Tori Sutton, Stratford Gazette
Stratford will continue in its quest to become the No. 1 intelligent city in the world.
The green light to move forward with an application for the Intelligent Community Forum’s 2013 award program was given in an unanimous vote at a special council meeting Wednesday afternoon.
But the decision didn’t come without discussion as councillors argued for the best way to go about the process.
Coun. Kerry McManus suggested the ICF committee operate similar to other initiatives like Communities in Bloom and requested a more formal process, with agendas created for meetings and minutes recorded.
“It allows the entire community to be participants,” McManus said. “They can watch, they can follow the conversation.”
Mayor Dan Mathieson said it would be possible, but warned councillors against micromanaging the process.
He noted taking another shot at the No. 1 smart city spot only made sense considering the city’s recent investments.
“This is a drop in the bucket,” he said, of the cost of participation in the ICF program. “We didn’t bring the university here, send them adrift on St. Patrick Street, wish them well and not try to support them.”
Total direct expenses related to the 2012 ICF competition currently sit at $39,435, which includes the cost of taking economic development officer Randy Mattice to the Pacific Telecommunication Council Conference in Hawaii last January.
It also includes the cost of economic development marketing.
However, when you figure in the $19,440 donated by sponsors – most of which are local businesses – total expenses work out to just $19,995.
That, said Coun. Frank Mark, is good value for the city’s dollar.
“It’s a very reasonable expense to market the city worldwide instead of just in Canada or even North America,” Mark said. “... I can’t think of a better way to spend $20,000 for economic development.”
Several other councillors agreed.
“Trying to advertise would cost a lot more than $19,000,” said Coun. Bonnie Henderson, noting the city is getting inquiries from around the world as a result of its participation in the ICF program. “A lot of cities aren’t getting new jobs and we do need new jobs here.”
Coun. Brad Beatty said ICF is a great way for Stratford to promote its brand as a leader in the global economy.
“This is not the time to stop what we’re doing,” he said. “We need to continue to move forward with this.”
Though inexpensive, McManus questioned if there are other initiatives the city should be pursuing besides ICF designation.
“Is it time to move on to focusing on something else?” she questioned, adding Stratford’s sustainability is a pressing issue for many.
“... I think we need to make sure we’re considering all the needs of our community.”
In response, Mark said some of her suggestions were good but aren’t necessarily economic development initiatives.
He suggested they could be pursued under other department’s budgets, such as social services.
Coun. George Brown noted once the city achieves No. 1 status it will no longer have to put in an annual bid.
The application for the 2013 round of competition is due today, Friday, Sept. 21. The Top 21 will be announced in late October.