Former Bloomington mayor to lead Trades District development
Bloomington-based The Mill has selected former Bloomington Mayor John Fernandez to lead the development and marketing of the city’s Trades District. The nonprofit startup accelerator said Tuesday that Fernandez will oversee the construction and launch of the Trades District Technology Center.
Fernandez is also a former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development in the Obama administration. His official title at The Mill will be senior vice president for innovation and strategic partnerships.
Most recently, Fernandez served as Global Chief Innovation Officer at Dentons, a global law firm with offices in Indianapolis and Evansville.
The Mill said during his time at Dentons, Fernandez co-founded the firm’s $20 million Nextlaw business portfolio, including its early-stage investment firm, Nextlaw Ventures.
Pat East, executive director of The Mill, said hiring Fernandez is “truly a coup” for Bloomington and the regional economy.
“John Fernandez has an exceptional, global track record in innovation-oriented economic development,” The Mill Executive Director Pat East said in a news release. “His skills and connections, combined with The Mill’s successful entrepreneurial programming, are going to supercharge our work to grow cutting-edge startups, attract investment, and create new careers and opportunities.”
Fernandez served as mayor of Bloomington from 1995 to 2003, during which time he launched the Bloomington Tech Partnership, which The Mill said helped the city secure more than $143 million in private investment and create over 2,300 jobs.
Last month, The Mill signed an Innovation Partnership Agreement with the city to manage the development and marketing of the 12-acre portion of the Bloomington Certified Technology Park.
The district was previously occupied by the former Showers Brothers Furniture Co. Part of the property includes the historic Dimension Mill building, which was transformed into The Mill, a business incubator and coworking space.
East said The Mill has already secured more than $5 million in federal and local funding for the tech center project.
“In the Tech Center and the district as a whole, we have a golden opportunity to design an innovation cluster that is uniquely Bloomington,” Fernandez said in written remarks. “Our ecosystem is in a sweet spot right now. Yes, we’ve got the resources startups need, but so do a lot of places. What sets us apart is that founders can actually access those resources here, whether it’s capital, IP, talent, or connections to peers and mentors.”
Construction on the tech center is slated to begin this fall. The federal Economic Development Administration estimates the project will create 530 jobs and generate $51 million in private investment.