Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

One Spark Deserves to Survive, Thrive

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

One Spark Deserves to Survive, Thrive

Article excerpt

The One Spark festival has elevated Jacksonville's national and international status.

That's why it's a relief that the event will continue in 2016 despite a mass layoff of key staff members.

The layoffs were worrisome because they led many to fear that the festival's donors and board members might bolt. A generous Peter Rummell had kicked in a pot of gold to support One Spark, but rumors had been circulating that he'd had enough.

Thank goodness One Spark will continue.

It has been good for everyone:

- The entrepreneurs who have pitched their ideas.

- The small businesses that have created fan bases.

- The visitors who have discovered a vibrant city.

And the publicity bump for our city has been huge.

CNNMoney, for example, has touted this city as a low-cost hub for start-ups. And Forbes magazine has reported that Jacksonville is a hotbed for entrepreneurs.

Both mentioned the One Spark festival as one of the prime factors in raising the city's profile.

And they're not the only admirers.

Twitter shows the reach of this Northeast Florida start-up festival. People and organizations from around the world - Germany, France, Brazil, Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom and many more - are watching what happens during each festival on social media platforms.

One Spark is an image-builder that the city needs to continue. Our festival - like the well-known South by Southwest festival in Austin - has the ability to alter the landscape of its hometown.

In fact, One Spark has often been compared to South by Southwest, which has propelled the names of the festival and Austin.

South by Southwest began with a couple of people who wanted to organize a music festival. It was the mid-1980s, and they expected 150 people to show up.

Seven hundred attended that first year.

Two decades later, South by Southwest includes multimedia, film, interactives, speakers and much more. Nearly 80,000 people attended this year with an estimated economic impact for Austin of $315 million.

The trajectories of the two festivals have been similar. Within three years attendance at South by Southwest had increased by 43 percent. Within the first three years, One Spark's attendance has increased by 41 percent.

"I've been watching the #OneSpark hashtag today," tweeted a social marketing consultant from Minnesota during the 2014 festival, noting that One Spark may outgrow South by Southwest.

What a boon that would be!

IT TAKES TIME FOR FESTIVAL TO MATURE

But, as with South by Southwest, it takes years for these events to reach maturity. …

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