As he admitted to a packed house at the Breakfast of Champions gathering at the University Club, the title “Director of Innovation” sounds like a made-up title.
But that’s what Mayor Greg Fischer offered Smith last year — a title he’d made up, along with no staff or resources, and an assignment to get Louisville in the conversation about cool and innovative cities.
In January, Smith added “Economic Development” to his title and has been focusing on growth — as in bringing investment and dollars to the city along with innovation. He told several stories about how innovation can make a differfence, how some innovations “count” in terms of making a difference. One was the challenge of getting the TARC route information tied into Google maps. It seemed Google had been refusing to move forward because its energies were focused on China.
But Smith, who said that every 26-year-old in the country now expects this information to be available on a mobile device, said the solution was as simple as finding out who the right Google decision-maker was and going to a party and striking up a conversation.
He also mentioned an innovation in Boston in which select individuals downloaded an app that measured their travels. It produced information that helped the city figure out it needed to do maintenance on some bridges earlier that it had scheduled — because the bridges might not be safe.
Smith, a Pittsburgh native, has had an amazing career that included trying to figure out why astronauts get sick. He’s started and sold an online operation in the medical field, and was persuaded by Fischer to return to Louisville last year.
The next Breakfast of Champions is May 14.