At the northeast end of Ontario’s Golden Horseshoe lies Oshawa, the former Automotive Capital of Canada that is finding a new future as an education and life-sciences hub. The Golden Horseshoe bends around the western end of Lake Ontario and includes the 2014 Intelligent Community of the Year, Toronto. For decades, the economy of Oshawa was tied to General Motors, which employed 20,000 people in a city of 160,000 and was the engine of the local economy. In the Eighties and Nineties, however, rounds of downsizing gradually reduced GM’s employment in the city to 4,000, wreaking havoc on the community. By 1997, the city’s downtown commercial vacancy rate reached 29% and the brownfield sites of vacant factories blighted the cityscape.
Mobilizing the Assets
City leaders, along with stakeholders from businesses and institutions, took joint action. The city was blessed with major institutions of higher learning including Durham College and Trent University Durham, as well as Lakeridge Health, one of the province’s largest community hospitals. Together, the partners plotted redevelopment of the downtown core and the replacement of automotive employment with economic development in sectors including health, sustainable energy, agriculture and transportation. Growth would be based, not on “chasing smokestacks” to bring in outside companies, but on building on the existing foundations of research and education, and using that expertise to kickstart business innovation.
It would also be based on broadband. Another of the city’s assets was Oshawa Public Utilities Corporation, which began to invest in dark fiber infrastructure to meet its own needs as well as serve city facilities. The private sector was persuaded to join in, and dark fiber began to be installed in all new construction projects to meet future demand.
Growth in Research and Education
In the new century, the city’s strategy began to show results. In 2003, the University of Ontario Institute of Technology opened as the province’s first laptop-based university. It became one of Ontario’s fastest-growing universities, which attracted more than C$100 million in research grants, and now houses more than 70 specialized laboratories and 10,000 students. The incumbent institutions worked closely with local business and introduced new programs aimed at retraining residents for in-demand careers in the city’s target sectors. Together, in 2012-13, Durham College and Trend University were estimated to contribute nearly C$1 billion in economic impact to the city.
As hoped, this concentration of education and research began to yield a harvest of new companies in wearable technology, immersive gaming, automotive data systems and consumer applications. Multiple incubators and business accelerators have opened downtown to house the young companies. The Lakeridge Health Education and Research Network opened in 2013 and began training 1,600 students per year using advanced simulation technologies while pioneering research in health informatics.
Meanwhile, the city worked to equip all of its citizens with the digital skills they needed to prosper. Schools went wireless and received allotments of handheld devices, while two-thirds of teaching staff successfully completed instructional technology training. The library system installed Wi-Fi and over 100 public-use computers, tablets and e-readers for their patrons to use. Community centers and the Boys and Girls Club introduced Wi-Fi and computer access for their users as well.
Oshawa has seen its unemployment rate dramatically improve and commercial vacancy drop by more than half. Eighty-six percent of residents now have a certificate, diploma or degree compared with 73% a decade ago. City Council has also convened a citizen environmental advisory committee that engages residents in a broad range of workshops, community gardens and clean-up projects to build civic pride, while new buildings are rising on brownfield lands across the city. Local government, institutions, businesses and citizens are moving in the same direction, and it is toward a brighter and more sustainable future.
The largest French-speaking city in North America, the Montréal Metro Area is home to more than a tenth of Canada’s population. The region was hit by the decline of heavy industry in the Eighties, and launched a large-scale transition of its economy to ICT, aerospace, life sciences, health technologies and clean tech. Together, these clusters contain more than 6,250 companies employing about 10% of the workforce.
A Smart City plan introduced in 2014 is the most recent contributor to this transition. It focuses on further build-out of the city’s wired and wireless broadband infrastructure, as well as deploying technology to make city services and systems more efficient and creating a collaborative ecosystem involving business, institutions and citizens.
The city owns its own electric utility, which has contributed to an 81% Internet penetration rate, with most connections at high speed. Current plans call for build-out of free WiFi across the 17 square kilometers of the central city. An open “citizen laboratory” already invites participation in incubating social technologies. An aggressive train-the-trainer program operates from 85 centers to equip community leaders with digital skills, which also help the significant portion of the population who struggle with basic literacy, a legacy of the city’s industrial past.
Montréal en Histories
The city of Montréal has 161km of fiber optic cable, which will more than double over the next two years. That network provides the backbone for MTL WiFi, which offers 8 Mbps per user and gained 50,000 unique users in its first month of deployment. The rollout began in Montréal’s historic district and provided the digital infrastructure for the Montréal en Histories project. Funded by the city and executed by producers of the famed Cirque de Soleil—which was founded in Montreal and still has its center of operations there—the project memorializes important periods in Montréal’s history in the form of videos projected at night on the walls of buildings throughout the Old City. Interested passersby can use a phone- and tablet-based app to activate the videos and delve more deeply into the content. One striking video addresses racial history with two side-by-side tales: one of black slave girl accused of setting a catastrophic fire who was tortured and hanged on little evidence, and another on the early career of Jackie Robinson, who played for Montréal and received the strong backing of his teammates in the face of public discrimination.
Knowledge is Power
The metro area’s universities graduate more students from higher education than any other Canadian city. Over 415,000 students earned an undergraduate or graduate degree there from 1998 through 2008. Montréal institutions also received more than 160,000 registrations for e-learning in the 2011-12 school year, while a specialized program is training hundreds of teachers in the use of digital technologies. This educational foundation feeds into the region’s fast-growing knowledge economy, which is a major focus of policy. Montréal operates six Learning Labs specializing in areas from transportation to healthcare and urban planning, and has deployed an online collaboration system to engage its ICT cluster (some 5,000 companies) in more open innovation. Accelerator programs and co-working spaces foster an expanding start-up culture, with the arts and media playing a significant role; Cirque de Soleil is a Montréal company.
Youth Fusion is an inspiring program that targets youth at risk of dropping out of Montréal’s schools. Gabriel Bran Lopez, an immigrant from Guatemala, founded the program as a serious, long-term effort to engage such students and help them achieve their highest potential in the future workforce. Youth Fusion places university students in classrooms for 30-40 hours per week to help students learn robotics, fashion design, cinema, entrepreneurship, video game technology and a variety of other topics. The program pays these university students for their time and effort with fundraising from local businesses, who are eager to see more future employees trained in the skills they need.
Youth Fusion programs are organized as contests running over several months, culminating in selection of winners, often by judges from local industries. Through their work, the students learn French, math, art, leadership and teamwork—and also learn that they can enjoy being in school. The program was originally introduced as a pilot in 2 schools with 7 university coordinators and has grown to include 200 university coordinators working in 92 schools with 40 corporate supporters and partners across the province. Youth Fusion was recently named the most effective charity in Canada, generating C$16 in social value for each C$1 investment.
Quartier de l’innovation
Montréal’s innovation quarter, the Quartier de l’innovation (QI), was launched in May of 2013 by two universities: the École de technologie supérieure (ÉTS) and McGill University and is now evolving to include Concordia University as well. The QI is an innovation ecosystem in the heart of Montréal designed to boost the city’s potential for creativity by combining the strengths of many education institutions and businesses in one place.
To create such an ecosystem, Montréal is making use of the dynamic community that has already grown in the area. Home to many artists and cultural and non-profit organizations, the area also houses close to 100,000 students between the three universities. The QI also boasts 250 companies employing 20,000 people with the largest concentration of information technology and multimedia workers in all of Canada. As it continues to grow, the QI helps the nearby area grow with it by drawing new businesses and residents, leading to a total of $6B in property development and municipal investment since its inception.
The QI’s main strategy is integration of key segments in the sector: the industrial segment, the education and research segment, the urban segment and social and cultural segments. The quarter facilitates connections between these four segments, helping organizations from each of them form strong relationships with the others to further innovation. As entrepreneurs and new companies move into the area, the QI works to aid in cross-pollination of ideas and in helping them get off the ground. The area currently houses six startup incubators, including the Centech (technological entrepreneurship center) and the CEIM (Montréal business and innovation center). The CEIM offers customized management support and related services for startups in information technology, new media, life sciences and clean industrial technologies, while Centech provides support for ventures in manufacturing technology.
The history of technology development in Montréal Metro has created a fragmented sector consisting of many small companies. The city’s economic future depends on helping those small-scale innovators to collaborate in building a bigger future, while preserving the culture and beauty that attract 3.5 million visitors to the area each year.
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Intelligent Community of the Year 2016
Smart21 2014 | 2016
For most of the 20th Century, the city of Moncton was the transportation hub of Atlantic Canada, a region made up of the four provinces bordering the Atlantic Ocean. The Canadian National (CN) railroad had its repair shops in the city, and a cluster of transport-dependent employers, such as the Catalog Center for the nationwide Eaton's department store chain, formed to take advantage of fast, convenient access to the national rail network. CN employed 5% of the workforce and its purchasing generated thousands more jobs.
In the 1980s, however, Moncton experienced the perfect economic storm. CN announced in 1985 that it was closing down the Moncton Shops facilities in a drive to boost productivity. The Eaton's Catalog Center also closed as the department store business model fell under attack, and several local factories fell prey to the period's rapid de-industrialization. A once-proud transportation cluster found itself facing not only economic upheaval in the short term but serious worries for the future. Because rail and transportation had dominated its economy for so long, Moncton's workforce was educated for an era of manual work, not the emerging knowledge economy. The city's downtown had a high vacancy rate and, due to lack of investment, the community's physical infrastructure was in decay.
Moncton’s historic motto is "Resurgo," Latin for "I rise again." As the Eighties came to a close, it was an open question whether Moncton would ever be able to rise again.
ICF has identified strong collaborative leadership as a critical factor in the success of Intelligent Communities. The Moncton story explains why it is so important.
Moncton responded to the crisis by organizing a series of regional economic development planning exercises beginning in 1989. The first planning process, Symposium 2000, brought together local government and business leaders not only from Moncton but from the neighboring city of Dieppe and town of Riverview, as well as provincial and federal agencies. But it was not just a talking shop. The government and business leaders came prepared to make deals, and they reached agreement on a series of big steps. They formed and agreed to fund the Greater Moncton Economic Commission, the first regional economic development agency, and subsequently approved its first strategic plan. They forged a partnership between local and provincial government to focus on attracting new business to the region and made individual commitments to infrastructure investment. Most important, they formalized collaboration among Moncton, Dieppe and Riverview on sharing the management of municipal services such as water and policing, and on joint development of projects like the Greater Moncton International Airport. This collaboration reduced the costs of government in the region while focusing everyone on pursuing new economic opportunities.
Call Center King
In the late Eighties, the hot opportunity turned out to be the call center. Both outbound and inbound call centers experienced a boom in this period, and Moncton had the potential to benefit because of its low costs and one special attribute: it has one of the highest rates of bilingual workforce in Canada, with half of the population speaking French and English. Both leadership and collaboration played a role in what happened next. The incumbent carrier NBTel (now Aliant Telecom), proved willing to step up to meet new requirements. The first Canadian carrier to build a 100% digital network in the early 1990s, Aliant created a suite of services to support call centers, including the leasing (rather than purchase) of costly switches and systems for home-based employees. The provincial government joined forces with Moncton to actively promote the city as a place to base telecom-intensive service and IT operations. The province helped the city to attract call centers for over two dozen national and international firms including ExxonMobil, UPS, FedEx and the Royal Bank of Canada. By 1994, call centers had become a major source of new jobs, exceeding goals set in 1991. But the 1994 plan recognized that success in call center development was not enough; the next step was to focus on "knowledge businesses" – natural and applied sciences, business and finance, computer programming and information systems.
More partnerships ensued. Moncton tapped the resources of national and provincial government agencies, including the Atlantic Innovation Fund and the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation, to spur attraction and start-up of knowledge-based businesses. A New Brunswick R&D Tax Credit helped companies justify location of scientific research facilities in the Greater Moncton area. The Greater Moncton Strategic Partnership linked local government with universities, colleges, local media and leading-edge companies to fund talent-attraction marketing in order to feed the rising demand for qualified people.
With the call center business continuing to attract companies including Fairmont Hotels, Rogers Communications and Lottomattica, Moncton increasingly saw homegrown ICT businesses prosper, from the Atlantic Lottery Corporation and Red Ball Internet to Vimsoft and PropertyGuys.com. By 2006, almost 45 out of every 1,000 workers in the Moncton Census Metropolitan Area (CMA) worked in customer service, information or related clerk positions, compared with an average of 12 for Canada. Moncton had witnessed a 300% increase in employment in ICT companies, a 153% increase in employment for graphic designers and illustrators, and a 43% increase in jobs for writers and translators. While New Brunswick suffered a net loss of 3,900 people from 2001 to 2006, the Greater Moncton area gained 6,800.
In 2008, the call center sector paid more than C$290 million in payroll and generated a total of C$765 million in regional economic activity. But newer businesses were also making an impact. The community's hospitals have become catalysts for an emerging life sciences cluster focusing on medical informatics, bio-markers and bio-statistics. The Atlantic Cancer Research Institute is the largest in Atlantic Canada. L'Université de Moncton is well known for research on cellular lipid metabolism and is home to New Brunswick's only medical school, while private company DDx Health Strategies is pioneering in remote support for the pharmaceutical industry and MedSenses offers health care e-learning solutions. A local entrepreneur went from working as a video game repair technician to creating a state of the art video lottery machine system. Global lottery giant GTECH acquired this Moncton grown company in 2004 and was itself acquired in 2006 by Italy's Lottomatica, which chose to maintain production of the systems in Moncton. The result has been a gaming cluster, which now includes a unit of Oracle and a significant number of homegrown companies and development centers for multinationals.
Moncton ploughed economic growth back into infrastructure, building a new City Hall, widening bridges and roads and opening up parcels of land to development of corporate headquarters, call centers and media studios. One of the most satisfying milestones was the opening of the Emmerson Business & Technology Park on the brownfield site that had been home to CN's Moncton Shops. The developer, Canada Lands Company, put C$50 million into cleanup and redevelopment of the 249-acre site, which also includes the CN Sportplex and residential units.
Connecting to the Internet Age
Greater Moncton's latest plan, Vision 2010, calls for updating the region's economic development for the Internet age. In 2007, Moncton partnered with Cisco and Hewlett-Packard to install the first free outdoor wireless mesh network in Canada. In a mesh network, data traffic is handed off between wireless nodes, most of which operate without a landline connection. This reduces the cost of cabling but requires high-quality design and a large number of nodes to succeed. City workers installed the entire system, mostly on lampposts and traffic signals, in three days across six city blocks. The network has since been expanded selectively to local parks, shopping districts and the Magnetic Hill concert site, where it supports e-commerce for local merchants as well as communication and Web browsing. The City has even created a Community Access mobile WiFi service that allows it to deploy coverage for special events on demand.
But mobility is not just for sporting events and concerts. Moncton's municipal buses also offer free WiFi. By making it convenient for bus riders to access broadband, the new service has increased usage of public transit, with positive impacts on both emissions and congestion. In response to demand, the bus fleet is scheduled to grow from 27 to 52 buses by the end of 2010.
Moncton is also deploying ICT to improve municipal services. A van equipped with high-speed data collection technology evaluates the condition of pavement on city streets and feeds information into the city's Asset Management System. The city has also installed 20,000 wireless meter-reading devices in its water system. They measure water flows so precisely that they can detect leaks within the household, which saves citizens money while promoting conservation. Building inspectors and other outside workers are taking laptops on the road and connecting securely into city systems to access information and file reports.
One constant amid these waves of changes has been the process by which Moncton built and continues to build its broadband future. Community leaders in government, academia, institutions and businesses continue to connect and collaborate to a remarkable degree. From 2004 to 2008, the chair of the City Council's Prosperity and Economic Affairs Committee was the founder and chair of the public-private Moncton Technology Planning Group (MTPG). Members of MTPG have been board members of Enterprise Greater Moncton. The Mayor of Moncton and senior staff also sit on the Board of Enterprise Greater Moncton, and are involved in MTPG as well as the city's Prosperity and Economic Affairs Committee, of which the past chairman of the Chamber of Commerce is a member. Representatives from provincial and national government agencies also have representatives in most of the groups. In some places, having such a tightly knit leadership group becomes a barrier to progress by reducing transparency and stifling new ideas. But in Moncton, it seems to have been key to the successful fight back from the economic brink and the continuing effort to build a strong, diverse and prosperous community.
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Moncton was featured in the Intelligent Community Forum book Brain Gain.
Labor Force: 75,600
Smart21 2009 | 2010
Lethbridge takes its name from the owner of a 19th Century coal and transportation company, and coal-mining was the foundation of its early prosperity. As coal lost its dominance to oil and natural gas, Lethbridge developed further as a transport and commercial hub for southern Alberta, with agriculture as another mainstay. By the late 20th Century, half the workforce was employed in healthcare, education, retail and hospitality sectors and the top five employers were government-based. The only university in Alberta south of Calgary is in Lethbridge, and two of the three colleges in southern Alberta have campuses in the city.
Despite these advantages, educational attainment in the city is not particularly high because students have traditionally left town after graduation to seek their fortunes elsewhere. City leadership has responded to this challenge by laying the foundations of a knowledge economy in this city of 95,000, and doing so in close collaboration with business, institutions and citizens. In 2015, it opened a Trade & Technologies Renewal Center, which brings together students, faculty and industry to equip workers with the trade skills needed to satisfy local and regional business. With global oil prices near historic lows, Lethbridge wants to ensure that workers have the skills needed to prosper in the next boom, whatever its source.
Another project, TecConnect, has invested C$5.5 million in construction of a tech commercialization center and in data center equipment, which helped persuade BlackBridge (now PlanetLabs), a satellite imaging company, to locate its new headquarters and data center next to the center. Four years after opening, TecConnect has graduated five companies with combined revenues of C$1.5 million, is incubating six more, and has created 70 jobs, of which 80% are filled by Lethbridge post-secondary graduates.
A Connectivity Working Group convened by the city is engaged in analyzing existing broadband services and infrastructure and making recommendations for improvement. Focusing on wireless, it has collaborated in the design of cell towers to be added to a major retail center now under construction, and has implemented small-cell technology in new residential developments. The public-private Lethbridge Community Network provides public access to computers, education and IT for the unconnected population as well as training and IT solutions to local nonprofits.
Canada has a long tradition of commodity-driven economic growth, from agriculture to forestry to the oil sands that made Alberta rich in the new century. Lethbridge is betting on a different future, in which Canadian innovation creates a diversified economy that can weather the winds of global change.
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Kingston is one of Canada’s oldest cities, founded at a strategic intersection of lakes and rivers, with an historic waterfront and an employer base of Federal and Provincial agencies that attracts more government grants per capita than any other city in the nation. It has been ranked Canada’s third best place to live and smartest city, thanks to deployment of an open-access community broadband network supplemented with investment in the Eastern Ontario Regional Network bringing 10 Mbps service to rural neighborhoods. More than 90% of Kingstonians now subscribe to broadband. But the economy’s heavy dependence on public sector spending makes Kingston vulnerable to decisions made far away, and local government has developed a multi-faceted strategy to diversify its economy while maintaining the culture and quality of life that residents treasure.
It is aided in this undertaking by the presence of Queen’s University, a top 10 research institution and St. Lawrence College, a 2-year institution with schools of business, computer and engineering technology, health sciences and skilled trades. Queen’s University founded an office in 1987, called PARTEQ Innovations, to identify intellectual property and support its commercialization. PARTEQ went on to build Innovation Park, where academic, business and government researchers work to pioneer new technologies and bring them to market.
Innovation has a particular focus in Kingston. The public, business, education and government have rallied around a goal to make environmental sustainability its focus. Local government launched a community planning process that resulted in Sustainable Kingston, a plan that gave rise to a nonprofit of the same name. As a result, most research and commercialization focuses on greentech and cleantech, from the Federal GreenCentre Canada research lab to a Fuel Cell Research Centre and High-Performance Virtual Computing Lab. Successful businesses are also pioneering in automation, life sciences and health technologies. In addition to sustainability, the city launched a Kingston Culture Plan in 2010 to increase the impact of the city’s already sizeable arts and culture economy, both for its own economic value and its attractiveness to creative professionals. City leaders see these efforts as steps in social transformation, helping a community that is already satisfied with its lot in life to seize the vast potential of the broadband economy.
Labor Force: 90,000
Smart21 2009 | 2014
Kenora is in "cottage country," where seasonal residents double the population in the summer. But the decline of forestry decimated the non-tourism economy, causing Kenora's best and brightest young people to leave town. In response, Kenora launched a Web portal strategy to leverage its 80% penetration rate for wired and wireless broadband. The goals were to make Kenora even more attractive to part-timers and visitors by providing anytime-anywhere access to services, while also supporting local business and building a broadband culture of use. Through the portal, visitors and seasonal residents can reserve facility, apply for permits and learn what's going on in town. Businesses create their own Web sites with e-commerce capabilities and promote tourism through GIS-enabled interactive search. Community groups build Web sites, recruit volunteers, solicit donations and collaborate online.
The Golden Horseshoe is the region that bends around the westernmost end of Lake Ontario in Canada. At the center of the horseshoe’s curve is Hamilton, a city of 520,000 known for industry, education and cultural diversity, having the third-largest foreign-born population in the country. Located 70 kilometers southwest of Toronto (the 2014 Intelligent Community of the Year), Hamilton was once known as the Steel Capital of Canada, producing 60% of the nation’s steel. It is also a successful lake port city and operates an airport that saw passenger traffic grow tenfold from 1996 to 2002. A 30-year economic development plan begun in 2003 set the goal of creating a massive aerotropolis industrial park around that airport to capitalize on its success.
From Steel to Fiber
Being an industrial city in the broadband economy, however, has its challenges. Its biggest steel producer nearly went bankrupt before returning to profitability in 2004. It subsequently sold out to US Steel, which sold to ArcelorMital of India. That company made major investments in the facility, making it one of the company’s most efficient and productive plants – but one that employs a much smaller number of more highly-skilled employees.
Hamilton’s economic development effort now focuses on playing to its 21st Century strengths. In 2014, it established HCE Telecom as a wholly-owned subsidiary of the city. The City Council was driven to make this decision by Hamilton’s major employers, who complained about unplanned outages, poor customer support and lack of responsiveness from incumbents.
Since its start in 2015, HCE has deployed a 10-gigabit fiber network to serve city facilities, business, universities and hospitals and make the city more attractive to leading-edge employers. More than 160 Hamilton locations currently receive service, and HCE has extended connectivity to more than 600 locations across Canada.
In March of 2017, HCE acquired Sunrise Interactive Net6, which is an organization that specializes in on-shore, near-shore, and offshore Internet solutions. HCE plans to use Sunrise’s expertise to deliver new hosting, disaster recovery, call center and data center options for the area.
Forging New Companies
City leaders have come to recognize that, in the past, the city wasted too much of potential of its universities, colleges and public schools. These institutions have formed a collaborative initiative called Education City to brand Hamilton as a destination for academic success, to which each partner contributes programs. The public school system has made it requirement for graduation from secondary school for students to devote 40 hours to community-building work with local nonprofits. McMaster Innovation Park (MIP) is a 55-acre innovation and research park where technology startups are collocated with the research capabilities of McMaster University and Mohawk College. MIP is home to Innovation Factory, a regional innovation centre set up to help companies find and access resources to start technology businesses; and the Forge, an incubator-accelerator by McMaster University to help drive entrepreneurship within their students and faculty that provides training, access to prototyping and production facilities.
The city has also established a life sciences cluster called Synapse Life Sciences Consortium comprised of local hospitals, academic institutions, and private sector firms to leverage its strong hospital network and bring health research to commercialization. Using funding from public and private sources, it has also established a Centre for Integrated Transportation and Mobility to offer business and technical advisory services to Ontario-based startups and small-to-midize companies working to commercialize connected and autonomous vehicles.
Mohawk College has partnered with the city, the District School Board, the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic School Board and other industry partners to start two programs to expand educational opportunity. College in Motion places staff in various Hamilton high schools, libraries and community centers to offer information and encouragement to students consider post-secondary education. Staffers provide one-on-one counselling and advice, including identifying students’ areas of interest and connecting them with college faculty members for further support. The City School program provides free, for-credit courses and workshops to students in poor neighborhoods, including specialized learning programs, workshops and other services. It targets school-age and older people who lack educational credentials and offers skills training in subjects from digital photography and advanced manufacturing to child development and welding. Courses are developed in close collaboration with neighborhood champions who help shape the local offerings and help residents gain access to them. The program launched a mobile classroom with over 1,000 square feet of learning space including carpentry and welding stations in the fall of 2017 to bring education to disadvantaged neighborhoods. Delivered by Mohawk College staff, the courses are designed to break down fears of the educational system, provide a base level of skills – but also to create an “on-ramp” to programs at Mohawk, where students can earn an associate’s degree and substantially increase their earning potential. The success of the program has led Hamilton’s Community Access & Engagement team to present it at conferences across Canada.
Creating New Land
With a lack of new land for development, Hamilton has focused on remediation of industrial brownfield sites. Through an innovative program called ERASE, it offers financial incentives to companies to clean up and repurpose polluted sites. The city has approved hundreds of development grant applications worth more than C$20 million. Redevelopment underway has generated C$3 million in construction and created 650 jobs.
The city has also focused its efforts on cleaning and revitalizing the Hamilton Harbour with the help of the provincial and federal governments via the Hamilton Harbour Remedial Action Plan. Beginning in 1989, the city has built nine combined sewer overflow (CSO) tanks to capture untreated sanitary and storm sewage during storms to keep it from being returned to the water supply until treated. Hamilton has dramatically revitalized the shoreline through the Pier 4 Park and Bayfront Park developments in the West Harbour, transforming what was once an industrial landfill site into a beautiful recreational public space. The city is also currently working on wastewater treatment plant upgrades and a variety of other projects to fully restore and enhance the Harbour’s ecosystem, including commissioning a LEED-certified environmental laboratory at the Woodward Wastewater Treatment Plant.
Engagement in Change
Hamilton created a master plan called Vision 2020 in the 1990s to guide development over the next 25 years. In 2015, it began a refresh of the plan that is a model for community engagement in planning. It brought a booth to local festivals and community centers to have conversations with residents about their vision of the future. Engagement methods included online surveys, meetings with key stakeholders, advertising and public meetings, but also bus tours to orient newcomers to the city and encourage residents to see their community in a new way. Through these means, Hamilton engaged with over 50,000 residents and from that input created the “Our Future Hamilton” vision setting priorities for a new 10-year strategic plan. Among the many goals is the establishment of a Digital Office for the city focusing on improving quality of life and the digital transformation of government.
The decline of industrial employment has stranded workers who do not possess the skills and access to technology to compete in the broadband economy. A Hamilton charity operates a successful digital equality program called GreenBYTE that collects end-of-life computer systems, refurbishes them, and provides them to low-income households at no cost. It also provides computer certification training to low-income individuals. Since 2001, GreenBYTE has donated more than 12,000 computers to households, helped 100 graduates receive computer certifications and upgraded an after-school computer lab for the city.
In addition to providing computer access to households in need, Hamilton has focused on introducing local youth to digital learning at an early age. The Hamilton Code Clubs (HCC) is an initiative of the Industry Education Council (IEC) and Software Hamilton. Now in its third year of operation, HCC has had over 1,800 student participants aged 9 to 14 years old. The program teaches students core programing fundamentals during lunch breaks or after school, as well as bringing youth from across the city together to create video and data management games and websites and to program SPRK Sphero robots. HCC now includes weekend programs at the Hamilton Public Library and summer and robotics camps.
Geography, trade, industry and hard work built Hamilton’s successful economic past. Its future will leverage those same assets to create an economy that can prosper in the digital era.
Smart21 2016 | 2018 | 2020
Top7 2018 | 2020
At a time when governments around the world are becoming deeply involved in managing their economies, Fredericton owes its place among the Top Seven Intelligent Communities to decisions to reduce the role of government in the local economy.
In colonial days, Fredericton served as the anchor of a vibrant regional economy based on trade with America's New England states. But over time, economic power gradually concentrated in the nation's geographic center, leaving the eastern provinces to become "branch office economies" dependent on decisions made elsewhere. It became so common for people to move west in search of economic opportunity that Frederictonians called it "goin' down the road."
Fredericton is the capital of the province of New Brunswick and public-sector employment shielded the community for many years from economic decline. Then in the mid-1980s, the Canadian Federal government began running large deficits and responded by offloading public costs onto provincial and municipal governments. By the 1990s, Fredericton found itself with a government that was too large, a private sector too anemic to support it, and a doubtful future.
Building a Knowledge Economy
Local government responded in 1992 with an economic development strategy called Vision 2000. It called on Fredericton to build an economy based on its unique human and economic assets, and to stop looking to others to save the day. The study itself was probably less important than the people who participated in developing it. They included city officials, university leaders, the Chamber of Commerce, real estate developers, the region's telecom firms, the hydro-electric utility and a representative of a small group of software investors.
The universities had long played a major role in Fredericton's economy and culture. The University of New Brunswick (UNB) is Canada's oldest English-language university and the first to create a computer science faculty and offer forest engineering programs. Saint Thomas University is Canada's only university focusing exclusively on teaching the liberal arts. The Maritime College of Forestry Technology is a business-government co-op that supports excellence in the management of one of Canada's most important natural resources. Through Vision 2000, the university sector began to engage in serious ways with both local government and the private sector. In 1994, UNB partnered with the city to develop the Knowledge Park, offering office space for knowledge-based businesses. The project plan emphasized quality of life with, in addition to office space, wooded areas, walking trails, and both daycare and pre-school facilities onsite. By 2007, the Park held three completed buildings totaling 90,000 square feet (8,360 m²) with a fourth 90,000 sf building under construction, and tenants included tech companies such as CGI, SkillSoft and Q1 Labs as well as the Wyndham hotel chain and the owner of the University of Phoenix, the Apollo Group.
It was the small group of software investors, however, who probably had the biggest impact. They saw Vision 2000 as an opportunity and used the government's clear show of support to form the first informal executive network in the community. Their timing was good. As provincial and local government froze hiring and began to downsize, the best and brightest civil servants left to start "knowledge sector" businesses in technology and services. They found support both from private investors and programs introduced by the provincial and Federal governments, including the Atlantic Innovation Fund, the BREAKTHRU Business Plan Competition and the Industrial Research Assistance Program.
The Vision 2000 plan was updated in 2001 and then every three years after that. It began to target development in specific sectors such as e-learning, aerospace training, health, network security and multimedia games. The 2004 plan included a bold statement of purpose: that economic development should focus first and foremost on supporting locally owned firms and give second place to business attraction. That commitment was no doubt made easier by a track record of success. In 2005, the knowledge sector employed more people than did the provincial government for the first time in history.
But Fredericton's government, under the leadership of Mayor Brad Woodside, refused to leave all the innovating to business. Following the 1992 study, Fredericton launched a set of business process improvement programs to streamline and make more efficient a government that clearly had too many moving pieces. To further drive the process, the city entered the ISO-9001 quality management process, which forced it to understand, clarify and document everything government did. In May 2004, Fredericton passed its audit and became one of the few ISO-9001 certified cities in North America.
To support its focus on growing local business, Fredericton launched a series of awards for business excellence and contributions to quality of life, which targeted small and micro businesses as well as mid-size and large companies and the entrepreneurs who built them. The city also began to focus on a weakness becoming increasingly apparent as the Nineties gave way to the new century.
The Broadband Barrier
As demand for Internet connectivity rose across Canada, Fredericton found itself a "have not" community. Carriers focused investment in the same geographic center that had so long dominated the Canadian economy and showed no interest in upgrading dial-up service in the "outer provinces." After lobbying proved unsuccessful, Fredericton decided to form its own telecommunications company. e-Novations was established as a co-op. It obtained funding commitments from 12 founding members – including the city, the universities, business users and the region's largest Internet Service Provider – and used it to build a fiber ring connecting to their facilities. It then pooled their demand and purchased broadband capacity in bulk. Each member paid for a minimum guaranteed bandwidth, but had the ability to tap any unused bandwidth in the system on demand. Because networks tend to have substantial idle capacity, e-Novations immediately reduced the members' cost and established a new competitive price point in the region. By mid-2002, e-Novations had a stable fiber ring and positive cash flow but struggled with how to meet demand from new prospective members outside the downtown core. The answer proved to be point-to-point microwave links to such facilities as the local airport, which could be set up quickly and at lower cost than fiber to the premises. When commercial carriers became members of e-Novations in order to resell broadband to their small business and residential customers, it was clear that the community network model was a success.
In 2003, Fredericton took the next step. Using its fiber ring as a backbone, the city deployed almost 300 WiFi access points throughout downtown and the business corridor, in public facilities and retail malls. Rejecting the idea of hot-spots, Fredericton sought to blanket the area with overlapping coverage zones. It branded the result the GoFred Zone: an area covering 100% of the city in which access to broadband wireless is absolutely free. As Fredericton's Mayor Brad Woodside puts it, "We don't charge you to walk on our sidewalks. Why would we charge you for broadband?"
Fredericton's rich broadband offerings have created a growing culture of use for broadband and IT in daily life. The city Web site offers an online database of city services, and allows residents to register for recreation and meeting space online. Parents view school announcements and homework assignments over the Internet and can participate remotely in meetings of the school board. They access the FredKid.com online portal, created entirely by Fredericton families, to learn about programs and services available to support them. The Harvest Jazz and Blues festival, one of the largest music events in eastern Canada, attracts over 80,000 fans to Fredericton each year. It takes more than 800 volunteers to produce it, and they rely on a Web-based volunteer management system to make it happen. Fredericton is also home to the National Adult Literacy Database, a nonprofit that provides Internet-based literacy and core skills training to five million users a year.
Fredericton continues to grow and is predicted to increase its population by 50% over the next 25 years. To ensure the growth process goes well for everyone, the city launched the Imagine Fredericton initiative in 2016. Imagine Fredericton was a multifaceted initiative that directly engaged the community to determine how to manage residential and employment growth in the coming years and what areas are of particular value to the public. The initiative included many different engagement opportunities from open houses and a variety of online tools to a three-day City Summit, one-on-one conversations and an “Imagination Station.” These activities aimed to provide citizens with an understanding of how Fredericton has grown to date, its existing assets, and the key challenges and opportunities it faces.
Imagine Fredericton resulted in a list of nine community goals for the city:
- Sustainable and Efficient
- Green and Healthy
- Welcoming and Supportive
- Strong and Diverse Economy
- Culturally Rich and Diverse
- Vibrant Downtown and Riverfront
- Complete Neighborhoods and Distinctive Places
- Complete Transportation System
- Safe and Inviting Public Realm
These goals will provide a roadmap for the city’s upcoming Growth Strategy and the new Municipal Plan in coming years. Since establishing them, the city has already designed three distinct growth scenarios for public discussion and analysis. These scenarios were presented for community feedback, which showed a clear preference for growing the city in a more compact, efficient way than before, balancing growth on the north and south sides of the Saint John River and maximizing growth in the Urban Core, where an estimated 8,000 more residents can be housed. With this feedback, Fredericton can focus on providing the best path forward for its citizens based on their preferences and future needs.
Connecting the Community Through Digital Projects
Beginning in 2018, Fredericton has implemented several core projects to engage with the local community and enhance quality of life. Digital Fredericton is the city’s 5-year strategic transformation plan to become more flexible, efficient, transparent and responsive government. The plan includes moving core government systems to the cloud for easier, more efficient access and usage and establishing more e-Government services and research programs to identify community needs and improve the overall experience. Digital Fredericton also includes establishment of an Open Data Portal to allow citizens to access up-to-date information and local entrepreneurs to develop e-service applications for citizens.
To collect data for public use in the Open Data Portal, the city has partnered with eleven-x to deploy Internet of Things (IoT) sensors throughout Fredericton. These sensors monitor occupancy and utilization of wheelchair accessible parking throughout the city, air and noise pollution levels in multiple areas and water consumption, and all of this data is made available to the public through the Open Data Portal. Sensors are also in place to monitor the water level of the Saint John River to help respond to flood conditions in as timely a manner as possible.
A Remarkable Transformation
The combination of smart strategy, hard-working private entrepreneurship and cooperative public investment in information and communications technology have completely transformed the economy of Fredericton over the past fifteen years. More than 70% of New Brunswick's knowledge industries call Fredericton home and, on a per capita basis, the city hosts the largest engineering cluster in North America. The population of Fredericton grew 14.5% since 1992 but the labor force grew 22% over the same period and average household income has jumped 13.5% since 2003. The community has added 12,200 new jobs in the past decade, and seen two of its companies win the nation's top innovation award.
And being a political capital still doesn't hurt. Fredericton's aerospace training cluster serves Canada's largest military training base, located near Fredericton. After a nationwide search, Canada's National Research Council Institute for Information Technology established the first headquarters facility outside Ottawa in Fredericton, where its e-business facility offers local companies access to cutting-edge skills from more than 50 researchers and technicians. Sixteen companies in its incubator have attracted more than C$25 million in venture capital. What distinguishes Fredericton is its success in streamlining government and stimulating a robust private sector without sacrificing the advantages that come with its political position.
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In the life of a community, too much of a good thing can be as bad as too little. The city of Edmonton lies close to one of the largest oil deposits on Earth, which has created a foundation for prosperity but saddled the community with major challenges as well. The resource boom has swelled Edmonton into the youngest major city in Canada with the most diverse population. It has also created housing shortages, homelessness and a range of social ills. And when oil boom turns to oil bust, the challenges mount higher. To create a new economy on top of the oil-driven present, Edmonton has built the infrastructure of the new century and engaged its institutions in translating that infrastructure into a new source of prosperity.
Closing the Digital Divide
In Edmonton, as in many cities around the world, broadband speed and coverage were driven solely by telecommunications providers, leaving underserve pockets and creating a digital divide. To combat this issue, the city created the Open Access Initiative, which commits Edmonton to partner with providers through partnerships to spread broadband access throughout the city.
As of 2016, the city is working with Shaw to install Shaw Go WiFi service in city facilities and libraries for public use, with 37 facilities and 17 libraries already completed. Edmonton also provides wireless access points around the city for citizens to use free of charge as part of the Open City Wi-Fi service, with 83 access points currently installed. Fifteen of these access points have been installed on LRT platforms, including the entire Capital Line, to ensure that citizens have access to wireless networks.
Edmonton is also working to expand fiber-optic access by supporting TELUS in its $1 billion network expansion within the city. The first phase of the expansion was completed in 2015, making fiber connections available to more than 25,000 locations. TELUS also worked with the city and the Edmonton Eskimo Football Club to install equipment and infrastructure for publicly accessible WiFi at Commonwealth Stadium. Beyond the city’s cooperation with TELUS, Edmonton has partnered with Cybera (a not-for-profit technical agency) to build a fiber optic network utilizing space in the new LRT tunnels under the city.
Borrowing Books and Wi-Fi
While the city works to spread permanent broadband and Wi-Fi access to all of its citizens, the Edmonton Public Library (EPL) is loaning access to fill the gaps. The library began in July 2016 to loan portable Wi-Fi hotspots with unlimited data to adult library cardholders as part of a two-year pilot program. These 40 hotspots enable cardholders to access the Internet anywhere they take the device. “We know many Edmontonians don’t have home Internet access, and EPL is committed to providing people the skills and support they need to participate in the digital world,” said Pilar Martinez, EPL’s Chief Executive Officer. “This innovative program will provide a key tool for access to learning and information for those who need it most.” EPL cardholders logged nearly 1.4 million public Internet hours in 2015.
Preparing the Future Workforce
Another Edmonton institution, the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT), is training its future workforce. NAIT has created numerous programs designed to give students the skills most needed by regional employers, including classes to address climate change and to help the region make its cities smarter and its industry more efficient. These programs aim to diversify Alberta’s economy for the future and to assist urban and rural businesses in the region with distance learning. Starting in 2004, NAIT has commanded a fleet of mobile semi-tractor-trailer education units known as NIMs (NAIT in Motion) that bring state-of-the-art equipment directly to communities in need of training.
Edmonton is encouraging an energy transition among its residents and businesses to avoid the worst outcomes of global warming. To help with this transition, NAIT has invested heavily in its Alternative Energy Technology program, which provides training and research in energy technology such as solar, geothermal, wind, and biofuels. The program often partners with the city of Edmonton, including a venture in which NAIT and Edmonton jointly installed solar panels on the institute’s campus to test the effects of solar panel angle and snow cover on energy capture efficiency. The data collected by this project is streamed to Edmonton’s Open Data Catalogue, while the energy gathered by the panels is used onsite.
The Alternative Energy Technology program has met with great success over the past few years, with a 92% employment rate for graduates of its full time programs within nine months of leaving the school. NAIT also offers 13,800 apprenticeship seats and is one of the largest apprenticeship trainers in Canada with 33 distinct registered trades programs.
The EndPovertyEdmonton Strategy
While Edmonton has grown far more quickly in the new millennium than most Canadian cities, the most recent data from 2012 finds that one in eight residents live in poverty. To combat this, the city turned to the people themselves for recommendations and ideas. The EndPovertyEdmonton Strategy began in September 2014 with 200 Edmonton residents from diverse backgrounds and sectors divided into seven working groups to analyze poverty issues and develop recommendations for action. In autumn of 2015, EndPovertyEdmonton sought input from thousands of Edmontonians through in-person engagement sessions and an online survey to refine the recommendations from the Working Groups.
The EndPovertyEdmonton Strategy was unanimously approved by the Edmonton City Council in December 2015. Shortly after its approval, the organization developed an Implementation Road Map to provide specific direction for combating poverty over the next five years, including making all Edmontonians aware of the realities of poverty in the city and what steps they can take to help in the immediate future and in the long term. The EndPovertyEdmonton Strategy also partnered with the Canadian Mental Health Association-Edmonton Region and BetaCityYeg (the region’s volunteer civic technology meetup) to create the LinkYEG web app. LinkYeg.ca provides real time information on nearby community resources, allowing users to search for available clothing and essentials, health and medical assistance, legal help, and family services.
No matter what price the world puts on a barrel of oil, Edmonton fears no bust. The city has built the infrastructure of the future and, as part of the process, tapped a more valuable resource than oil could ever be: its people.
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