TRACY: Hanging out with the smart kids
Last week I had the opportunity to attend the Intelligent Communities Forum in New York City. Mitchell was invited to attend the summit because in late 2012, we were named one of the top 21 intelligent cities in the world based on several factors, including our high-speed broadband availability; our one-to-one laptop program in the public schools; the high percentage of workers we have in the telecommunications industry; and the presence of two institutions of higher education and a nationally ranked, top-performing hospital.
The forum was a chance for seven cities to show and display why they made the ICF's Top 7. These cities truly display a commitment to excellence and are using innovative programs to help millions of people:
-- Columbus, Ohio, was the only U.S. city to make the Top 7. The largest city in Ohio offers innovative partnerships among government, education, industry and more. It's home to the top rated public library in the U.S.
-- Tallinn, Estonia, is where Skype was founded. This city of 200,000 has made remarkable progress in the area of technology since the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991.
-- Taichung, Taiwan, has found a way to offer free public transportation.
-- Toronto, Canada, the fourth largest city in North America, is developing its waterfront to offer a variety of housing types for all income levels with broadband access included.
-- Oulu, Finland, was the former home of Nokia. After massive job losses, it has found a way to attract business using a variety of broadband technologies.
-- Stratford, Ontario, Canada, a community of only 32,000, is a banking center and theater and food destination. It's home to the internationally acclaimed Shakespeare festival.
-- Taoyuan County, Taiwan, is promoting itself as the logistics hub of Asia. A new "aerotropolis" will develop housing, transportation and other amenities in the area occupied by the international airport that serves the capital, Taipei.
These seven communities rose to the top based on demonstrated success in five areas:
-- Broadband availability: Is the community wired for Internet access?
-- Knowledge workforce: Is the workforce in the community educated with the skills necessary for the jobs that are available?
-- Innovation: Does the business atmosphere support forward thinkers and entrepreneurs?
-- Digital inclusion: Do all populations, regardless of socioeconomic status, have access to the digital world, if not in their homes, in easily accessible locations?
-- Marketing and advocacy within their communities: Have they shared their success stories within their communities, instilling pride among residents?
The reason these cities have all been successful is that they have forged public-private partnerships; community leaders have worked collaboratively with the best interests of the community's future in mind. They check their egos at the door and set big goals.
As an example, Taoyuan County merged several smaller communities under one governmental umbrella for greater synergy. One of Columbus' goals was to increase the average per capita income by 30 percent by focusing on tech-related jobs. Tallinn created 350 free wireless connection hubs around the community so that anyone could have access to information.
These ideas and successes lead me to the following thoughts about our community:
-- Mitchell can compete. We are the best-wired community in the region.
-- We must plan for 10 and 20 years from now, not for next week or even next year.
-- We are no longer "in the middle of nowhere." We can have our small-town quality of life and be connected globally for our work.
-- Our ultimate goal should not be to get a title and a trophy. We should use our broadband resources to find a way to improve quality of life and increase wages in Mitchell.
-- We must learn to work together as a community. We may have some failures. But if we don't dare to dream big and set lofty goals, we will not attract or keep our young people, we will not maintain our storefronts, schools and businesses, and we will eventually become irrelevant.
I am sure that we are an intelligent community. We have highly successful technology-based companies, two fine higher education institutions, an excellent school system, top-notch health care facilities and the infrastructure to allow us to move into the future more successfully than any other city in the state of South Dakota.
I'm confident that not only can we make it to the Top 7 most intelligent communities in the world, but we can be number 1.