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Fairfield named to Smart21 list for most innovative cities
FAIRFIELD — Fairfield received a prestigious honor in February when it was named one of the most innovative cities in the world by the Intelligent Community Forum.
The organization named Fairfield to its list of “Smart21 Communities of 2023” during a virtual conference on Feb. 23. Fairfield was one of five cities in the United States to be named among the Top 21, which also included cities in countries such as Canada, Brazil, Australia, New Zealand, Vietnam and more.
Fairfield was selected for this honor because of how it scored on a set of six categories designed to measure a city’s economic and social health, which covers things such as broadband connectivity, sustainability, innovation, digital inclusion and community engagement.
The next stage of this competition will whittle the field down to the Top seven cities, which will be announced on June 20 at a conference in Ontario, Canada. The winner of the contest will be announced at the ICF’s Global Summit in New York City on Oct. 25-26.
Fairfield resident Bob Ferguson plans to attend the Top seven conference in Canada on behalf of Fairfield, since he was the driving force behind its application in this competition. Ferguson said it took several months to gather the data necessary for the application, and he relied on help from local leaders such as Fairfield Mayor Connie Boyer, Grow Fairfield Executive Director Joshua Laraby, and Fairfield Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Mendy McAdams.
Ferguson said this is a huge accomplishment for a city of Fairfield’s size. Winning cities are often metropolises, like Melbourne, Australia, in 2017, or Montreal, Canada, in 2016. For Fairfield to be in the running says a lot about the great things being done here with internet access and economic development.
“More than 400 cities from around the world send in applications,” Ferguson said. “Curitiba, Brazil [another Top21 honoree in 2023] has an incredible reputation, and they have 1.8 million people. At 10,000 people, we are the smallest city on the list.”
Ferguson said he learned of the ICF’s Smart21 Communities Competition through his friend Paul Carlson, the former head of IT for the city of Columbus, Ohio. Columbus won this competition in 2015, and it led to hundreds of millions of dollars in economic development pouring in, such as the company Intel announcing plans to build a microchip plant in the city.
After Ferguson happened to mention Fairfield’s multiple communications companies and renewable energy companies, Carlson suggested that Ferguson should put in an application on behalf of Fairfield. After mulling it over for a while, Ferguson decided to forge ahead, with two months left to go before the deadline. Ferguson said it was a fair amount of work to answer all the questions in the application and find the necessary information, but the hard work paid off.
Now that Fairfield has made the Top 21 list, it will receive mentoring from the ICF and be able to “rub shoulders” with the other honorees to learn about their best practices and how Fairfield can learn from them.
“We will be benchmarking ourselves against the best in the world,” Ferguson said. “We’ll be able to see the things we do well, and the things we don’t do so well. We need to have a high self-esteem for who we are, while also keeping an open mind about where we can improve.”
The full list of Smart21 Communities of 2023 is as follows:
Assaí County, Paraná, Brazil
Belfast, Northern Ireland, UK
Binh Duong Smart City, Vietnam
Coquitlam, British Columbia, Canada
Coral Gables, Florida, USA
Curitiba, Paraná, Brazil
Defiance, Ohio, USA
Doral, Florida, USA
Durham Region, Ontario, Canada
Estevan, Saskatchewan, Canada
Fairfield/Jefferson County, Iowa, USA
Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada
Greater Geelong, Victoria, Australia
Grey County, Ontario, Canada
Hilliard, Ohio, USA
Pickering, Ontario, Canada
Ponta Grossa, Paraná, Brazil
Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia
Townsville, Queensland, Australia
Whanganui, New Zealand
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