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Dublin, Ohio, USA (2010)
Prospering on highways made of light
Published Monday, February 15, 2010 7:00 am


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Posted: Feb 2010

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The city of Dublin (www.dublin.oh.us) owes its current prosperity to America's interstate highway system.  But future generations in Dublin will owe their own debt of thanks to highways made of light. 

The Sells family of Pennsylvania settled Dublin soon after 1800 and named it, so the story goes, for the Irish birthplace of their property surveyor.  The community stayed comfortably in the slow lane for much of its history.  Despite close proximity to Columbus, the Ohio state capital, Dublin's population stood at just 681 when construction of Interstate 270 began in 1970.  The highway brought a wave of suburban growth to the Columbus metro region and Dublin's population swelled in just 40 years to its current 41,000.  High quality of life, a central location, and good transportation drew the attention of employers seeking a home.  Dublin became home to Ohio's largest corporation, Cardinal Health, as well as the headquarters of the Fortune 500 companies Wendy's International and Ashland, Inc. 

Public-Private Network

Along the way, Dublin mastered vital lessons in managing change.  Following telecommunications deregulation in 1996, Dublin began installing a network of underground conduit to encourage deployment of broadband by private carriers.  A pubic-private partnership with the Fishel Company soon followed, and by 2003, Dublin had built and lit its own fiber network, called DubLink, to connect city facilities and replace telephone company service.  Dublin's contribution to the project was funded by tax-increment financing, in which the city issued bonds funded by future increases in tax revenue that would result from the improvements being financed. 

In managing the network, the city drew a bright line between public and private use. The city delivers no services except for governmental use, and leases either conduit space or its own dark fiber to carriers serving the local market. It is an "open access" strategy that has proven successful in communities as diverse as Stockholm, Sweden (2009 Intelligent Community of the Year) and Loma Linda, California (2007 Smart21 Community). 

Even with those strictures, Dublin has displayed a grasp of the "network effect" that would put some dot-com companies to shame.  The network effect states that the value of a network rises with the number of users.  A telephone network connecting two or three people is not worth much but one connecting two million is a gold mine. 

As Dublin installed more and more fiber in its conduits, it began doing capacity-sharing deals other public and public-private entities. DubLink now interconnects with Columbus FiberNet, which reaches the state capital and four other cities in the metro area.  It partners with the Ohio Supercomputer Center (OSC), carrying some of the traffic on OSC's 1,600-mile fiber backbone. In return, the OSC and Dublin  joined forces to create the Central Ohio Research Network (CORN), a fiber infrastructure connecting governments, schools and businesses to Ohio colleges, universities, research institutes and Federal labs.  Other fiber transport partnerships include Central Ohio Broadband, linking with other cities that have developed fiber networks; agreements with two carrier hotels in Columbus to exchange traffic in return for giving DubLink customers connection to global carriers; and the Online Computer Library Center, a nonprofit information provider to 69,000 libraries in 112 countries. 

As a result, Dublin's citizens, businesses and institutions have access to opportunities that would never be available otherwise.  CORN allows schools, businesses and institutions to explore experimental networking technologies through Internet2, where the next generation of commercial networking technologies are taking shape.  An annual Ohio Supercomputer Center project uses videoconferencing to bring together thousands of elementary and secondary school students for an all-day learning conference.  The network has made Dublin a regional leader in e-government, with services including an interactive site locator for developers, online access to Council meetings, email alerts for citizens on their choice of topics, and online filing for permits and scheduling of city services. 

Dublin has also extended access by layering Wi-Fi over the fiber infrastructure.  Another public-private partnership, called DHB Networks, is deploying a wireless network that will eventually blanket the community.  Its primary focus is on supporting first-responders and city staff in the field.  It is used for monitoring vehicles like snow plows, carrying video from traffic cameras, and supporting mobile command centers for police, fire and paramedics.  But it is also used to support city-sponsored cultural events, like the Dublin Irish Festival weekends and the Jack Nicklaus' PGA Memorial Tournament. And DHB Networks markets access to small businesses through corporate buildings and office parks, while the city provides free computer training to adults and seniors through its recreation centers.

Entrepreneurial Opportunity

It takes more than transport, however, to build a competitive economy.  Dublin has partnered with TechColumbus, a regional nonprofit whose mission is to accelerate the growth of the innovation economy.  Dublin invested $500,000 in the partnership, which has counseled 50 Dublin-based companies and, to date, produced $5.4 million in new investment in local businesses.  The city's Dublin Entrepreneurial Center, which opened in 2009, is an incubator that is home to fifteen new start-up companies, with another eleven on the way.  It hosts twice-monthly co-working events at the Entrepreneurial Center, where Dublin's business community participates in training and meets the community's newest entrepreneurial class.  The next step is development of a planned 1,300-acre Innovation Park designed to house high-tech, bioscience and IT facilities.

Programs like these help explain why there are 3,000 companies in Dublin, some of them multinational corporations, and yet the average Dublin business has just seven employees.  They include Cardiox, which has developed a minimally invasive system for monitoring the heart; EnergyGateway, which offers energy management services to commercial customers; and Sypherlink, whose software automates data-sharing across the enterprise.  OhioHealth opened the first nonprofit hospital to be built in Central Ohio in the last 20 years in Dublin, drawn in part by the community's extraordinary connectivity.  Informal partnerships have also led to the creation of an active healthcare cluster centered on Cardinal Health and an automotive cluster centered on Honda of America in nearby Marysville. 

Dublin benefits from the presence of numerous colleges and universities in the metro region, from Ohio State and Franklin Universities to the Mount Carmel College of Nursing.  To ensure that talented young people find their way to employment in Dublin, the community also works to influence educators to focus on the skills required by Dublin employers. 

Extending Dublin's reach is the Ohio STEM Learning Network, a collaborative project led by the Governor's Office and the state's Department of Education that aims to revolutionize K-12 teaching of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.  The Chamber of Commerce in neighboring Columbus of which Dublin is a member offers an internship Web site that aims to keep students in central Ohio once they graduate.  Through the program, college students work in paid internship, work-skills training seminars and Chamber-sponsored events.  The Dublin Chamber of Commerce has also introduced a Leadership Academy for young employees to provide them with opportunities for professional growth and encouragement to build a career in the community.

The city partners with a nonprofit called BioOhio and the Tolles Technical & Career Center for biotech training development.  It works with the Columbus State Center for Workforce Development, an organization that has trained 20,000 employees since 1996, to bring business training to Dublin.  And it holds an annual Business-Education Workforce Summit bringing together more than 70 businesses and educational institutions to explore how to streamline the transition from school to work, retain talent in the area and provide training for the unemployed and underemployed. 

The coming of the highway to Dublin allowed the prosperity of Columbus to flow outward, expanding opportunities across a bigger region.  The highway of light is doing the same for Dublin, but with a reach extending around the globe. 



Top 7 Conversation

Dana McDaniel, Deputy City Manager, Dublin, Ohio, USA, speaks with ICF Co-Founder Louis Zacharilla

Dublin Introduction Video



Labor Force

25 sq. mi.

Top Industries
Insurance, biotech, communications, financial, food service, pharma, IT, professional services

Broadband Penetration
60% household, 98% business, 100% govt. & institutions

Degrees Awarded Last Year
Community college 3,049; undergrad 13,600; graduate 5,5000

3-Year Job Creation
1,970, all depending on ICT

Key Leaders
Dana McDaniel, Deputy City Manager, City of Dublin

Eric Smith, Former Chairman, Team Fishel

Pankaj Shah, Director, Technology Infrastructure, Ohio Supercomputer Center

"Dublin Becomes Largest WiFi Hot Zone in Central Ohio," June 2, 2010.


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