Stratford falls short again in smart city finale at Intelligent Community Forum

Stratford received its trophy in New York Thursday for being one of the Intelligent Community Forum's Top 7 smart cities in the world. (MIKE BEITZ, The Beacon Herald)

Stratford received its trophy in New York Thursday for being one of the Intelligent Community Forum’s Top 7 smart cities in the world. (MIKE BEITZ, The Beacon Herald)


NEW YORK - Intelligent Community Forum co-founder Lou Zacharilla called Stratford the “little engine that could” Thursday.

On Friday, it was the little engine that almost did.

But it fell just short in its bid for the 2013 Intelligent Community of the Year trophy, which went instead to Taichung City, Taiwan.

“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed,” said Mayor Dan Mathieson shortly after the announcement was made at Stage 6 of the Steiner Studios in Brooklyn. “You always want to win. But three years in the top seven, I think that says an awful lot about our community.”

Stratford was competing against nearby Toronto, which put in a strong bid anchored by its impressive waterfront revitalization project, as well as international competitors Columbus, Ohio; Oulu, Finland; Taichung City, Taiwan; Tallinn, Estonia and Taoyuan County, Taiwan.

This was Stratford’s third time on the top-seven list for the annual ICF program, which recognizes communities that use broadband technology, including high-speed Internet, to improve the lives of their citizens.

Mathieson said the city will not be entering the smart city competition again next year.

“We’ve been in it for four years now, and there’s been a lot of great opportunities that have come out of it,” he said. “But our volunteers deserve a break, and our corporate sponsors have been very generous. Council has also been very supportive, and now I think it’s time to take it to the operational phase.”

Failure to win the smart city crown this year does not diminish what the municipality has done over the past few years in terms of digital media and broadband communications, suggested Mathieson.

Gains in connectivity have had a definite impact on local businesses, industries, organizations and individuals that rely on a high-speed link to the rest of the world, he said.

He pointed out that the most recent Statistics Canada numbers show the unemployment rate for the Stratford region among the lowest in Ontario at 4.8%, well below the provincial average of 7.3%.

“I tend to think that our economic strategy is working,” said Mathieson, “and this is part of the strategy.”

Economic development officer Randy Mattice agreed that the positives take a bit of the sting out of not being named Intelligent Community of the Year.

“We’ve done some great things as a community,” he said after congratulating Taichung City as a deserving winner. “And making it to the top seven three years in a row puts us in a very elite group.”

Stratford’s loss in New York came despite a high-profile last-minute plug from BlackBerry co-founder Mike Lazaridis, who was being honoured Friday as the ICF’s Visionary of the Year.

“We’re all rooting for you Dan,” he said with a nod to the mayor and the large contingent of Stratford supporters in the room. “The fact that you’re on the list is incredible to me. But I’m not surprised.”

Stratford supporters made no attempt to hide their disappointment at not hearing the city’s named called, but quickly turned to levity to lighten the mood.

“We’re going to drink our sorrows away tomorrow,” said Ysni Semsedini, vice-president of engineering with Festival Hydro, as he contemplated the trip home from New York.

He was talking about Tim Hortons coffee.

From the Stratford Beacon Herald, Saturday June 8th, 2013 by Mike Beitz


 

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