On Wednesday, Louis Zacharilla, co-founder of the Intelligent Community Forum (ICF), announced the organization's seven finalists for the 2013 Intelligent Community of the Year. The announcement was made during the final day of the Pacific Telecommunications Council's annual meeting in Honolulu.

The seven finalists -- Columbus, Ohio; Oulu, Finland; Stratford, Canada; Taichung City, Taiwan; Tallinn, Estonia; Taoyuan County, Taiwan; and Toronto, Canada -- "provide a model of 21st Century economic and social development, using information and communications technology to power growth, address social challenges and preserve and promote culture," said an ICF statement. Two other U.S. cities -- Mitchell, S.D.; and Philadelphia -- were also in contention for top seven.

Columbus, Ohio

Zacharilla says the perception of Columbus, Ohio, and the new reality are very different. "The perception is Ohio is in the industrial rust belt, largely irrelevant, not really doing much, living on old foundry fumes. That's not at all the case," he said. "It is a very hip city, and their incubator, TechColumbus, is literally putting out all kinds of new businesses." In addition, said Zacharilla, the city has effectively reversed "brain drain," so highly trained and intelligent people stay in the area versus move elsewhere.

Columbus has a net in-migration of new people for the first time in decades. "They have created 29,000 jobs in the last two years," he said, "You don't associate Ohio with creating jobs at that rate. I believe that as Ohio goes, so goes the nation, and the good news is that Columbus is going pretty well."

Other factors in Columbus' success have been collaboration among city government, academic institutions, businesses and nonprofits, according to an ICF statement. Government has reduced spending in the recession, but also raised taxes to fund development. That includes investments in work force development to meet the needs of advanced manufacturing, logistics and information technology companies. Business and institutional leaders have created nonprofits that engage in downtown development, education, health care and cultural projects. Columbus has traditionally struggled to commercialize technologies created in its schools and universities, but TechColumbus is working effectively to leverage the region’s research and technology assets into startup companies

The 2013 ICF Intelligent Community awards program concludes in New York City in June during ICF’s annual summit, where one of the Top 7 will succeed Riverside, Calif., -- the 2012 Intelligent Community of the Year.

Wayne Hanson  |  Staff Writer and Editor of Digital Communities

Wayne E. Hanson has been a writer and editor with e.Republic since 1989, and has worked for several business units including Government Technology magazine, the Center for Digital Government, Governing, and is currently editor and writer for Digital Communities specializing in local government. Hanson was a juror from 1999 to 2004 with the Stockholm Challenge and Global Junior Challenge competitions in information technology and education. He self-published three books of fiction and lives in Sacramento with his wife, Jeannie.