Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry and Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson made personal jabs and jokes about who has the better city during an informal conversation that delighted a sold-out crowd during an event hosted by NAIOP-New Mexico.
The program, held at Albuquerque Marriott on Monday, was a discussion between the two mayors about innovative cities. Johnson, who was previously a professional basketball player in the NBA, has been friends with Berry for some time, both having participated in the U.S. Conference of Mayors. The two were also on a panel at South by Southwest in Austin earlier this year.
Johnson said like Albuquerque and Sacramento, many cities are pushing forward this idea of Cities 3.0, which are hubs of innovation, entrepreneurship and technology. And the way cities are jumpstarting that vision is though innovation districts.
Albuquerque has its own innovation district, which roughly spans the length of Central Avenue from Downtown to the university area. The city’s innovation district is anchored by Innovate ABQ, a mixed-use campus on the corner of Central and Broadway.
“We’re going to have over $100 million in investment between Innovate ABQ, the development on First and Central, and the Imperial Building,” Berry said.
Similarly, Sacramento has a 244-acre innovation district adjacent to its Downtown core that used to be home to its rail yards. Johnson said its anchor tenants include a Kaiser Permanente hospital, a University of California, Davis campus, and hopefully, a major league soccer team.
Johnson said the idea behind the innovation district is to diversify Sacramento’s economy. Sacramento is similar to Albuquerque in that its economy relies heavily on government-based jobs.
Both of these developments are aimed at attracting one particular subset of the population—millennials.
Berry said many cities are facing a similar problem, that native millennials are leaving for bigger cities.
“I think we just need to create those magnets so people can go and come back,” Berry said.
Johnson said beyond retaining millennials, cities need to do a better job of engaging everyone in the community. He said innovation districts won’t work if they’re not inclusive.
“When technology is affordable and accessible at every level, we’ve done a good job,” he said.
Beyond talking about innovation districts, Johnson praised Berry for being a positive leader for Albuquerque. He said the two have enjoyed learning from each other, even though Johnson is a Democrat and Berry is Republican.
“In a 3.0 city you need open source leaders,” Johnson said. “That’s what your mayor is. He doesn’t care where the best ideas come from, he says ‘Just bring them to me.’ What an open source leader does is they just want to solve problems and get things done.”
By: Stephanie Guzman (Albuquerque Business First)
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