As shown by the Waco Comprehensive Plan 2040, the Greater Waco area (Waco and the surrounding cities in McLennan County) shares the nationwide challenge of modest economic development for smaller metropolitan areas. A significant factor for Waco and the surrounding metropolitan area is an industrial mix significantly skewed towards low-skill labor demands. However, Waco is also the home of Baylor University, Texas State Technical College, and the McLennan Community College, institutions that educate a diverse, highly skilled workforce able to support new employment opportunities, local entrepreneurship, and emerging industry in the local area.
The Baylor University Lab-to-Market (L2M) Collaborative was established in 2018 to provide a mechanism for Baylor developed technology to transition into high-skill mix, locally established, startup companies. The L2M Collaborative includes Baylor University, Blueprints Labs LLC, and Waco Ventures (WAVE). These three organizations respectively provide research-based invention, technology market planning, and early-stage post-angel investment opportunities. Through three recently closed technology investment deals, the L2M project has successfully completed its internal validation phase and is beginning to scale towards a sustained endowment-based long-term implementation.
The EDA Venture Challenge provides an opportunity to accelerate the planned L2M scaling beyond Baylor’s matching commitments and in-process fundraising efforts. This proposed effort partners L2M with the Waco McLennan County Economic Development Corporation (WMCEDC) and describes the process and plans to ensure high-skill positions are established, fostered, and grown in Greater Waco and how the EDA Venture Challenge funding would accelerate that process.