Creating a Smarter Region
University at center of collaborative effort to enhance regional economic vitality
The energy and progress behind a regional effort to improve economic health in the Truckee Meadows was evident when representatives of the public and private agencies behind it gathered at Reno's McKinley Arts and Culture Center on April 24 for the Smarter Regions Leadership Summit.
Following the 2012 selection of Reno to join IBM's international Smarter Cities Challenge, a team of IBM experts was assigned to identify ways to help the city attract new industries, grow employment and nurture entrepreneurs.
"You did something no other grantee did," Jurij Paraszczak, IBM vice president emeritus of global Smarter Cities research and facilitator of the Leadership Summit, said. "You decided to work not as two separate cities but as a region encompassing several agencies."
"Cities know their problems and are good about bringing them forward," he said. "What you did was to say we need to move beyond this step."
In their report, Paraszczak and the IBM team emphasized the role of the University.
"IBM suggested our community could be stronger as a university town or college town, and we are well on our way to becoming that," Heidi Gansert, the University of Nevada, Reno's executive director of external affairs, said in remarks delivered at the Leadership Summit.
"Investing in our future is more than just a money issue, it's making a full commitment in terms of our energy and passion," she continued. "We are here to make the community better."
Another future-oriented, community-based effort is the City of Reno's #ThinkReno to improve the Biggest Little City. University students, faculty and staff were given the opportunity to share their improvement ideas on a banner that was on campus last month. Jeanne Scott, administrator at the Joe Crowley Student Union, said, "The banner presented an opportunity for students to have a voice in what Reno could be." For more information, visit http://thinkreno.org/.
The Leadership Summit reviewed the progress being made toward five IBM recommendations:
- In response to a recommendation to establish a new means for regional collaboration, a Smarter Regions Governance Model is now in place and outlines roles for the myriad organizations and individuals involved.
- In response to a recommendation to approach regional economic development as "one strong voice," the Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada (EDAWN) has been ratified as the lead entity and expanded its Board of Directors to further strengthen the connection to local governments.
- In response to a recommendation to "harness the data," the Truckee Meadows Regional Planning Agency and DRI are leading an effort to create a regional system for better utilization of data across entities involved in economic development.
- In response to a recommendation to "brand the vision, not the slogan," a formal effort is underway to capture stakeholder input that will contribute to development of a vision that positions and differentiates the region within the competitive economic development arena.
- In response to a recommendation to "invest in your people," leaders of the Washoe County School District, Truckee Meadows Community College and the University are redoubling efforts to smooth the pathway to and through higher education and strengthen connection of the K-16 system to business and industry.
The Leadership Summit was conducted as a joint, open meeting of the Reno City Council, Sparks City Council, Washoe County Commission, Washoe County School District Board of Trustees and the Nevada System of Higher Education Board of Regents, and representatives of these elected bodies passed a series of resolutions to continue the work described above.
In addition to these bodies, EDAWN, the School District, TMCC and the University, Smarter Region project partners include the Reno Tahoe Airport Authority, Governor's Office of Economic Development and The Chamber.
Paraszczak is optimistic about the outcome ahead: "I really think what's going to happen in this area is a whole new hoard of millennials who will come here to enjoy the quality of life here and to invest here."