April 23, 2021

Edison Awards honor innovators Schmieding of Arthrex, Holmgren of LanzaTech

By: Vicki Parsons - IT

David Dorsey | Fort Myers News-Press

Innovators and entrepreneurs from across the country convened for the first time this week in the winter home of one of their inspirations, Thomas Edison.

The Edison Awards, established in 1987 and previously held in New York City, celebrated their achievements this week – for the first of at least four years – in Fort Myers, where inventor Edison lived off McGregor Boulevard from 1885 to 1931.

Organizers took the event to Babcock Ranch on Thursday for a day-long forum and field trips. There, they learned on Earth Day about the solar panels powering Babcock Ranch, a planned community of up to 20,000 that already has more than 2,000 residents in about 900 homes.

Syd Kitson, chairman and CEO of Kitson & Partners, spearheaded the creation of the town off State Road 31, just north of the Lee and Charlotte county border. It has 700,000 solar panels.

“We’ve created the first solar-powered community in America,” Kitson said. “For us to be hosting part of the Edison Awards here, it was like a dream come true. To have the best and the brightest, to have them come here and see Babcock Ranch, it was thrilling.”

The forums covered a variety of topics that were looking at the future: the space economy, U.S. Sugar’s attempts to “feed American families sustainably,” Saudi Arabian petrochemical company Sabic’s efforts in technology and Black innovators like Patrick Pennie of Fort Myers-based EmCyte.

“I would say sometimes people find innovation, and sometimes innovation finds people,” Pennie told Jon Cropper, who spotlighted Black innovators following the legacy of Lewis Latimer, a lesser-known entrepreneur of the late 1800s who apprenticed under Edison and Alexander Graham Bell before forging his own path as an inventor.

“But either way,” Pennie said, “you have to believe in it. You have to feel it in your heart.”

Miles O’Brien, the former CNN and now independent TV journalist, moderated many of the events, both at Babcock Ranch and later Thursday night at the remodeled Caloosa Sound Convention Center in downtown Fort Myers. Dozens of innovators were honored, including the 2021 Edison Achievement Honorees.