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Searching for Soul 9/10/10
September 10, 2010 

Searching for Soul

Montage Initiative at BIC 

What gives a place soul?  What defines it?  Is it the  building? The location?  How it  looks?  Or is it the    people?

Last Friday, Montage Initiative, hosted the regular “Pizza Friday” lunch time  gathering in the garden at  the Bridgeport Innovation Center, home of Montage’s new offices in Bridgeport. And there I met “it” – the soul of the center.  It came in  all colors, shapes and sizes, backgrounds and  nationalities; black, white, Asian, Irish.  It came in  the conversation people carried, the stories they shared, the size of their smile and the honesty of their welcome. It isn’t just people that give a place soul; it’s the type of people it attracts.  

So what is it about the Bridgeport Innovation Center that attracts those of similar intention and where does it begin? Their site is neither new nor prime location.  Their buildings are functional rather than stylish, their facilities are modest and the rents realistic.  

Chatting over chicken and chowder, Sam Pierpont, one of the owners of the company that manages this entrepreneurial incubator, said the rents could be higher but he loves it when someone rings him up and says, “I’ve got this idea I’ve been working on in my house but now I need to take it further.”   He explained what a privilege it was to watch a business grow and how important it is to have management with a Soul.  He showed it in the way he praised George, the maintenance man serving himself salad, and the value he placed on not just him or his services, but the way he did his job.   

Sam walked the streets of Bridgeport for 12 years searching for homeless people to involve in projects that would not only build their skills, but their self-esteem, helping them to move on.  Soul is an investment that spreads. 

Heavy weight boxer Mohammed Ali said, “Service is the rent we pay for room on this earth.”  Sam’s room must be sizeable. 

The Bridgeport Innovation Center attracts people with ideas which they want to put into action.  From faith non-profits, publishers and artists to engineers, printers and tool manufacturers, all creating, innovating and building businesses; each with faith in what they’re doing.

As midday stretched into mid afternoon our fellow innovators drifted back to their offices, the picnic benches emptied and with help on hand to clear away, the garden grew empty and the space was restored.

The environment people create within the space they rent is inspiring and a constant source of surprise to Sam.  This is a hub of creativity and clearly the Bridgeport Innovation Center is a business community as well as a social community in the real sense of the word - realistically innovative in hard times.  And given those hard times, Sam’s parting words were powerfully simple. “We do our best to keep the garden tidy and keep the flag flying.”   Did I mention the stars and stripes standing in the Garden? 

                                                                   Ingrid Stellmacher