- The North Texas Innovation Alliance (NTXIA) was launched this week to foster regional collaboration in solving common issues through projects and initiatives, Executive Director Jennifer Sanders told Smart Cities Dive in an interview.
- NTXIA brings together 21 founding members including 12 Texas cities, a variety of councils and alliances, and even the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. Sanders noted a population variance across some of the member cities, but said they share many of the same concerns around infrastructure, equity and mobility.
- Sanders said NTXIA will help cities connect with the private sector, academia and trade schools for advice and expertise. NTXIA will also set up strategic advisory committees, which Sanders likened to "mini think tanks," to help cities formulate solutions to challenges around privacy, cybersecurity, procurement and finding new revenue streams.
Sanders said the North Texas region faces challenges common to many U.S. cities, like traffic congestion, while the COVID-19 crisis has highlighted the need for more equity and digital inclusion. But North Texas is unique in that it has immense sprawl and "permeable" borders that are often crossed for daily activities, she said. Given that, localities must work together in providing services.
"[Those] services, it's so important that they're consistent and effective across jurisdiction, because that's how people live, work and exist within the region," Sanders said.
Cross-jurisdictional work could be most effective in planning a big infrastructure project, Sanders said. If one city wants to rework its street design or add fiber, for example, it could collaborate with a nearby city that would also benefit from the project to further improve buying power and make for a larger request for proposals (RFP), Sanders said.
"If we can get something in the ground that, one, demonstrates the buying power and how those contracts are done, and, two, jurisdictionally what agreements are necessary to put something in across various governing bodies, that's a template I think can really be picked up and dropped, not just in North Texas but ideally it could be a template for whoever needs something like that," Sanders said.
An increasing number of governments have taken notice of regional approaches to "smart" initiatives. Groups like the Denver Regional Council of Governments (DRCOG) have looked to collaborate across jurisdictional lines on solving vital issues like traffic congestion and mobility. Meanwhile, the Colorado Smart Cities Alliance has brought together 12 cities, plus private companies and academic institutions, while the Greater Phoenix Smart Region Consortium looks to help area-cities accelerate the adoption of smart city technology.
Despite the varying size of each member city, Sanders said there will be plenty of opportunities to work together, or even for larger jurisdictions to play a mentorship role for their smaller colleagues.
"The small cities need more education in order to have them understand what this can look like, particularly because many of those cities and towns don't have a CIO, they don't have anybody in a specialized enough role to really be able to tackle this from a strategic standpoint," she said.