Dan Rankin, for the Gazette
For the third time in as many years, the New York-based Intelligent Community Forum has selected Stratford as one of its Top 7 Intelligent Communities of the Year.
Stratford was one of three North American cities in the Top 7, along with Toronto and Columbus, Ohio. Rounding out the list are Oulu, Finland, Tallinn, Estonia and Taichung City, Taiwan.
With around 32,000 residents, Stratford is by far the smallest city of the group. The next smallest is Oulu, which is home to over 145,000 people.
Though Stratford continues to be one of the smaller communities considered by the ICF year after year, Mayor Dan Mathieson said the city’s success shows “in the scheme of things, small communities can have a large, world-wide effect.
“Citizens, volunteers and staff should share this success,” he added. “Every year we build a little bit more on what we learn, and our residents are very quick to jump in, to either learn about or support these endeavours.”
Branding and marketing consultant David Hicks, who has been responsible for researching and submitting Stratford’s ICF applications the past several years, agreed that credit for the honour should be spread around.
“It’s very broadly based, which I think is why it’s a very healthy story,” he said. “What’s great about this story is that we’re not being driven by a big corporate headquarters or the big, main campus of a university.
“We just have a lot of people going about, doing what they do, and it’s all come together in this bigger picture. The ICF galvanizes that picture.”
Mathieson said Hicks had been “an exceptional resource and leader” for the city’s ICF bid.
“He’s been quite innovative in making sure we look at the community as a whole, so that it’s not just our economics or technology being considered, it’s also social development and all the other pieces that make our community.”
Hicks said Stratford’s appearance on the past three ICF Top 7 lists is a “flag for marketing” when companies are considering setting up shop in the city.
“It tells them that not only are we on it with all this connectivity and broadband Internet stuff, but we know what we’re talking about and we’re open to creativity and changing things up,” he said.
The Intelligent Community of the Year program also provides an opportunity to learn from cities around the world facing similar economic and social development problems, Mathieson said
He noted it has helped Stratford understand digital literacy, education, libraries and community facilities in a broader context, allowing the city to better meet the needs of all citizens.
The announcement for the Intelligent Community of the Year will take place in New York City in June.
Hicks, who has been at the ceremony the past two years, plans to attend again this year.
“I wouldn’t miss it,” he said.
For more information about the city’s Intelligent Community application, and to read blog posts by those involved with the process, visit StratfordSmartCity.ca.