The Tom Tom Founders Festival will expand its offerings this spring to include a gathering of officials and community leaders from around the country to celebrate small and medium-sized cities as centers of innovation.
The Hometown Summit will explore how talent, placemaking, innovation and leadership mesh to help small cities thrive in the growing innovation-based economy.
It will run from April 13-15 and include speeches, workshops and social events designed to allow officials from around the country to share ideas and tout their successes, a news release said.
The event will host leaders from more than a dozen metropolitan areas across the country, including Asheville, North Carolina, and Knoxville, Tennessee, and feature more than 60 speakers, according to Tom Tom.
“The Hometown Summit will convene 300 leaders of cities from across the country with a specific focus on leadership and policy and infrastructure that is going to prepare these cities for the new economy,” said Tom Tom’s executive director, Paul Beyer.
At a news conference Wednesday, Beyer, Charlottesville Mayor Mike Signer and Jim Cheng, former Virginia secretary of commerce and co-founder of the CAV Angels investing group, said small cities will be the centers of an innovation-based economy.
“We are thrilled that we are going to be the site of this Hometown Summit,” Signer said. “Charlottesville has a lot to teach the rest of the country about building a really remarkable, exciting, dynamic, diverse small city, but we also have a lot to learn.”
Convening small-city leaders will be especially important during the administration of President-elect Donald Trump, Signer said.
“In this new, frightening era of Donald Trump where there is going to be so much division at the federal level, so much apparent negativism about government, a lot of very smart people have been saying that the dynamism and energy and progress — even more than over the last couple decades — is going to move back to cities,” he said.
Tom Tom hopes to use the summit as a launch pad for the festival to expand onto the national stage.
“What is so exciting about this is really cementing that this is a national event,” Beyer said. “It is a new initiative of the festival and it is going to really spur a national conversation that could not be more appropriate to be hosted here in Charlottesville.”
Small cities are able to drive and promote innovation in ways that larger places can’t because both their governments and private sectors can move quickly to accommodate changes, Cheng said.
“Small cities are much more nimble,” he said. “Folks who are innovative, they really set the standard for a smaller institution that can be more nimble and quick on its feet and adjust its priorities.”
Larger cities and the state and federal governments do not share that luxury, he said.
“We all know that no matter what the state government and the federal government does, really, small cities are what makes up America,” said Cheng. “I think this will be a great opportunity to learn some innovative practices, some best practices and learn from some great innovative folks from all over the U.S.”
More information is available at tomtomfest.com/hometown-summit.