Central Health's board of managers unanimously passed a resolution Dec. 9 supporting the creation of an innovation district and authorizing President and CEO Patricia Young Brown to represent the entity as a founding member. Brown said she wants Central Health to support health-related activities in the zone.
“We want to be a beneficiary of those activities,” she said.
Other founding members of the zone would include the city of Austin, UT and Seton Healthcare Family, Brown said.
According to the Brookings Institution, innovation districts are a mash up of entrepreneurs, educational institutions, start-ups, mixed-use development, medical innovations and bankable investments. Districts are connected by transit, powered by clean energy and wired for digital technology.
In a Dec. 4 letter to the board, Brown said state Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, who leads a working group on the zone, endorsed the formation of a nonprofit corporation to hire a paid staff member to lead the development and implementation of an innovation zone.
Central Health is not leading the effort to establish the Innovation Zone, but Brown said she wants the entity’s interests represented.
Board member Kirk Kuykendall said he supported establishment of the zone, but he would not commit to funding the zone until he knew how much funding was requested and what it would be used for. The resolution does not commit Central Health to provide funding for the zone, Brown said.
“I think there’s an expectation that we will participate [financially],” she added.
Brown said she has been a member of the working group for about two years, and it is now figuring out a preliminary budget. She said she did not yet know what the budget would look like, but Central Health could only approve funds for initiatives related to the entity’s mission.
“And that will be brought back to you all [for approval],” she said to the board.
Board member Cynthia Valadez said Central Health should ask Travis County to also identify itself as a founding member. Valadez also said someone should be appointed to represent community stakeholders.
“Travis County will determine how they participate,” Brown said. “What we’re focusing on here is Central Health’s participation.”
Brown said the founders would seek community involvement in deciding development plans for the Innovation Zone. Brown's Dec. 4 letter also indicated ideas for development in the zone include affordable housing, office space, a web portal for businesses, a workforce training program and flexible zoning standards.
An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated the Dec. 4 letter to the Central Health board of managers was written by state Sen. Kirk Watson. The letter was actually written by Central Health President and CEO Patricia Young Brown.