Sometimes Pomp and Ceremony can be a Very Good Thing.
A little thing like an introduction can sometimes lead to a very big outcome. Connections between ICFF Member Intelligent Communities, for instance, can result in mutual benefits and economic development success stories that can help inspire others and provide invaluable lessons for their evolution as successful Intelligent Communities. At the ICF Summit in Toronto this year - on June 9, you can meet and hear from some of the people behind these successful connections including success stories from Dublin, Ohio and Arlington, Virginia, as well as between Eindhoven in the Netherlands and Waterloo, in Canada. The latter, in fact, is evolving in extra-special terms with a little help from some pomp and ceremony.
On May 28, 2015, at the Quantum-Nano Centre at the University of Waterloo in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, the Eindhoven-Waterloo Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) is to be ratified in the presence of the Dutch Royal Monarchs, King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima of the Netherlands. The MOU was first agreed to during the visit by three mayors of the Waterloo Region when they visited Eindhoven in November 2013. Since then a committee was struck in the Waterloo Region and counterparts were also established in the Eindhoven Region. The event on May 28 will validate the work achieved to-date and the committee’s plans going forward. But what does this mean for ICF communities and how did it get to this point?
Firstly, this entire evolution was the result of two communities finding themselves on the global stage through their involvement with ICF and more recently through ICFF, the Intelligent Community Forum Foundation, the association of qualified Intelligent Communities around the world. Two very like-minded communities shared best practices through the Intelligent Community movement, came together over the years to demonstrate their best practices and inspired others to do the same. In 2007, Waterloo was named Intelligent Community of the Year and in 2011, Eindhoven was similarly selected: https://www.intelligentcommunity.org/index.php?submenu=Awards&src=gendocs&ref=ICF_Awards&category=Events
In 2010, during a Top 7 site visit to Eindhoven, I was able to bring all of the Mayors of the Eindhoven region together for a dinner at the “ Smartest House of the Netherlands”. We discussed opportunities including the possibilities with the Waterloo Region. Soon thereafter, an introductory meeting of the two regions took place during the ICF Summit the following year. As I wrote in my blog on October 2, 2013, it wasn’t until Mayor Rob van Gijzel’s visit to the Waterloo Region in June 2013 that triggered heightened community to community interest. During this visit he and his delegation gave a presentation about their community and he signed an initial friendship agreement with the City of Waterloo. That was followed by a visit from the Waterloo Region in the autumn of 2013 with the three mayors from the three main cities, Cambridge, Kitchener and Waterloo and their Economic Development staff. It was at that time that a loose multi-city MOU was crafted between Eindhoven’s Brainport staff and Team Waterloo Region’s staff, coordinated by Canada’s Technology Triangle, a non-profit FDI-focused organization that had spear-headed the relationship.
With this new multi-city MOU in hand, signed by all of the mayors from Waterloo Region and Eindhoven, as well as their Economic Development officers, the committee set upon its way to begin to work through the broad statements of interest between the two regions. The committees followed up by sharing best practices and organizing lead generators for each community, assisted by each host city. As a result, companies have started to build business opportunities in each community, thereby creating mutually beneficial 2 way investment and jobs for each other. Additionally, the Waterloo Region was in the process of re-evaluating its economic development programs and the organizations in the region that delivered such services. Mayor van Gijzel visited again in June 2014 and provided a Master Class on the history of the evolution of Eindhoven from a Philips-based company town to the one today that operates within an open innovation ecosystem coordinated through an organization called Brainport. It was created out of the crisis the community went through when Philip’s head office moved from Eindhoven to Amsterdam. Lessons learned from the Brainport experience continue to benefit the Waterloo Region as it evolves its economic development structure. During his travels, the Mayor of Eindhoven extolled the virtues of the working relationship between Waterloo and Eindhoven Regions, but also encouraged a further evolution of the relationship, to include a third connection globally. He proposed Taipei, Taiwan since Taipei and Eindhoven already have a relationship between them based on a newly established Eindhoven-Taiwan design-related program: http://www.eindhoven-taiwan.com/home Although the Mayor of Waterloo signed an agreement with Taipei to mark a similar relationship, the Waterloo-Eindhoven Committee have yet to work on the idea of the Global Triangle, preferring instead to get the Waterloo-Eindhoven relationship right first.
Among our individual travels since Mayor van Gijzel’s June 2014 visit to Waterloo Region, the mayor and I raised our unique relationship during the September 2014 gathering of the Parliament of Mayors in Amsterdam, which we both attended. Since it garnered interest among these global mayors, we knew we had something special here. Later, during a critical meeting at the residence of the Canadian Ambassador to the Netherlands during the visit of His Excellency, the Governor General of Canada, David Johnson and his delegation to The Hague on October 25, 2014, this idea was once again raised. I was part of His Excellency’s delegation to Europe and we requested that the Roundtable at the Ambassador’s residence include the Mayor of Eindhoven in order to explore the opportunities to foster greater linkages between Canada and the Netherlands. This day-long Roundtable was also attended by Princess Margriet and her husband Pieter van Vollenhoven, members of the Dutch Royal House. I recommended that we continue to pursue the Waterloo-Eindhoven relationship as not only a valuable city-to city relationship but also an important nation-nation linkage that would continue to foster linkages that could have significant 2 way trade and investment implications. Timing was also important to both countries. The Canadian-EU Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA) was recently agreed to between Canada and the EU. The relationship between Canada and the Netherlands would benefit from increased trade and investment in each other’s countries. In addition, the best practices from this relationship could be used as an inspiration for other like-minded communities to pursue similar approaches. That Roundtable not only had a royal connection, but the Dutch Ambassador to Canada was also in attendance. As a result of the dialogue generated at this special Roundtable, it was decided that both Ambassadors would travel to the Waterloo Region to explore possibilities to add Waterloo to the Royal Visit to Canada in 2015, marking the 70th anniversary of the Liberation of the Netherlands. In addition to the State Visit to Ottawa and Toronto, Waterloo was now highly recommended to officially be part of this visit. The presence of the Royal Monarchs at the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding would give heightened value to the relationship between these two Intelligent Communities.
In April 2015, a Waterloo Region delegation traveled once again to Eindhoven to undertake meetings arranged by a lead generator hired by Canada’s Technology Triangle and facilitated by Eindhoven’s Brainport. Likewise, along with the King and Queen’s visit from May 26-29, there will be a significant business and educational delegation visiting the Waterloo Region from the Netherlands. An announcement will take place at the University of Waterloo on May 28 regarding scholarships to eligible Canadian university students in recognition of the 70th Anniversary. Additionally, the business delegation will spend several days with a lead generator exploring business opportunities in Waterloo Region, facilitated by Canada’s Technology Triangle and the Waterloo-Eindhoven Committee. It is anticipated that through efforts explaining the business cases and competitive advantages of locating in each other’s communities, several businesses will locate branch operations in each other regions. Similarly, students and professional talent will also locate in each other’s communities. This is a significant economic benefit for each community and will prove ICFF’s connections can work to be mutually beneficial for ICFF member communities.
ICF’s connections played a critical role in the beginning of this process. Other Intelligent Communities could learn from this experience. On June 9, at the ICF Summit in Toronto, the Mayor of Eindhoven, Rob van Gijzel and former Mayor of Waterloo, Brenda Halloran, will explain what inspired them to work closely together as ICFF member communities to form this unique alliance. Likewise, at this same session, Canada’s Technology Triangle’s Catherine Bischoff and Brainport’s Naomie Verstraeten will speak to the implementation of the MOU and what can be expected moving forward between the two regions. This is a unique opportunity to hear from two of the most innovative regions in the world how their collaboration and sharing of the innovation ecosystems will benefit their communities and their countries. This is an important economic development success story with tangible results – a story not to be missed. For more information on the session and how to register for it, please see: https://www.intelligentcommunity.org/index.php?src=gendocs&ref=Summit15-Program&category=Events
Property Developers of the World: You Have Nothing to Lose But Your Enemies!
If you are a property developer in a big city, I have bad news. Nobody likes you.
Okay, maybe I exaggerate. Maybe your family likes you. Perhaps your dog looks up to you. But nobody else does. And why should they? You are filthy rich. You control the places the rest of us live and work. Politicians fawn on you and bend the rules for you. Did I mention you’re filthy rich, too?
Fortunately, Mr. and Ms. Property Developer, there is a way out. You can learn from the example of Porto Maravilha (“the wonderful port”) in Rio de Janeiro, which I saw during my site inspection of this Top7 city. This was the city’s original seaport on the edge of the city center. By the end of the last century, it was a derelict district lying in the shadow of an elevated highway that walled off the city from the water. The administration of Mayor Eduardo Paes began planning its renovation in 2010 and completed demolition of the highway in 2013. Funded by the sale of land and air rights to private developers, Porto Maravilla expects to complete major infrastructure work by 2025 and to be fully built out 35 years later.
A lot of the project is exactly what you would expect: high-rise condos, office buildings, art and science museums, green space and a 3-kilometer promenade overlooking the water. The architect’s renderings are beautiful, and I’m sure it will be a magnet for cariocas (Rio residents) and a thriving addition to the business district. But the remarkable part of the project is how it honors the history and people of the place.
Seventy percent of the 5 million square meters under development consists of heritage buildings. Rather than tearing them down, the project will renovate them one by one and turn abandoned ones to new uses, from galleries and restaurants to new housing. Excavation has revealed what archaeologists believe to have been the world’s largest slave market, and efforts are underway to preserve and memorialize it.
More important than heritage, however, are human beings. The port district is home to the first favella or slum in Rio, rising up on the banks of one of the sudden mountains that snake through this remarkable city. The project wants those residents to stay where they are, and to take advantage of the development to permanently improve their lives.
For a start, there will be no condos or office buildings rising on the favela’s land. Instead of seeing their homes demolished, residents are being asked to advise on where new healthcare and social services facilities should go. Gentrification is probably inevitable, but the city is offering current property owners forgiveness of back taxes and fees to encourage them to invest in upgrades rather than selling out.
Most significant of all are the skills training and career consulting that are preparing residents for jobs in construction and the start-up of micro and small businesses. The project will need hundreds of thousands of workers and generate huge demand for local support services. For residents with skills, that is a golden opportunity for a better life for themselves and their children.
The project’s chief executive told me that this massive and complex construction project is simple compared to the complexities of working with residents. But he seems passionately committed to seeing it through. Plenty of money will be made by plenty of property developers on this 50-year project. That’s good for them and the city. What they will not be making are enemies among the people who live there. And that is even better.
Wednesday, May 13, 2015
Apples & Oranges – How the Small Place Becomes Mighty for the ICF Jury
During our recent briefings for new ICF jurors, one the most frequently asked questions was “how do we measure a big city, such as New Taipei against a small one, such as Mitchell?” Our answer is simple. We use a universal sports analogy to make it clear.
As it is with people so it is with cities and communities. Being small creates an inferiority complex that either leads to a despondent resignation of one’s status, or a powerful will to look at it as an opportunity to overachieve. ICF jurors are tasked with looking at the bigger heavyweights of the Top7 and the smaller overachievers in this year’s group and determining which one has done the most to excel at each of the six criteria.
There was recently a boxing match in Las Vegas where the fighter that people said, “pound- for-pound,” was the best fighter ever won the contest. What did they mean when they called Mayweather “the best fighter, pound-for-pound?” They meant when you factored in all of the criteria for a great champion in that sport (speed, toughness, punching power, stamina, courage and ring intelligence), Floyd Mayweather, like Sugar Ray Robinson before him, is the best fighter in the world irrespective of the weight class to which he is assigned. In other words, a great fighter is a great fighter. If you are squeamish about boxing, try poetry. A work of poetry – if it is a true masterpiece – does not depend on the size or the length of the poem. What matters most is the feeling you get, and how you have been transformed, moved or changed by what the poet accomplished. We cannot quantify inspiration.
So it was with the Jury’s qualitative judgment of the Top7. The ICF Jury is being asked to evaluate seven communities based on our criteria, their stories and a report to determine which is, pound-for-pound (or neighborhood-for-neighborhood) the one that inspires them most. Many jurists develop their own quantitative system for categorizing the information that is presented. There is a lot of it, so it makes sense to do that. Some have their own method, including using a spreadsheet or matrix. Our Jury chairman, Jag Rao, has developed his own method which he is always sharing with jurors.
We have a quantitative ranking being done simultaneous to the Jury's qualitative assessment. So members of the Jury need not worry about their final “numbers.” It is their judgment we seek. Bear in mind that in years past, the Intelligent Community of the Year selection was based on a razor-thin margin, usually a fraction of point separated three of the seven at the end of the voting period! So we tell jurors that if there are two, three or even four communities that are close in their assessment – perhaps even too close to call – we suggest that they re-read the material given to them related to the sixth criteria. This year the criteria is the “Revolutionary Community.” It should be the tie-breaker, if there is a tie.
We know it is not easy to measure the small, the medium and large qualitatively. Some urge us to separate out awards into categories. But I say “no.” In the end a community is a place people call “home.” And there is no discrimination between one’s love of home in a rural hamlet far from the city, or in an apartment in the big city, far from the rural hamlet. Let’s just say that from ICF’s view, we are all in this together. May the champion who is, neighborhood-for-neighborhood, the best be named on 11 June in Toronto.
To our Jury: good luck and thank you! To those of you following their work: stay tuned. The best is yet to come.
Monday, May 4, 2015
Business and Investment Match-Making at ICF Summit 2015 - You are invited, V2.0!
When: June 9, 2015 (12:30 PM) Where: MaRS Discovery District; 101 College Street, Toronto
Last year was the inaugural event of ICF’s first B2B and B2G Matchmaking Session and it was quite a success! The room was full and we had a waiting list of appointments. See the photos below. It was quite exciting and there was a lot of buzz!
When you attend this year’s ICF Summit in Toronto there will be another fantastic opportunity for delegates to meet each other to pursue potential business opportunities on June 9. The concept is well known to economic developers – business and investment matchmaking among delegates at a conference to explore mutually beneficial business opportunities. For this gathering we are inviting all registered delegates, the Smart21 and Top 7 Intelligent Communities, the current Intelligent Community of the Year (2014- Toronto) as well as our sponsors and ICF friends to share their investment and business opportunities with each other and with other delegates at this gathering.
We will be inviting the Top7 Mayors, CIOs, CAOs and Economic Development Officials, but we are also inviting their local businesses, service providers and institutions to attend and participate in the match-making sessions. This will be a great ice-breaker for everyone- so bring lots of business cards. It’s a great first event for all the delegates who did not attend the Waterloo and Toronto Tours on June 8.
The match-making sessions are designed to be brief 20 minute meetings; ten altogether over a three hour segment. There will be an opportunity to schedule a meeting and it will be posted electronically after each delegate has registered. To register go to www.icfsummit2015.com . After each 20 minute session, the tables will be alerted to shift their meetings. Some call this business “speed-dating”. Whatever it is, there will certainly be a pile of business cards exchanged and the start to one heck of a Summit.
Why meet with the Smart21 and Top 7 Intelligent Communities at the Matchmaking Session? They are among the best of the breed of Intelligent Communities from around the world. Learn about the business and investment opportunities in each Intelligent Community; what incentives are there to locate a business or to partner with local businesses? Are the costs of power advantageous? What are the labor costs and how do they compare? What shovel-ready sites are available? Are there companies in these communities with whom you can partner? Are there start-ups that are looking for exit strategies? M&A anyone? Are there companies in these Top7 Intelligent Communities that are looking to export and expand into other regions? Why not into yours? If you don’t ask, you won’t get - is the old adage; similarly if you don’t attend, you will miss out on these obvious opportunities.
In addition to the tables offered first for the Top7 Cities, we will have additional tables available for our sponsors and others to take advantage of. These will be available on a first come first served basis. I recommend that you register and reserve your meeting times with the Top7 Intelligent Communities, their business partners and ICF’s sponsors before it fills up.
After you have registered as a delegate for June 9’s Matchmaking session, please contact Matt Owen to reserve your appointment with the cities and companies at the event: firstname.lastname@example.org
In 2008 Columbus, Ohio (USA) was named the #1 “up and coming city” in the United States by Forbes magazine. This surprised people. Most people did not know where Columbus was and those who did associated it with poverty, lack of digital inclusion and the flight of its gentrified and middle-classes from its urban center. There was the impression that Columbus, the capitol of the state of Ohio, was rusting away. Bitten by the fangs of a post-industrial collapse, Columbus was a place where, if you were born poor, you had only a 5% chance of getting into the top fifth percentile of wage earners, which nearly guaranteed a long, mainly miserable life. Your relief was hoping that nearby Ohio State University might win its football games. You could at least live a success vicariously. It was ironic. In a state (Ohio) that headquarters America’s national Inventors Hall of Fame, Columbus scored low on Richard Florida’s “creative index” list. Even Columbus’s Smart21 nomination form to ICF pointed to the disappointing ranking (#61) as one of its challenges. In 2008 it promised itself and the world more.
A disease is often healed even though a patient still feels ill. The city was beginning to implement its long-range plan, Columbus 2020, and was carefully following a path laid out by ICF’s criteria, where broadband is part of an underlying infrastructure over which a new type of Columbus could emerge. Impressively, it did. The city did not run away from what it was, because it knew nothing can run that fast. It moved forward, making adjustments as it reinvented itself and laid the foundation for generations.
Well, guess what? The up-and-coming city has arrived. No doubt about it. Based on my site visit two weeks ago, I am here to testify that Columbus, Ohio has “upped its game.” Big time. It has gone from “lab to market.” And, yes, there is a parallel between the Ohio State University’s status as the reigning national college football championship of America and the city’s Intelligent Community push. Columbus is in the “red zone.”
In the final term of Mayor Michael Coleman, pictured left, the longest-serving mayor of African heritage in the USA, Columbus has moved from an aspirational city to one with gravity. Its citizens believe. I know because I asked them if they believed. The city has an advanced plan and uses its data-driven capacity to make decisions today. It is layered with industries and people that have popped-up like weeds. It has balanced its agricultural capacity with the needs of a modern city, and tied the two economies together at every level. This is how you build an Intelligent Community, I thought, boarding my plane at its remodeled airport.
I look for intangibles on my visits because the data looks impressive most of the time. I look for gaps between what I am told and what I see. I noticed that Columbus, going against its own grain, has developed the will to grow and the self-confidence to acknowledge itself as “world class.” Unlike those of us in New York, people in Columbus are modest about their achievements. When a top professor of autonomous vehicles research at Ohio State pulled me aside to tell me that he no longer goes to New York for cuisine and culture because “I have it here now and in abundance,” I sensed that an attitude shift had occurred. There is a reason he told me this. Its cosmopolitan sense has emerged physically in the German Village, the emerging arts community of Franklinton and the quality of life in the “Short North” district, where my godchild lives. I asked him if he actually likes living in Columbus. He does. Very much. He wouldn’t lie to his godfather.
Good food and good restaurants do not make a Top7 city, of course. If that were the case six of our Top7 each year would be from Italy. Nor does public relations get your name on the ICF trophy. There was no public relations finesse from Columbus on this visit, thank god. I was able to observe things which gave me a snapshot of Columbus, ask hard questions and learn whether it is ready for the big stage in Toronto in June.
Columbus has a CIO and a very bright Department of Technology team with private sector creds that do not speak endlessly about gigabits and fiber conduits. No geek talk in Columbus. The talk is about how to serve citizens. The discussions I had over “broadband breakfasts” was of how a unified digital architecture is being put in place quickly to enable the economy and government to perform better. Their citywide connectivity plan is radical in its approach and includes an innovative relationship with a new vendor (CNX) whose task is to facilitate and lease connectivity on the city’s behalf to service providers for maximum efficiency at the lowest cost to businesses. Columbus is the anti-Google Gigabit City. Its approach made me think of the “Stockholm Miracle.” Stockholm’s open access network delivered the lowest telecom costs in Europe and unleashed one of the world’s most competitive economies. Stockholm became 2009 Intelligent Community of the Year because it understood that broadband access was the key to an economic resurgence. What really impressed me was when I asked the team in Columbus what they were most proud of. Citing the My Columbus app, Moez Chaabouni, Deputy Director of the Department of Technology said, “We have made peoples’ lives easier. I am very proud of that.” That is what they told me in Stockholm years ago too.
Broadband networks in and around Columbus are robust and include a monstrously impressive ramp-up of its super-computing capacity, which has advanced since the last time I visited. Back then, the Ohio Academic Resources Network (OARnet) aspired to learn more from ICF. It can teach us things now. It has built a “brainport” which taps the knowledge base of 91 colleges and universities. While visiting the Super Computer I heard sparks of competitive confidence that I had not heard before. Professor Pankaj Shah, the Executive Director of OARnet (pictured with me, right) said simply, “We are the best. We just never told our story well.” With 2,200 miles of 100 gigabit fiber behind the network, and dozens of examples of research funding projects that are flowing into Columbus as a result, he presides over a unique express lane for the local economy.
The relationship among the city’s incubators, its major university, two magnificent research hospitals and its economic development department have reached a point where each operate efficiently and have defined their role. This is key to the city’s steady commercialization of technology. The city finally cracked the nut and has begun to allow a flow between it and its university. Ohio, the home of American invention, has dusted itself off and reclaimed a trait that made it the envy of the world in another era. Its Nationwide Children’s Hospital has a system to incubate start-ups and I heard presentations from five of them which are doing ground-breaking work in gene therapy and in areas such as the identification of bacterial characteristics. Not much of this is visible to the public eye or to the media because it is the molasses of daily life. It is quiet work and not flashy. But it demonstrates how intellectual capacity, research and applied practice work together harmoniously and feed innovation. It is what I was seeking to find. There is a quality of researcher and person in Columbus that feeds its cosmopolitan emergence.
The second admirable characteristic is the degree to which the mayor and his team understand that recovering a city is done house to house. “A great community is its neighborhoods,” I was told. I was told this even in the places that have yet to experience the full recovery that much of the city is experiencing. Columbus solved its BIG DEVELOPMENT issues since Robert Bell’s 2013 site visit. Now it is solving its once-intractable urban problems. The higher-hanging fruit. The city has a Neighborhood Pride program that is low-tech but high concept. When you have limited funds, you have to think. The program leverages peer pressure and the beauty of democracy (representation and location of services near citizens) to succeed Signs will go up in homes and small neighborhood businesses when they meet certain criteria and achieve Pride status. Sustaining neighborhoods is a team sport. The program, run by two people, has made the street the city.
Columbus also has a strategy which I don’t think any community has thought through as carefully to manage its inevitable gentrification so that it does not become the core of its neighborhood recovery efforts. The recovery must come from within or else the problem has simply been transferred to another block. I was told. I saw nearly 400 new homes being built that were affordable and for the community.
One of the rising indicators of a city that is heading in the right direction is the degree to which people return home. Columbus is bringing its children home. This was not happening in ’08. It has successfully experienced population growth and is doing it with a mixture of downtown density and a constant push for an overall quality of life. Culture is its driver.
What culture? A culture is centered around athletics. Standing on the 50-yard line of The Shoe (the big football stadium) allowed me to take one thing off my “bucket list.” But it also offered me a sense of what I would call a “sense of fair play” among the city’s residents. Columbus is intensely competitive. Its culture of competitive athletics impacts the way it looks at its Top7 status. It wants to be Intelligent Community of the Year. People (lots of them) told me that many, many times. The city’s preparation for my site visit was meticulous and as comprehensive as any I have undertaken.
Yet despite its drive to become the Intelligent Community of the Year and to put on its best face the city went out of its way to show me places that by its own admission were not performing well. It had me on public forums and TV to probe any criticism I had, or had heard. Columbus is winning its future in part because it hides nothing and is open to criticism. This is in fact the mark of a winner. This city is confident that what it has is right now is good enough to land it into the endzone as Intelligent Community of the Year in June. Whether the ICF Jury and the quantitative data assessment will agree is out of my hands. It has a one in seven chance to succeed Toronto as Intelligent Community of the Year. But I can report that this city has gone from “lab to market” and that nothing should surprise its humble population come the morning of June 10. Columbus has put together a great gameplan.