published Saturday, June 4th, 2011

City’s 'smartest’ bid comes up short

TOP SEVEN


Finalists and key points

Chattanooga: EPB built a fiber network to collect billions of data points and provide real-time management to boost the grid’s reliability and performance. It also will extend ultra-high-speed broadband to homes and businesses.

Dublin, Ohio: Established DubLink, a public-private fiber network for business, government and schools that spurred aggressive roll-out of e-government services from digital filing of taxes to Dublin TV online video channels.

Eindhoven, The Netherlands: Brainport, a model public-private program, identifies strengths, weaknesses, needs and gaps, then develops joint projects to meet social challenges and create business opportunities.

Issy-les-Moulineaux, France: Public-private innovation includes a cyber kindergarten for children, cyber tearooms for older people, citizen e-participation in decision-making, and a successful business incubator.

Riverside, Calif.: A nonprofit focuses on technology initiatives, and a CEO forum of local technology companies has produced a plan for tech-based transformation.

Stratford, Canada: A city-owned company has laid optical fiber and used it as the backbone of a public WiFi network. The University of Waterloo has opened a Stratford campus offering a master’s program that has given rise to a think tank focusing on digital media.

Windsor-Essex, Canada: Government has collaborated with business to create a software technology alliance to attract entrepreneurs, mentor existing businesses and share resources for growth.

Source: Intelligent Community Forum

Chattanooga, which has benefited from European companies such as Volkswagen and Sanofi, lost one to the Old Country on Friday.

Eindhoven, a city of 297,000 people in the Netherlands, was picked as the world’s so-called “smartest city” by a New York think tank over the Scenic City and five others.

But, Chattanooga officials said they’re leveraging the effort, which partly played off EPB’s hyper-fast Internet connections, to try to gain new business.

Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield said the competition offered the city third-party verification of how it’s using its technology and the chance to build ties with major technology companies.

“We gained a tremendous amount,” he said.

Economic developers have “begun conversations with brand-name, world-class technology companies,” said J.Ed. Marston, the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce’s vice president of marketing.

“There are a number of new opportunities emerging,” he said.

During a New York City awards ceremony, the Intelligent Community Forum cited Chattanooga for having the “coolest broadband app.” The think tank mentioned the city’s high-speed wireless mesh network that’s used for enhancing public services ranging from smarter traffic controls to better police coordination.

Tom Edd Wilson, the Chamber’s chief executive, said that landing among the Intelligent Community’s top seven designation helped build buzz about Chattanooga.

“Our participation in the process supported our efforts to communicate Chattanooga’s tremendous technology story,” he said.

Eindhoven is located in the industrial heart of the Netherlands. The Intelligent Community Forum said the city has developed a model public-private program called Brainport that “has turned the region into an open innovation platform.”

Brainport identifies strengths, weaknesses, needs and gaps, forum officials said. The initiative develops projects to meet social challenges, sharpen citizen skills and business competitiveness, and create opportunities that keep income in the region, the think tank said.

It said Eindhoven has added 55,000 jobs in the last decade, lowered unemployment below the Dutch average in most years and nearly quadrupled high-tech startups since 2000.

John Jung, a forum co-founder who visited Chattanooga in April, said the Scenic City lives up to its reputation as “the can-do community.”

“This is a community that is retaining its young people and generating genuine excitement about the future,” he said.

Marston said no public monies were spent on the Intelligent Community effort except air fare between New York and Chattanooga. The Lyndhurst Foundation provided funding to get the word out about the city, officials said.

Chattanooga’s ranking in the forum’s top seven was bolstered by EPB’s fully accessible, 1-gigabit residential Internet service, officials said. Also mentioned were improved air quality, downtown revitalization and better standards for secondary education with integrated career training.

about Mike Pare...

Mike Pare, the deputy Business editor at the Chattanooga Times Free Press, has worked at the paper for 27 years. In addition to editing, Mike also writes Business stories and covers Volkswagen, economic development and manufacturing in Chattanooga and the surrounding area. In the past he also has covered higher education. Mike, a native of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., received a bachelor’s degree in communications from Florida Atlantic University. he worked at the Rome News-Tribune before ...

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