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Global group lauds Mitchell

For the second year in a row, Mitchell has been selected by the Intelligent Community Forum as one of the world’s Smart21 Communities.

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Mitchell and 20 other communities are now in contention for the designation of 2014 Intelligent Community of the Year, which will be awarded in June.

Roger Musick, CEO of Innovative Systems — an advanced telecom services firm located in Mitchell — said the award is based on communities having access to high-speed Internet and figuring out how to use it to stimulate the economy. Mitchell has a fiber-to-the-premise network that can serve every business and residence in town with high-speed Internet.

“A lot of communities don’t have fiber,” Musick said, “and where Mitchell can get 10, 20 or 30 megabytes per second, many other communities can only do 1 or 2 megabytes per second.”

Intelligent Community Forum cofounder Louis Zacharilla said another one of the reasons Mitchell was selected is the stability of its rural culture. For many rural areas, the transition from agriculture to the information society has been hard, the ICF notes, and over the last few decades, the area around Mitchell has lost nearly 30 percent of its population.

“It looks like you’ve begun to arrest that,” Zacharilla said. “You’ve figured out a way to keep your kids home in a place that some might consider the middle of nowhere, but you’ve declared the TRACY middle of nowhere is no more.”

The ICF has noticed the city of Mitchell is slowly gaining population as it builds on its strengths of Internet connectivity and a coalition of privatesector and government people who exemplify what ICF’s Robert Bell calls the “innovation triangle” of business, government and academic institutions.

“The city has taken the lead to improving quality of life,” Mitchell Mayor Ken Tracy said. “We built a new outdoor aquatic center, a soccer complex with 10 fields, an indoor hockey arena and added another sheet of ice to the existing hockey facility. We’ve done a lot in terms of improving the amenities, and I think it is now an attractive place for young families.

“We’ve stepped into the 21st century, out here in the boondocks in South Dakota; we’re growing and proud of what we’ve accomplished.”

In Mitchell’s public schools, sevenththrough 12th-graders are given iPads or laptops, and the area boasts a twoyear technical vocational institute focused on business, communications technology and precision farming, as well as Dakota Wesleyan University, a four-year degree-granting college. Both institutions have increasing enrollment, and one-third of Dakota Wesleyan’s graduates stay in the area.

In addition, city government is working to attract and retain young families, according to ICF. Mitchell also has a high-tech hospital with high-speed telemedicine connections to 130 other regional hospitals.

The presenter of the award, the Intelligent Community Forum, studies and promotes best practices of information and communications technology.

Only 126 communities around the world have been named an Intelligent Community over the past 16 years. Mitchell is the smallest community on this year’s list, with about 15,000 residents. The largest is Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, with a population of more than 6 million.

“Once again the cities and towns on the Smart21 list have impressed us with their ability to use innovative ideas, broadband resources and hard work to improve local economic and social conditions,” Zacharilla said in a news release. “Not surprisingly, there are many repeats on the list, which means that continuous and sustained improvements are taking place. Building great communities is a long process.”

Evaluation of nominations is based on five Intelligent Community Indicators: broadband connectivity, knowledge workforce, digital inclusion, and marketing and advocacy. In addition, the awards are guided by this year’s theme, Community as Canvas, which looks at three specific aspects of culture: as art and craftwork with both economic and social value, as heritage that gives a place its identity, and as attitudes arising from that heritage that determine how people react to change.

The new Smart21 Communities of 2014 will next provide more detailed data, which is evaluated by an independent research firm. The seven highest-scoring cities or regions will then be named the Top7 Intelligent Communities of the Year in January in Taichung City, Taiwan, the reigning Intelligent Community of the Year. In June, at an event in New York City, one community will be chosen as the 2014 Intelligent Community of the Year

Smart21 Communities

Following are the communities announced this week as the 2014 Smart21 Communities by the Intelligent Community Forum.

  • Arlington County, Virginia USA, 210,300
  • Coffs Harbour, New South Wales Australia, 70,900
  • Columbus, Ohio USA, 809,800
  • Heraklion, Crete Greece, 150,000
  • Hsinchu City Taiwan, 427,000
  • Kingston, Ontario Canada, 159,500
  • Mitchell, South Dakota USA, 15,000
  • Montreal, Quebec Canada, 3,957,700
  • Nairobi County Kenya, 4,000,000
  • New Taipei City Taiwan, 3,949,800
  • Parkland County, Alberta Canada, 30,500
  • Prospect, South Australia Australia, 20,000
  • Quebec City, Quebec Canada, 728,900
  • Rio de Janeiro Brazil, 6,323,000
  • Sunshine Coast, Queensland Australia, 322,600
  • Taoyuan County Taiwan, 2,038,000
  • Toronto, Ontario Canada, 2,791,000
  • Walla Walla, Washington USA, 31,900
  • Wanganui New Zealand, 43,000
  • Whittlesea, Victoria Australia, 176,500
  • Winnipeg, Manitoba Canada, 778,400