Columbus is a city of sharp contrasts. The capital of the state of Ohio, it has the highest metropolitan concentration of Fortune 1000 companies in America and is the home of the research school Ohio State University (OSU) and Battelle, the world’s biggest private research institute. But the city also has a large, low-income population stranded by the decline of low-skilled factory employment and is ranked 46th out of the 50 largest US cities for upward mobility. As a result, average per-capita income trails America’s and its employers struggle to find qualified staff while unemployment and low-wage jobs afflict too many citizens.
Municipal Broadband Attracts Competitors
Columbus is attacking these challenges on multiple fronts and through collaboration among government, education, business and institutions. It is also leading a regional approach to economic development with surrounding communities including former Top7 Dublin. The collaboration plays out in broadband, where the partners have interconnected their fiber networks supporting schools and universities, hospitals, research institutes and government facilities. This continuing investment in advanced broadband has helped attract multiple competing commercial providers as well as enabling a unified traffic management system and mobile solutions for the city workforce including first responders.
Educators meanwhile are collaborating to improve the chance that low-income students can afford higher education and also succeed at it. The Central Ohio Compact unites K-12, community college and undergraduate institutions to guide low-income students into higher education. Preferred Pathway is one program that guarantees community college graduates a university placement, which lets them turn their 2-year degree into a 4-year degree at a fraction of the normal cost. City government supports this effort with programs including Capital Kids, which provides after-school digital literacy programs for K-12 students, and APPS, which works to give at-risk youth positive alternatives to being on the street, including computer labs funded by Microsoft.
From Brain Drain to Brain Gain
Another partnership, TechColumbus, offers startup acceleration, business mentoring, seed funding and capital attraction. Its First Customer program helps young companies generate their first revenue from established companies in the region.
The East Franklinton neighborhood was once the heart of a vibrant African-American cultural scene and Mayor Coleman has made its revitalization a personal crusade. A community-based planning effort has created a vision for building residential, retail and creative space as well as a business incubator, and private investment has already converted an abandoned warehouse into a performance and studio space supplemented by an art gallery, coffee shop and farmer’s market. Grant funding is going into the development of a makerspace and community workshop.
Go to the App Store on the iPhone or Android and search for MyColumbus. Downloading this app (rated 3.5 out of 5 by users as of June 2012) will put the City of Columbus, Ohio, USA into the palm of your hand.
MyColumbus started out as a student project at Ohio State University. Students worked with the IT department of the city to identify open-data databases that could provide the most up-to-date information on city services, location of facilities and schedules of public events. They then built an app to access the data and turn it into easy-to-understand information. The city’s IT department was so impressed with the result that, with the students’ permission, it hired a software company to expand the app and put a professional gloss on it.
The resulting MyColumbus provides MyNeighborhood (location-based mapping and information about community resources, refuse collection and health inspections), GetActive (links to events, bike and trail guides and healthy lifestyle tips), GreenSpot (with information on sustainability) and 311 (where residents can log service and information requests). Service requests submitted via MyColumbus are resolved 3.3 times faster, on average, than telephone requests. Why? Because users can submit photos and GPS coordinates with their service requests, which helps maintenance workers show up with the right tools and materials to get the job done.
MyColumbus is so effective because of the rich data that Columbus’s IT department makes available to it. The city’s geographical information system (GIS) has hundreds of layers and supports applications including One-Stop-Shop Zoning, Utility Dashboard, Capital Improvements Planning, Fire Hydrants Inspection/Maintenance, and that all-important function in snowy southern Ohio, Snow Removal. The data derived from databases, sensors and GPS flows through to operations managers, planners, businesses and citizens in a never-ending stream.
This range of programs and applications is having measurable impact. Columbus is now one of a handful of US metros that turned a brain drain in 2005-2007 into brain gain in 2007-2009. Employment growth in skilled manufacturing has exceeded 35% over the past decade. And in 2013, Columbus was named one of the top 10 cities in the US for new college grads.
In the News
Read the latest updates about Columbus.
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Columbus was featured in the Intelligent Community Forum book Brain Gain.
Intelligent Community of the Year 2015
Smart21 2013 | 2014 | 2015
Top7 2013 | 2014 | 2015
Surrey is one of just seven global communities to make the final shortlist for the title, Intelligent Community of the Year for 2016. Surrey has been ranked by the Intelligent Community Forum (ICF) of New York City for 2016 and 2015 and has made it to the finals both years. Louis Zacharilla, co-founder of the Intelligent Community Forum tours Surrey May 4-5 and city officials will be showing him some of the programs and projects that have made the city such a consistent contender for the sought after recognition.Read more
During the Industrial Age, the city of Cleveland in Northeast Ohio was one of America's great trade and manufacturing centers. A key link in a transport system of rivers, canals and railroads, Cleveland was home to steel companies and was the place where Standard Oil founder John D. Rockefeller made his fortune. Its last "boom" years, however, came just after the Second World War, when its population peaked at 914,000 in 1949. The second half of the 20th Century brought industrial decline, rising unemployment and racial unrest, culminating in 1978 when Cleveland became the first US city to default on its creditors since the Great Depression. Dismissed in the press as "the mistake by the lake," Cleveland appeared to face the bleakest of futures.
Under Mayors Michael White and George Voinovich, however, the metropolitan area began to recover. New investment poured into real estate projects in the downtown area, bringing hope for the future. But traditional economic development strategies had only limited impact. At the end of the century, Cleveland had one of the highest poverty rates among large American cities, with almost one-third of adults and 47% of children living at or below the poverty line. As a result, many inner-city neighbourhoods remained troubled and the school system faced serious problems. More importantly, the economic environment in which Cleveland had to compete was changing fast. The original advantages that had powered its growth were of little value in a knowledge-based economy.
Among the metropolitan area's assets, however, were strong government and nonprofit institutions, including Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland State University, Cuyahoga Community College and Nortech. These organizations teamed with the city, the regional transit authority and other partners to form a nonprofit called OneCleveland, now known as OneCommunity (www.onecommunity.org). Its mission: to deploy a community-based ultra-broadband network in the metropolitan area and to build a new knowledge economy on its foundation. The project was the brainchild of Lev Gonick, CIO at Case Western. The network was switched on in 2003 and today has a dozen institutional subscribers ranging from the city and the regional MetroHealth System to the Cleveland Institute of Art and the Cleveland Orchestra. Applications running on the network include high-definition videoconferencing connecting Cleveland Clinic doctors to city schools for the delivery of healthcare, best-in-class programs from the Cleveland Museum of Art delivered to branch libraries, and a pilot wireless project with Intel to enable city and county inspectors to file and exchange data on building permits in the field. In 2005, Intel named the greater Cleveland area as one of three Worldwide Digital Communities deploying wireless broadband applications to improve government and other services.
Under President Scott Rourke, OneCommunity has focused as much on human factors as technology. The nonprofit has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars from governments, foundations and businesses to invest in technology training and network expansion. A model program called Computer Learning in My Backyard or CLIMB focused technology and financial literacy training on low-income, working-age residents, and included funding to subsidize PC and Internet access purchases. The Fund for our Economic Future, a collaboration among 66 regional foundations, launched in February 2006 an 18-month program called Voices & Choices. The program aimed to engage an estimated 50,000 area leaders in Internet-enabled "town meetings" and smaller-scale discussions in order to educate people about the realities facing the regional economy and create an action plan for fostering growth. OneCommunity became the Web services provider for this public dialogue.
OneCommunity has also been a relentless and skillful marketer of its efforts, and has received coverage in publications ranging from Computer World to The New York Times. Its high profile surely played a role in a decision by IBM to select Cleveland as the first region to benefit from a grid-computing initiative called the Economic Development Grid, which allows government, institutions and businesses to leverage computing power. Northeast Ohio has also become home to Cisco's wireless technology operations and research center, Agilysys, Progressive Insurance and other companies.
Still very much a work in progress, OneCommunity is recognized by the ICF for the breadth of its vision – encompassing technology, education, digital democracy, innovation and marketing – and the very real progress it has achieved in a relatively short time.
Labor Force: 1,800,000
Every time you take a sip of Coca-Cola, you are tasting a bit of the history of Chattanooga. In 1901, the Atlanta-based company was selling its sugary syrup base to restaurants and drug stores, where it was mixed with carbonated water at the point of sale. Then a group of young Chattanooga businessmen persuaded Coke to sell them the right to pre-mix and bottle Coke. So skeptical was the company of their success that it sold the rights for $1. The businessmen turned that modest investment into a nationwide empire of bottling plants that sparked the global distribution of today.
For a century following the end of America’s Civil War in 1865, Chattanooga thrived on this kind of entrepreneurship. The tow truck was invented and commercialized there, and a number of national food brands were launched from Chattanooga. Chattanoogans also founded two of America’s largest insurance companies. But foundries, casting metal parts, were the mainstay of the economy. Heavy industry created wealth and ample employment for blue-collar workers. It also produced pollution. Local joked about changing their shirts twice a day and turning on the headlights of their cars at noon, but in 1969, the US government cited Chattanooga for having the dirtiest air in America.
The designation shocked the community into action. The city council joined with local manufacturers and doctors to pioneer an air-quality control program a year before the creation of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). An air pollution control bureau covering all of Hamilton County, which surrounds Chattanooga, motivated manufacturers to invest $10m in pollution control. The effort proved so successful that the EPA recognized it as a national model in 1972.
Local government, business and institutional leaders did not know it at the time, but they had just created the team they needed to steer the community through tough times to come.
The Lost Decades
The 1970s began a period of long, slow decline as Chattanooga’s manufacturers fell victim to the forces of rising global competition. Legacy companies shrank and closed, and few new ones stepped up to take their place. The entire decade of the 1990s passed without producing a single new major employer.
The city did not go down quietly. The civic leadership, which had conquered the air pollution problem, organized and funded a massive effort to revitalize the urban core. In the 1990s, they constructed the Tennessee Aquarium, the world’s largest freshwater aquarium when it opened, and a children’s Creative Discovery Museum. They redeveloped the waterfront, built riverside parks and an 11-mile river walk to reconnect the city to the Tennessee River.
In fact, Chattanooga gained a national reputation for downtown revitalization, which created confidence and produced a cityscape that made citizens proud. But once the construction stopped, the projects did little to change the economic fundamentals. Community leaders entered the new century realizing that they needed a new game plan. What emerged was not a single, coherent strategy but a set of coordinated actions by different members of a close-knit leadership. Decades of battling decline gave them the determination to move ahead on many fronts.
Like many manufacturing cities, Chattanooga had an educational system designed to turn out large numbers of low-skilled workers. It gave secondary school students a choice between vocational and college preparatory tracks. In 2003, the Hamilton County school superintendent junked this system with the support of the Chamber of Commerce and began holding all students to the higher standard. In a world where traditional blue-collar jobs increasingly require problem-solving and technical certification, there seemed no other choice.
Hamilton County schools also partnered with local companies and business associations to develop more than 30 Career Academies, in which secondary school students learn core academic subjects through their application to a particular industry. At a construction academy, students learned math by applying it to costing and completing construction projects. They still read Shakespeare but also learned how to read a construction contract and write a job proposal. That project and a health care academy were instrumental in boosting student scores. In the 2009-2010 academic year, the school system increased its graduation rate by 10%.
Chattanooga is home to a branch of the University of Tennessee and the Chattanooga State Technical and Community College. Their leaders established a close working partnership with each other, the Chamber of Commerce and a dozen local organizations to bridge the education last-mile. With the help of 1,000 volunteers, they deliver school-to-work programs to 15,000 secondary school students. One program, “Reality Check,” lets students role-play being a head of household at different levels of income based on their educational attainment. As they simulate paying utility bills, obtaining child care and making choices about transportation, they quickly learn that a single parent with a high-school diploma cannot afford to buy a sports car.
The two institutions have also partnered to help lower-income students start their education at Chattanooga State and finish it at the University, which can save the students tens of thousands of dollars. Chattanooga State offers a full range of technical degrees in health sciences, robotics, mechatronics and other leading fields, while the University offers a high quality College of Business, programs in engineering, computer science and math, and the National SimCenter for computational engineering, one of the world’s pioneers in solving engineering problems through computer simulation. The state of Tennessee ranks 48th out of 50 states in education, but the percentage of Chattanoogans with bachelor’s degrees exceeds the national average.
Putting Smarts into the Grid
When electricity was first commercialized in the US, the utility companies focused on America’s largest cities, where they could get a faster return on investment at lower risk. (The same would later be true of telephone service and broadband.) Chattanooga shares with many smaller American cities a valuable legacy of that earlier commercial neglect: a local electric utility owned by the City Council. The Electric Power Board (EPB) has delivered electricity to the city since 1935, telephone service since 2000 and Internet service since 2003, always with a mission to improve quality of life and economic opportunity for citizens.
A decade ago, EPB began studying the installation of a fiber-optic network to better control electric distribution. The technology looked promising: the business plan forecast that real-time information from smart meters and distribution systems would let EPB reduce its transmission capacity by 40% while delivering a higher quality of service.
But fiber was too expensive to meet the utility’s 25-year payback requirement. EPB’s technology team put the plan on the shelf and waited. They watched as, after the dotcom bust, the price of optical fiber cable fell sharply then continued to decline year by year. When the price was right, EPB moved.
By the end of 2010, EPB had installed its network into all of the 170,000 businesses and homes in its service area. With each fiber install went a smart meter able to provide real-time data on energy usage at that location. The meters are also capable of controlling energy-hungry devices in the home or office as well, but EPB is taking it slow in exploring their use. Some smart meter installations in the US have been controversial. Customers have accused their utilities of using the new metering systems to raise rates. EPB has kept the good will of Chattanooga for decades by ensuring that the innovations it introduces actually make its customers happy.
A fiber network, of course, is not just a control system for electricity distribution. Each home or business receives 1 Gbps symmetrical broadband as a standard offering, making possible Internet, voice and television service. The interesting thing about the EPB deployment, however, is that the telecommunications services are almost an after-thought in business terms. The network is fully cost-justified just for its impact on electricity distribution; revenue from communications is just a bonus.
Not only does Chattanooga have one of the smartest smart-grid systems in the world, it is providing every resident who pays for electricity –nearly every resident, rich or poor – with the world’s most advanced broadband network. The adoption rate in Chattanooga’s poorest neighbourhoods is little different from the rest of the community, and programs from its Housing Authority have provided training and computers to more than 600 housing units.
The network is also having an impact on Chattanooga’s healthcare system. The city’s three primary care facilities include a teaching hospital, children’s hospital and Level 1 Trauma Center. They are working with healthcare business ventures to leverage EPB’s broadband capabilities. A partnership between BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee and Cerner Medical is implementing a Web-based medical records system able to store and transmit high-resolution medical images. Chattanooga’s public hospital has received a grant to use the new network for telemedicine: remote diagnosis of patients at outlying health clinics to determine if they can be treated locally or need hospital care. One radiological group has found that the EPB network has so reduced waiting time for large medical image files that the productivity gain is equal to having another doctor on staff.
What have all of these separate but coordinated efforts brought about? By its own admission, Chattanooga began the 21st century as an economic development non-entity, with lots of great parks and museums but not much in the way of long-term job generation. By 2007, a survey of US site selectors rated it among the “50 Hottest Cities.” The EPB fiber project played its part in that turnaround. Stories on the project have appeared in The New York Times, Bloomberg TV and dozens of other news sites, as well as garnering 9 million Twitter impressions. The city has attracted relocating customer care centers, which are bringing hundreds of jobs into the region. The National SimCenter at the University is in talks with IBM about locating one of its most powerful computers – one not even commercial available – in Chattanooga to take advantage both of the highly reliable power and communications infrastructure. Its crowning achievement has been to land a $1 billion Volkswagen assembly plant, which will provide both white-collar and blue-collar jobs and have a substantial economic impact.
There is also a steady uptick in the community’s entrepreneurial spirit. Nonprofit organizations have stepped up to accelerate the base of small company formation and innovation. The Chamber of Commerce runs one of America’s largest business incubators, with 60 companies employing more than 500 people under one roof. The Lyndhurst Foundation funds a program called CreateHere, which provides business planning and support to sustain and grow Chattanooga’s arts and artisan community. Culture and tourism are increasingly important parts of the local economy. Lyndhurst has also launched a second project, InnovateHere, which provides incentives for technology companies to locate in Chattanooga. Providing additional impetus is the Renaissance Fund, an angel investment group of Chattanooga investors seeking to build a pipeline of local companies that can mature to the point of attracting venture capital.
With its unemployment rate below state and national averages, Chattanooga received good news in February 2010, when the Moody’s financial rating service named it among the first wave of US cities entering economic recovery. With so many different actors pushing forward in so many different sectors, the recovering economy is more flexible and balanced than at any time in the community’s past. That leaves Chattanooga’s leadership well-positioned to keep doing what they do best: adapting to a fast-changing world.
More About Chattanooga
Labor Force: 162,000
Bristol is one of the few communities in the world with a political boundary running down its spine. Lying to the south of the center line on State Street is the city of Bristol in the state of Tennessee. On the north side is a different city with the same name: Bristol, Virginia.
Bristol is nestled deep in Appalachia, a mountainous rural region of the American Southeast known for coal-mining, tobacco-growing and their traditional companions: poverty, poor education and lack of opportunity for bright young minds. The city's per-capita income in 2007 was only $20,000 compared with the Virginia average of more than $41,000 and the US average of nearly $39,000. Bristol is proud of its reputation as "The Birthplace of Country Music" and as home to a 160,000-seat NASCAR car racing venue known as "The World's Fastest Half-Mile." But Bristol's leaders knew that a proud history and the ability to attract fans on race day are no foundation for prosperity in a 21st Century community.
Electric Legacy, Broadband Future
Like many rural American communities, Bristol Virginia owns and operates its own electric company, Bristol Virginia Utilities (BVU). City-owned and cooperative utilities are a legacy of the last wave of rural development in the United States, which focused on electrification. In 1998, Bristol's city council voted to allow BVU to construct a fiber-optic backbone to improve communications and control among its eight electric substations. The business case was straightforward and the implementation successful. By 2000, BVU had extended the network to local schools and government offices to support telephone, data and broadband Internet, which reduced the city's operating costs and expanded the capabilities available to users. It also spurred demands from local businesses and real estate developers to provide service to them. So, in 2001, the council and BVU agreed to begin offering fiber-to-the-user (FTTU) service, branded OptiNet, to all residents and businesses.
Private-sector carriers were quick to challenge the move. One incumbent objected to the Virginia public utility commission, which regulates communications, stating that Virginia law barred municipalities from offering retail telecommunications services. Such a law was indeed on the books but, in Bristol's view, had been rendered invalid by passage of the federal Telecommunications Act of 1996. Only after Bristol sued the state did the Virginia General Assembly pass legislation in 2002 overturning the old law. As BVU prepared its commercial launch later that year, the incumbent cable TV operator claimed that the utility lacked the legal authority to provide television service. A court agreed. BVU returned to the Assembly seeking legislative and charter changes, which were granted in 2003. But later that year, the company's chief financial officer was back in the state capital testifying before a commission on the issue of cross-subsidies. The incumbent had accused BVU of charging phone rates that were below its costs and making up the difference on other services. The commission ruled against the complaint. Finally, after three years and $2.5 million in legal fees, BVU had won the right to deliver retail communications.
Financial Success Spurs Growth
As it turned out, the private sector was right to fear competition from BVU. Market research conducted by the company in 2001 suggested that 70% of respondents might switch telephone and television service from the incumbent operator, while half might switch Internet service. By August 2008, BVU's OptiNet FTTU service had captured more than 62% of the available residential and business market in its service area, thanks to effective marketing to electric customers with whom BVU already had a relationship. Despite millions of dollars of investment, OtpiNet had reached financial self-sufficiency on $16 million in net revenues in the 2009 fiscal year. A 2008 study conducted for the BVU Board determined that OptiNet customers, while enjoying the bandwidth bonanza of FTTU, had saved nearly $10 million over incumbent competitors' rates or special offers since the start of service.
The OptiNet service area was no longer limited by the city lines. BVU entered into partnership with the Cumberland Plateau Planning District Commission in 2003 to build CPC OptiNet. Managed by BVU, the network began with a 45-mile fiber-optic circuit reaching to Richlands, Virginia, funded by grants from the US government and the Virginia Tobacco Commission. It grew gradually to 200 miles across four rural counties with the help of additional grants. (The Tobacco Commission distributes money paid to the state by US tobacco companies following the 1998 settlement of the largest class-action lawsuit in US history.) BVU's success in designing, building and operating the network led it to establish a business unit called BVU FOCUS, which stands for Finding Opportunities for Communities throughout the United States. BVU FOCUS offers consulting and management services to other entities that seek to build advanced telecom networks. The unit's first customer in 2007 was MI-Connection, a telecom co-op owned by two communities in the state of North Carolina. Under BVU's management, the $80 million network grew its customer base nearly 5% in its first year and exceeded budget by 27%.
Creating a Broadband Culture
While the struggles of OptiNet make an exciting story, Bristol did not become a fiber carrier in order to win competitive battles with business. The city council's goal was economic and community development and, though the network is still so new, early results are positive. BVU's extension of the network convinced two major companies – CGI and Northrop Grumman – to build multi-million-dollar facilities in a regional business park during 2007. Since the network extension was completed in 2007, 185 businesses in the four-county service area have become customers and two new industrial parks began construction. Recent media reports indicate that business growth resulting from the broadband build-out has created 1,220 jobs in seven coal-producing counties worth $37 million in annual payroll, and attracted $50 million in new private investment. The new jobs entering the area are paying about two-thirds more than the normal weekly wage. To leverage this success, Bristol has launched a marketing campaign called AccessBristol, which makes its 1 Gbit broadband capacity the centerpiece of business attraction.
The entry of these major employers into the region has sparked a multi-level effort to develop a local knowledge workforce. Both CGI and Northrup Grumman discovered that it is difficult to attract outside employees to the region because payrolls are scaled to its very low cost of living. No matter what the arithmetic, employees resist accepting a reduction in salary as part of a move to a new area. The University of Virginia at Wise stepped forward to create the first undergraduate software engineering program in the Commonwealth, while three community colleges have joined forces to offer advanced technology classes.
These efforts are not occurring in a vacuum. Northrup Grumman's decision to locate a data center in southwest Virgina was not random; it was part of an outsourcing contract with the Commonwealth. A Southwest Virginia IT Task Force lead by Virginia's Secretary of Commerce brings together major area employers with state, county, educational and nonprofit organizations to identify requirements, develop programs and monitor their progress. In addition to the educational programs, projects include a "Return to Roots" campaign that seeks to attract highly skilled former residents to return to Southwest Virginia. Thirty percent of employees in Northrup's data center are locals and the percentage is expected to rise as the University graduates its first software engineering majors.
Bristol is also using the now 800-mile network to build quality of life and create opportunity for the next generation. Virginia High School in Bristol has nearly one computer for every student and relies on the rock-solid, high-speed access provided by the network to conduct all of its state-mandated standardized testing. BVU OptiNet has partnered with the Mount Rogers Regional Adult Education program to offer online access to preparation courses for the GED, a set of tests that give passing students the equivalent of a secondary school degree. The fiber network now links local, county and university libraries, giving residents access to more than 1.8 million items, as well as rural health clinics and city hospitals. The Bristol SeniorNavigator program provides online access to a database of services for seniors, adults with disabilities and their caregivers through libraries, community centers and senior citizen housing. Programs like these aim to power deep cultural change in Bristol, which will ensure that the hard work and innovation of its current generation of leaders pays dividends far into the future.
Labor Force: 8,120
Smart21 2009 | 2010
In the late Eighties, fourteen semiconductor manufacturers and the US government created a partnership called SEMATECH to solve common manufacturing problems.
The selection of Austin as its headquarters sparked a technology boom. Growth was so robust for so long that the Austin economy began to look recession-proof – until the dot-com collapse of 2001 tripled the unemployment rate.
Responding to Collapse
In response, city government partnered with the Chamber of Commerce on a long-term economic development strategy that led to a nearly $6 billion increase in regional payrolls over five years. A second five-year plan launched in 2010 seeks to add another $11 billion. Austin's successful tech companies – including such major names as Freescale, Samsung, Facebook, eBay and Altera – are bolstered by rates of Internet access far exceeding US averages, a highly educated workforce and the presence of multiple universities. But achieving the 2015 goal will take more than repeating the past.
Educating the Workforce
Austin faces a workforce challenge: only 4% of the homegrown population attends higher education and only half of secondary school graduates emerge "college-ready." A significant low-income population accounts for this performance. Technology commercialization and tech transfers also present a challenge, despite high rates of patents issued for developments at the University of Texas in Austin, due to shortages of seed funding and expertise in building a business.
A program that puts College Enrollment Managers into public schools to guide the choices made by students has helped boost the graduation rate for low-income students 14 percentage points to 75%. The City Council has also created an Emerging Technologies Program to provide a single point of contact for entrepreneurs, tech businesses and Austin's many incubators. It offers consulting, matchmaking and expert advice on where in Austin to find the resources a growing company needs.
It is through this kind of public-private collaboration that Austin will achieve the growth it needs to maintain its place as America's second Silicon Valley.
Labor Force: 436,336
Psychologist Bluma Zeigarnik discovered that people have a better memory for incomplete tasks than for complete ones. Not surprisingly, when we finish a project, we file it away. But when it remains “in limbo,” it stays active in our minds. This is how I describe the “inner lives” and the real, on-the-ground activities of Intelligent Communities. While policies are in place, they are on shifting sand. The communities I see and like are a wave of unfinished business and ideas being thrown into places that have been disrupted and were once reeling. It is the right approach, but it is also why netizens in places like Surrey, Canada (@SurreyBC) will post comments that utter a sense of disbelief and skepticism over learning that they have made an international list that ranks them high among cities. Some call it skepticism, others a PR stunt (others worse), although the majority cheer the news because an outsider has recognized their hard work.Read more
Arlington County benefits greatly from its location on the border of Washington DC. It is home to the Pentagon, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (whose research created the Internet) and the National Science Foundation. More than 8,000 Federal employees work there, and tens of thousands more private-sector and nonprofit jobs are enabled by Federal spending. The concentration of nationally-known universities has given the county a remarkably educated workforce, in which more than 73% of adult residents has a graduate degree. Its high-tech public school system is ranked in the top 2% nationwide.
Arlington County is also a national example of smart growth planning, thanks to successful lobbying in the 1980s that caused a new Metrorail line from Washington to run through an existing commercial corridor rather than a cheaper route along a future interstate highway. High-density economic growth took place around Metrorail stations, leaving quiet residential neighborhoods and 1,100 acres of green space beyond.
Attracting the Leading Edge
But what Washington gives, Washington can also take away. Decisions by the US Department of Defense will empty 3.2 million square feet (297,000 m2) and export 13,000 jobs over the next several years. Arlington’s success has raised housing costs and commercial rents while expansion of the Metrorail system is putting the county into competition with cities offering lower costs. Nearly 60% of Arlington’s commercial space was built before 1990 and lacks the amenities needed to attract today’s leading edge companies.
Attracting leading edge companies in high-growth tech sectors has become Arlington’s top priority as it seeks to reduce its vulnerability to Federal decision-making. It is going about this job as it has always done, through something called The Arlington Way. It consists of a formal structure of more than 40 citizen advisory groups and commissions, which influence decisions on everything from land use to technology, and intense collaboration among government, business and the nonprofit sector to spur innovation.
A Plan for Rebuilding on Success
The county has forged a Telecom Master Plan whose centerpiece is Connect Arlington – a public-sector fiber network linking all county and school facilities, which is extending dark fiber connections to office buildings throughout the county. An E-Government Master Plan seeks to reinvent the way citizens engage with government and bring The Arlington Way into the digital age. A partnership with a venture capital firm is fostering the creation of a vibrant ecosystem for national security technologies. Most ambitious of all is a 40-year redevelopment plan for Crystal City, an important urban center, to house 26,000 new residents and attract 56,000 jobs in the kind of walkable, mixed-use neighborhoods favored by the technorati. Through these and other initiatives, Arlington County expects to retain the competitive advantages that have underpinned its success and update them for the greater demands ahead.
In the News
Read the latest updates about Arlington County.
Smart21 2010 | 2012 | 2014 | 2015
Top7 2010 | 2014 | 2015
Located at the midpoint between East and West Coasts, Winnipeg is the capital of a province rich in agricultural and natural resources. In the 21st Century, the city is pursuing economic growth by better connecting industry and education, while better equipping its large aboriginal population for opportunity.
Improving Connectivity through Collaboration
Internet service in Winnipeg has long been plagued by high latency, high transport costs and frequent failures due to being routed through other provinces and even parts of the United States. To address these issues, four local businessmen began the non-profit Manitoba Internet Exchange (MBIX), the area’s only local IXP, in 2011. The exchange became operational in 2013, with initial members including Les.Net, Rainy Day, CIRA, Global Service Centre, Akamai International, Hurricane Electric, VOI Networks Inc., Adam Thompson and Packet Clearing House.
MBIX allows members to directly connect to one another over unmetered ethernet in order to exchange local Internet traffic, bypassing the need for expensive and complex routing. As of 2017, the MBIX owns and operates the ethernet switching platform used to interconnect local member networks. The IXP also offers access to an Akamai cache, local root DNS serves and a competitive transit provider to local ISPs peering on its platform. MBIX successfully attracted the global Hurricane Electric network to Winnipeg, which offers Internet transit at a fraction of the cost offered by existing local providers.
North Forge Technology Exchange
The North Forge Technology Exchange is an innovation-based economic development agency in Winnipeg that provides entrepreneurs with award-winning mentors, subject-matter experts and a two-stage startup program that includes business training and access to financing. It was conceived by the teams behind The Eureka Project, AssentWorks, Ramp Up Manitoba and Startup Winnipeg working in collaboration. The North Forge Technology Exchange is Canada’s largest non-profit fabrication workshop, providing access to digital fabrication and prototyping equipment as well as training and support. Its services include cloud hosting for development servers, web servers, file servers and production environments; the UX Lab, which offers assistance with user and usability testing and stakeholder interviews; the Advanced ICT Lab, a digital maker space; and a subscription market intelligence platform. As of September 2016, the North Forge Technology Exchange has produced 2550 developed prototypes, 75 new businesses, over 75 new jobs and $175 million in new revenue.
Winnipeg has formed partnerships linking employers like Canadian Tire to the University of Winnipeg, an ICT association and other public-private groups to improve the supply of skilled employees. The Composite Innovation Centre (CIC), a public-private R&D organization, has developed technologies and supply chains for high-performance composites based on agricultural materials such as hemp and flax, which reduces costs for employers like Boeing and Magellan Aerospace. CIC’s success has led to the creation of a national consortium, Canadian Composites Manufacturing R&D, to conduct pre-competitive R&D for multiple companies. CIC also has a training program that gives Winnipeg students on-the-job experience and supports skills development in companies.
Closing the Digital Divide
Winnipeg has leveraged its public library system as a way to close the digital divide among citizens. The library provides free access to 350 public computers with Internet access and a variety of MS Office software for public use. Library staff have created online resource guides on topics including employment, health, Indigenous resources, learning languages and consumer information to help patrons access its 40+ online learning databases. The library also provides free computer workshops on topics from basic email and Internet search training to more advanced courses on MS Office software usage.
To make its many resources more easily available to the public, the Winnipeg library system has added self-checkout technology and an online information service that tracks questions and answers for future reference by staff. The West End Library branch in Winnipeg became the first in Canada to introduce smart lockers, allowing patrons to pick up and check out requested items outside of library hours. The Winnipeg Public Library has also developed a mobile app, WPL to Go, that allows users to search the catalogue, place holds, browse library programs, find their nearest branch and link to other library functions.
The Digital Voices Project originated at Winnipeg’s largest secondary school. Oral storytelling is a vital part of aboriginal culture in Manitoba, and the Project provides students with digital skills training and supports them in building personal, familial and cultural stories across multiple media. The University has established a drop-in facility for inner-city residents, the Wii Chiiwaakanak Learning Centre, where visitors benefit from free computer access as well as academic, traditional language and homework help programs. This supplements the free Internet access and ICT workshops available throughout the Winnipeg library system. Among Winnipeg’s most innovative developments for its First Nations residents is the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN), the first national aboriginal TV network, for which more than 80% of programming originates in Canada. A social media offshoot, APTN Digital Drum, allows aboriginal youth to express their cultural identity and connect with each other.
Home to North America’s oldest ballet company, Winnipeg also has a thriving arts and culture scene. An independent film from two Winnipegers, Indie Game: The Movie, won awards at the Sundance Festival and was a New York Times Critic’s Pick. Funded on Kickstarter, it tells the inside story of the creation of a video game. In its funding, development and ultimate success, the film is a symbol of Winnipeg’s ambitions and achievement.
21 Reasons Winnipeg is One of the World’s Smartest Communities in 2021
For the ninth time in the past 11 years, Winnipeg is on the Intelligent Community Forum’s Smart21 list. The Intelligent Community Forum (ICF) is a think tank with a global network of cities and regions. Its mission is to help communities in the digital age find a new path to economic development and community growth – one that creates inclusive prosperity, tackles social challenges, and enriches quality of life. Every year it chooses 21 communities across the globe that excel in six areas that embrace these ideas. Read the full story at economicdevelopmentwinnipeg.com to see all 21 reasons!
Smart21 2011 | 2012 | 2013 | 2014 | 2016 | 2018 | 2019 | 2020 | 2021
Top7 2014 | 2016 | 2018
Your town is a one-industry town and your industry goes belly up. What do you do?
That was the situation faced by the City of Windsor and the County of Essex when both General Motors and Chrysler were forced into bankruptcy in 2009 as part of a rescue effort by the United States government. For decades, the region had enjoyed the benefits of a symbiotic relationship with Detroit, America's Motor City. The automotive industry very nearly was the economy of Windsor-Essex. When the financial crisis struck, the impact was immediate and shocking. Over 7,000 jobs vanished as the percentage of the workforce employed in manufacturing fell from 30% to 20%.Windsor-Essex climbed to the top of a chart where no community wants to be: in 2009, it had Canada's highest unemployment rate at nearly 15%.
People respond to a crisis in different ways. Some freeze, some despair. Others rally. The people of Windsor and Essex discovered themselves to be the rallying kind.
With the crisis upon them, they realized that, over the years of relatively stability, they had developed bad habits. Windsor and the seven much smaller municipalities in the county operated in their own small silos, as did the county's major employers. Institutions of higher education were of fine quality but punched far below their weight in the region's economy. The Detroit River separating Windsor from its US counterpart might well have been an ocean for all of the effort the two governments made to cooperate.
In a remarkably short time, all that went out the window. Collaboration among government, business and academia – and across the international border – was transformed from empty words into concerted action. From a one-industry economy, Windsor-Essex soon developed more moving parts than can easily be accounted for.
Ivory Tower No More
The University of Windsor is responsible for a considerable number of those moving parts. Serving nearly 16,000 students, the University has long conducted research for auto manufacturers and hosted a multi-school R&D program called Auto21. But under President Alan Wildeman, appointed in 2008, UWindsor has sharply raised its game as a generator of economic value.
An Institute for Diagnostic Imaging Research (IDIR) does pioneering work in the uses of ultrasound for testing. The Institute has developed a way to use ultrasound for fingerprint recognition that detects tissue patterns beneath the skin as well as the conventional fingertip whorls. It is now ready for commercial development and the University, which allows inventors to retain the rights to intellectual property they create, is helping to find the right commercial partners. In another lab, scientists have solved the problem of testing spot-welds made between two pieces of flat metal. Because the welds themselves are hidden by the metal, they have traditionally been tested by pulling a random sample off the assembly line and tearing them apart. The new system is already on the line at a Chrysler assembly plant in Windsor and has given a significant boost to quality and productivity.
The university is now in the midst of the largest capital expansion in its history. The centerpiece is a C$112 million Center for Engineering Innovation. In addition to labs and classrooms, it provides collocation facilities where companies can install industrial equipment and trouble-shoot problems and pioneer new techniques. It will house the Windsor-Essex Economic Development Corporation and the university's Center for Smart Community Innovation, a group that has played an essential role in coordinating Intelligent Community initiatives among 54 participating organizations. President Wildeman envisions the new building as an innovation destination in eastern Canada for academia and industry.
UWindsor is not the only academic institution seeking to build a stronger future. St. Clair College is a 2-year institution that serves over 7,000 students in Windsor. Among its recent innovations is the MediaPlex. Opening in 2010, the building is one of only three places in the world that teach "convergence journalism." Graduates of the MediaPlex program learn not just conventional journalism but also how to record, edit and produce finished TV and radio news, write blogs and use social media for reporting. Despite the shrinking job market for journalists, students with this "backpack journalism" training find themselves in high demand. Overall, 82% of St. Clair graduates find employment within six months.
Advances in engineering, medicine, media and communications require a robust broadband foundation. To supplement commercial networks, the Center for Smart Community Innovation's WEDnet program coordinated a network build beginning in 1996 funded by its public-sector participants. The fiber network, built and operated under contract by Cogeco Cable, delivers 1 Gbps-capable links to 200 sites including schools, libraries and government buildings throughout Essex. A second project, the Broadband Rural Community Connector, was launched in 2009 to create an optical backbone for the county's rural areas. Funded by Cogeco, the County and the Province, it has connected over 8,000 underserved residences to date and aims to pass 96% of Essex households.
The industrial legacy of Windsor-Essex had created a population in which 22% of adults had failed to graduate from secondary school and another 30% had only a high school diploma. Schools and local volunteers have stepped forward to change that dynamic. Local school boards throughout the county cooperate in annual programs designed to teach online skills St. Clair College offers a program to secondary school students called Career Innovation Program that uses hands-on multimedia to explore careers in technologies and trades – simultaneously recruiting future students while serving the community.
Computers for Kids is a volunteer-led program founded in 2004, which refurbishes computers and donates them to low-income families. The program has donated more than 1,000 computers and opened over 40 computer labs throughout Windsor-Essex. It has also recycled over 2 million pounds (900,700 kg) of e-waste that would otherwise have wound up in landfills.
Leadership in Government and Business
If the educational institutions of Windsor-Essex have provided the "brains" for transformation, the elected leadership has provided the will. The region's leading political official is Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis, who was elected to office in 2003 on a promise to revitalize the city. His administration has overseen the expansion of St. Clair College, the opening of the Caesars Windsor convention center, hotel and casino, and the creation of a Windsor International Transit Terminal. In the process, Mayor Francis managed to slash the city's long term debt by 27% while keeping city taxes low.
He has not worked alone. He is one of eight Mayors in a county-wide Council led by Tom Bain, Mayor of the community of Lakeshore. Close cooperation among the Mayors has led to shared service contracts that reduce costs. It also helps individual projects to achieve multiple goals benefiting the county as a whole.
Despite the blows it has absorbed, the auto industry remains important. Ford has chosen to centralize worldwide engine research in Windsor to take advantage of its concentration of talent, and the Windsor's Chrysler assembly plant remains the company's largest. Tool, die and precision manufacturing companies continue to serve these giants but have also diversified into fields as diverse as aerospace and dentistry.
Quantum Technologies is a private company that has adapted CAD/CAM technology from the automotive sector to revolutionize the way dental implants are manufactured. Traditionally, crowns, bridges and other implants are hand-crafted and colored by skilled technicians. Quantum Technologies equips dentists with handheld scanners and software, which produce data for the company's digital design and manufacturing systems. The resulting product is a better fit, a better color match and can be produced in a small fraction of the time required for manual work. The company now ships thousands of implants per week from Windsor.
Windsor-Essex is also home to start-ups that focus on the weightless cargo of information. For an international roster of clients, Red Piston builds apps that run on the iPhone, iPod and iPad. The firm's apps were downloaded more than 275,000 times in 2010, its start-up year. 52 Stairs Studio has produced Web applications including Scribble Maps, which is used on large news Web sites, and the Fox-X game, which has received over a million plays.
Innovation Under Glass
Perhaps no company better represents the sheer ingenuity at work in Windsor-Essex than Nature Fresh Farms. Founded in 2000 by Peter Quiring, the company now operates 67 acres (217,000 km2) of glass greenhouses that produce over 7 million kilograms (2.2m pounds) each of bell peppers and tomatoes, which are sold throughout North America.
Agriculture contributes 14% of the region's GDP, but Nature Fresh is no traditional farm. Every aspect of production is monitored and managed. In thousands of rows, vines grow vertically on ropes. Water with a precisely controlled mix of nutrients is fed to each plant, and a daily sample of the run-off is conducted to determine the right nutrient mix for the following day. Workers use data cards to swipe in to their shift and to the individual rows they are responsible for. This system supports their compensation – they are paid based on acceptable produce shipped, with wages well above the averages for the industry. It also enhances food security. If any contamination incident should occur, NatureFresh could track it to the greenhouse, row and employee.
The nonprofit healthcare sector of Windsor-Essex has been equally quick to seize the benefits of ICT. Windsor's public hospitals share electronic medical record systems that connect wirelessly to diagnostic equipment, so that patient readings are automatically captured and images are instantly available to caregivers. When EMS crews wheel a new patient into the emergency room, portable monitors begin downloading the readings taken during the ride even before a triage nurse can speak to the patient. Such efficiency extends across the international border. Detroit's hospitals have extensive acute care facilities unavailable in Windsor. When Windsor's facilities are full, a process called Table-to-Table can move a patient from the emergency room in Windsor to an emergency room in Detroit, including immigration clearance, in 10 minutes.
Green Shield Canada is a not-for-profit insurer whose business model depends on its ability to do more with information than its competitors. The company administers drug and dental benefits for over 1.4 million participants. Barred by statute from negotiating down the prices it pays for drugs, the company's competitive advantage is efficiency. It operates a point-of-sale network that provides automatic claims processing for pharmacists nationwide. It mines data to create value-added programs for employers. One example is a narcotics management program that tracks prescriptions to guard against the same patient ordering from multiple pharmacies, flags physicians if patients are not filling prescriptions and evaluates the prescribing habits of physicians compared with guidelines.
Windsor-Essex is second to none among Intelligent Communities in advocating for its vision inside the county and marketing it outside. Political leaders stay "on message" in speaking about issues and projects. In a campaign coordinated by the Center for Smart Community Innovation, Web sites, billboards, online videos, newspaper articles and local news features all convey a unified message of local transformation. A recent engaging advertisement noted the resemblance between a map of the county and the human brain viewed from the side. It asked the question, "Coincidence?"
Improving the Border
On a trip to Germany, Windsor Mayor Francis met an entrepreneur who has made Frankfurt Airport the European Union's security clearance point for cargo. Every bit of cargo entering the Union is processed through his immense facility to ensure its safety. The Mayor left Frankfurt determined to bring this concept to Windsor-Essex, which is the busiest crossing point on the Canada-US border.
At the Mayor's urging, the City Council commissioned a report that recommended creation of a new intermodal transportation system and additional international bridge crossing, which are now being constructed at a projected cost of C$1.2 billion. Mayor Francis has spent the time since in consultation with the Canadian and Provincial governments as well as US Federal agencies about creating a central security clearance facility at Windsor's existing airport. Canada is in favour and the US agencies see the project as a means to help meet a Congressional mandate to inspect 100% of cargo entering the US. Lufthansa has already been engaged as a systems integrator to adapt its implementation in Frankfurt. If the plan goes through, the impact on the economy of Windsor-Essex should be vast.
Meanwhile, the community has rallied again to deal with an unintended consequence of progress. The new border crossing and highway system require the demolition of more than 1,000 homes and businesses. Rather than seeing the debris go to landfills, a project called W.E. Pay It Forward has organized a vast salvage operation entirely online. The Province agreed to support 30 temporary jobs to assist with deconstruction of the buildings. Community groups, local businesses and individuals have contributed their time and effort. Within a week of the project start, the local Habitat for Humanity facility was filled to overflowing with recovered building material as well as plumbing, heating and electrical supplies. They go to the facilities of local charities in need of renovation or expansion.
That mix of ambition and compassion is typical of this community, which has seen hard times but is determined not to repeat them. It is still early in the transformation of Windsor-Essex. Goals set and programs established two years ago will take many more years to come to fruition. But rarely has a community made a faster turnaround in its vision or more quickly assembled the building blocks of future prosperity.
In the News
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Windsor-Essex was featured in the Intelligent Community Forum book Seizing Our Destiny.
Population: 216,500 (city of Windsor), 393,400 (county of Essex)
Labor Force: 108,200 (city of Windsor), 203,700 (county of Essex)
Smart21 2010 | 2011