies. Nick was recently named chair of the Gainesville committee for the North Florida chapter of Urban Land Institute (ULI). He is a licensed real estate broker in the State of Florida and is a long time member of the International Council of Shopping Centers.

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