It’s not often that Ohio’s congressional delegation comes together on anything. But they did Tuesday, when Buckeye State senators Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman were joined by 15 House Members to push U.S. Secretary of Transportation (DOT) Anthony Foxx to award its Smart City Challenge grant to the City of Columbus, Ohio.
Citing its leadership in innovation and research as well as its geographic fit, the delegation sent a letter Monday praising Ohio’s capital city, which out of an original pool of 78 competitors is one of seven cities still vying for the award. Austin, TX; Denver, CO; Kansas City, MO; Pittsburgh, PA; Portland, OR; and San Francisco, CA, represent the competition.
“Columbus is the ideal Smart City because of its impressive economic and population growth, culture of education and innovation, history of successful project delivery, and its current and proposed investments in intelligent transportation systems,” the letter said. “We believe it is clear that Columbus is the most deserving among the finalists.”
Secretary Foxx was in Columbus recently to hear first-hand from a couple dozen city leaders that made their case for Columbus winning it. Foxx diplomatically said the city has a good chance of being the recipient without actually naming Ohio’s growing, diverse city of opportunity.
Columbus is now the 15th largest city in the country, and population projects to mid century estimate its metro population at about three million. Location is also important, as it central location in the Midwest places it just a 10-hour drive to 47 percent of the U.S. population.
Ohio’s elected officials said Columbus has the geographic fit and demographics to ensure that the Smart Cities Challenge provides a successful baseline and example for the rest of the country. A big feather in its hat flew in with it being named by Forbes Magazine as the “number one opportunity city.” The region, home to The Ohio State University, banking and insurance, has to credit its economic growth to a unique collaboration between public, private, and nonprofit organizations.
A good fit USDOT and Foxx may want to consider is that Columbus, home to world-renowned research group Battelle, has been a leader in innovation and research for quite a while. Home to some of the top academic and research institutions in the world, including the OSU Center for Automotive Research and IBM’s Client Center for Advanced Analytics, the central Ohio region is currently pursuing projects that would implement the Smart City Challenge vision. The letter cited the Central Ohio Transit Authority’s Bus Rapid Transit project, which seeks to connect the busiest parts of the city to its downtown, as a current example of Columbus already taking the lead.
“Columbus is the ideal Smart City because of its impressive economic and population growth, culture of education and innovation, history of successful project delivery, and its current and proposed investments in intelligent transportation systems,” the letter concludes.