Houston innovators podcast episode 61
Innovation hub exec wants to ensure Houston's diversity is well represented
The Ion is in its home stretch. Expected to open in early 2021, the rising innovation hub is inches away from its exciting entrance into the Houston market. Yet despite the physical location's ongoing construction, Deanea LeFlore and her team have been hard at work for months establishing partners and programming for The Ion's goal of serving Houston.
"The primary objective of The Ion is economic resilience," LeFlore, who is director of partnerships at The Ion says on this week's episode of the Houston Innovators Podcast. "We want Houstonians to be better off economically as a result of this project and as a result of them participating in the tech and innovation economy."
Meeting this goal is LeFlore's job priority and bringing economic support can mean upskilling, creating more new business, access to capital, resources for growing businesses, and diversifying the workforce — something she's personally committed to.
Recently, The Ion received a grant to create the Minority Business Enterprise Aerospace Innovation Hub focused on supporting minority innovators within the space and adjacent industries with an accelerator program and business programming. The program is providing informative sessions on how to get involved, and the next one is on Dec. 16.
"We're hoping that at the end of this, as startups get coaching and tips from NASA and partners, that they'll learn what it takes to expand in the aerospace industry," LeFlore says. "That's a really exciting development and a new opportunity for minority businesses in Houston."
Personally, LeFlore, who worked for the city's international relations for about 17 years, is excited to have a hub focused on innovation that is representative of the city.
"I think that when people walk into The Ion, what's personally important to me, is that it looks like Houston so that you see yourself reflected in the people in the building as well as the programming," LeFlore says. "That's my biggest hope and aspiration, and I believe we are well on track to be able to deliver on exactly that."
LeFlore shares more on what she's been working on — from online programming to growing partnerships at The Ion. Listen to the full interview below — or wherever you stream your podcasts — and subscribe for weekly episodes.