If you study local governments around the world, it is likely that you will find similar patterns of behavior and functioning. Traditionally run loose coalitions of separate entities, each empowered with their own roadmap of projects and funds. To add to the challenges are the uncertainties of life, taking on different flavors and dimensions: economic and political instability, technological advancement, urbanization, quality of healthcare and education, job security, productivity and more. What is elevating to note is that many governments are viewing these challenges as an opportunity to invest in technological and conceptual modernization and adopt design systems that meet sustainability demands and improve the lives of citizens.
Cleveland County is one such example. Home to about 99,000 residents, Cleveland County, North Carolina is located between two large metropolitan areas, Charlotte and Greenville/Spartanburg, and in close proximity to the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains. Like any other local government, the county authorities were struggling with balancing ecological impacts and economic growth; building an educated workforce to boost economic power; and at the same time minimizing operational costs. The struggle was transformed into an exciting project as the county board of commissioners decided to put their heads together to build out a master economic development plan.
What emerged was a strong collaboration between three boards (county commissioners, school district and community college) to build a Smart+Connected environment that would benefit the community at large. The modern 84,000-square-foot convention center to be inaugurated in mid-2012 boasts not only of a state-of-the-art infrastructure with advanced video technology including Cisco TelePresence and digital signage, but also houses the economic development center and conference room; early college high-school classroom; and the community college continuing education department, all under one roof. Needless to say, the county leaders have brought in a spirit of cooperation within the government by embracing innovation and transformation. They have moved beyond the notion of needing different buildings for different public sector organizations. This collaborative and forward-looking spirit is undoubtedly the path to economic boom, preparing students for modern lives and careers, a strong connected government and, of course, lower energy bills through an environmentally sustainable design.
Envision scenarios of businesses planning to move into the county visiting the economic development office and noticing a commitment to building an educated workforce; a multitude of conventions in the new modern center, leading to an increase in spending on hotels, restaurants and retail; early college students walking upstairs to watch the local government at work; early college high school teachers using network-connected smartboards to display and annotate information on their PC screens; extending learning to outside classroom walls using video/telepresence; facilities staff monitoring and controlling building energy systems viz. lighting, temperature, kitchen refrigerators, freezers, etc. remotely …
Governments around the world…it’s time to wake up! Someone is already leading the way…look what you can gain if you follow.
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