When Kimberly Wyant read in the morning paper about plans to expand Catapult Lakeland into her neighborhood (my story | The Ledger’s story | The Ledger’s editorial), her reaction was something like this: “Why does my fledgling startup focused on creativity have to suffer so that other fledgling startups can flourish?”
Wyant opened an art gallery/creation space/performance space (Facebook page | Ledger feature) over the summer in a building along the north shore of Lake Mirror that will be demolished to make way for a Catapult 2.0, a $10 million new home for Lakeland’s budding entrepreneurs. (Disclosure: I’ve been a Catapult co-worker for 10 months.)
The 49-year-old artist pleaded her case in a Facebook comment attached to The Ledger’s editorial. (It’s embedded below.) A lot of friends came to her defense, and some downtown movers — Ellen Simms of the Downtown Lakeland Partnership and Julie Townsend of the Lakeland Downtown Development Authority — suggested that surely a solution can be found, maybe even a “bigger, better location.”
One of Wyant’s grievances is that nobody told her about this impending announcement that would affect her livelihood.
The people with the Lakeland Economic Development Council in the best position to give their side of the story are traveling this week to learn more about successful business incubators like the one they’re building for Lakeland.
I’m interested in hearing from them and other downtown officials about whether they have reactions or a solution for Wyant’s problem. But like the LEDC folks, I’ll also be traveling to learn more about the business I’m building. I’m leaving tomorrow for Chicago to attend a meeting of Local Independent Online News Publishers to learn from others about the nuts-and-bolts of running a sustainable community news operation.
After I return, I’ll be meeting with Wyant on Monday to follow up on her story. I’ll also reach out to the LEDC.
Perhaps somebody will have come up with a solution by then.