- During Wednesday's closing plenary session at Smart Cities Week in Washington, DC, Jennifer James of the Smart Cities Council wrapped up the day with a session to honor the 2018 Readiness Challenge Grant Winners.
- Terry Yates of Cary, NC; Don Jacobson of Las Vegas; Josh Carpenter of Birmingham, AL; Grace Simrall of Louisville, KY; David Ihrie of the Commonwealth of Virginia; and Carlos Mercader of Puerto Rico's Federal Affairs Administration (PRFAA) all took the stage to receive awards and share how their cities and regions have benefited from the program thus far.
- "Smart cities implies there's an end destination ... You'll always be striving for the next thing," Simrall said in detailing the importance of programs like the Readiness Challenge to prepare cities for that next step in strategic development.
When the winners were announced in March, Smart Cities Council Chairman Jesse Berst explained in a statement that they all had three things in common: "a focus on uncovering synergies and cost-efficiencies between departments," a "coordinated collaboration between internal departments, external stakeholders and nearby regions" and "a determination to include underserved and vulnerable populations."
The cities of Cary, Las Vegas, Birmingham and Louisville have already had the opportunity to flex these interests and home in on these focuses at their Readiness Workshops. Jacobson, enterprise project manager for Las Vegas, said his favorite part of the workshop "is that you're not afraid to shy away from the tough subjects," which helped his city's stakeholders "bear down" on topics like financing, a typically uncomfortable area of debate.
Carpenter, the director of economic development for the City of Birmingham, said his Readiness Workshop allowed the city to analyze four distinct problems — inclusive economic growth, community health, transportation and public safety — and think about each problem through different lenses representative of different communities.
Virginia and Puerto Rico have not yet held their Readiness Workshops — they will be held in late October and December, respectively — but Ihrie, of Virginia's Center for Innovative Technology, and Mercader, executive director of leadership at PRFAA, said there's much to look forward to as they help their regions prepare. Puerto Rico especially has a unique opportunity to use the workshop to restore its cities' conditions and integrate high-tech systems across the island following the devastating 2017 hurricanes.
As these cities and regions continue through the rest of the Readiness Challenge program, their successes will help to shape focuses and initiatives of future Readiness Challenge participants. Applications for the 2019 Smart Cities Council Readiness Challenge will open on Oct. 16.