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Smart Columbus Update: More Funding Secured, New “Chief Innovation Officer” to Lead Effort

 Brent Warren Smart Columbus Update: More Funding Secured, New “Chief Innovation Officer” to Lead Effort
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When Columbus was announced as the winner of the $40 million federal Smart City grant last summer, much was made of the additional $90 million in matching resources that were secured from local corporate and institutional partners.

The city announced last week that it has secured additional commitments, growing the total pot of monetary and in-kind contributions to over $350 million.

“We have more than quadrupled the size of the acceleration fund, thanks in large part to our partners at AEP and the OSU,” said Mayor Andrew Ginther at a news conference on Wednesday. “By the end of 2020, I want this to be a billion dollar effort for our community.”

Two major initiatives from AEP are being counted toward the new commitments: the installation of nearly 900,000 new “smart meters” on homes, and a push to dramatically increase the number of electric vehicle charging stations throughout the state.

OSU, meanwhile, has increased its overall research investment in Smart Columbus to $57 million.

Also announced last week was the creation of a new position – Chief Innovation Officer – which will be filled by former Deputy Director of Development Mike Stevens. Stevens most recently worked for Lake City, a Chicago-area economic development nonprofit. He will work in tandem with Mark Patton of the Columbus Partnership to lead the overall Smart Columbus effort.

The Smart Columbus program office will also be relocating to a new space on the recently-renovated second floor of the Idea Foundry in Franklinton.

“The city will be co-locating there with our partners,” said Jeff Ortega, Assistant Director of the city’s Department of Public Service. “The idea is to foster a spirit of cooperation within this endeavor…we’re very excited.”

The theme of collaboration is one that Mayor Ginther returned to often in his remarks.

“This will require radical collaboration,” he said. “The work begins with the projects we’ve committed to, but as we move forward the goal is for Smart Columbus to be a self-sustaining effort that scales deployments into other neighborhoods, generates new pilots and programs, facilitates new industry partnerships, and brings innovation to all city services.”

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  • Stephen Francis

    “Two major initiatives from AEP are being counted toward the new
    commitments: the installation of nearly 900,000 new “smart meters” on
    homes, and a push to dramatically increase the number of electric
    vehicle charging stations throughout the state.”

    So a program that AEP was planning on implementing anyway, one not particularly consequential to transportation and the other a statewide initiative is being considered part of the Smart City effort? Interesting.

    • LegalEagle89

      Thank Jeebus I wasn’t the only one who raised their eyebrows at this.
      AEP was already planning on this rollout which does nothing but save AEP money (no more meter readers) and INCREASES monthly bills for both residents and businesses (Columbus Business First article).

      Unbelievable that they are getting a cent for something that so heavily benefits a company over their consumers. Outrageous, really.

      • RedStorm45

        This is why I can’t wait for Tesla Solar/Solary City’s solar shingles. Get off the grid.

        • Stephen Francis

          Getting off the grid won’t save us entirely. Unfortunately, power companies are pushing hard against independent energy and in come cases winning. We may see more and more states approve legislation to allow power companies to add more and more surcharges to compensate or in the case of Florida, power companies may create a special interest groups to put forward a constitutional amendment to permanently create further financial burdens on the consumer to make solar less economical once you start paying the energy company for lost revenue due to your decrease in grid usage.

          Also, for clarification, I’m not sure AEP is getting any benefit out of this other than their name attached to the grant. I just think this is a ploy by the city to make it look bigger than it is, possibly to garner more interest and financial contributions.

          • RedStorm45

            What if I installed a powerwall with solar power and never tapped into the grid?

          • Stephen Francis

            The goal would still be to charge you even if you have no connection. How successful they would be at that, not sure. They could push through some sort of code requiring an electric hookup for an occupied structure if it doesn’t exist already. Maybe just bill in the form of a tax for all households for infrastructure. Not sure how it would stand now, but the utilities will become very creative to get money from those who do not use the power.

          • mr.smith.

            @redstorm45:disqus often, solar rebates require you to be grid tied to be eligible to receive them. so, you *might* be able to avoid those charges by paying full price for your system.

  • Phartus

    Columbus, Ohio, where the consultant is king.

  • tlb919

    So this whole thing is beginning to feel… lost, for lack of a better term. We are counting non transit things as pieces of a transportation grant? Hmmm. Okay.

    My optimism is fading quickly with this one.

    • RedStorm45

      No idea how smart meter implementation counts toward “Smart Columbus.” It’s like saying $845 million in proposed interstate upgrades makes downtown investments “topping $1 billion.”

      Also a push for more EV charging stations “throughout the state.” THE STATE. Lol what is this? Statewide initiatives are now part of the city plan?

  • Indyout

    Now a Cheif Inovation Officer. In other words another Gov’t official to monitor studies that will just waste money with NO results. This is such a waste!

  • jman

    This would seem to be good news on the surface…but once again, more planning, and talk -this time without even any new conceptual renderings. I’ll believe when I see it actually happening. My guess is that within ten years, this will all but be forgotten, and we’ll be off on another set of PLANS that helps us feel better in the short term. Oh, we’ll eventually DO something, but you can bet it will be highly compromised, and way behind our peer cities. Typical, typical. Cota bus anyone?

  • Stephen Francis

    I encourage people to read the smart city plan. It really isn’t anything special. They are good things in and of themselves. If anything, it catches us up to what some cities are already doing. The most revolutionary thing about it is the first/last mile piece. Everything else in the current plan offers very little in terms of alternative solutions. WiFi on buses can be included in this. Hooray, more charging stations for electric cars, more city electric vehicles, cars talk to each other, traffic signals can help alleviate congestion, an app can tell you where an available parking space is, and trucks can get real time traffic and weather information… REVOLUTIONARY!

    In the meantime, the city still expects exact change on a bus, only has 2, maybe 3, bus pass kiosks, and a BRT without dedicated lanes or signals that will be subject to all the traffic headaches every other driver on the road is subject to. But, hey, we are revolutionizing the connected city that does little to reduce the number of cars on the road.

    I really hope this actually evolves into something great, but as is, I see it as a distraction. Some of these things will help keep us up to speed, but while we are focusing on this, we continue to fall Years and years behind our contemporaries.

  • RedStorm45

    Mayor Ginther,

    If you truly achieve $1 billion in funding, think about this. That could get Columbus roughly 7x the length of Cincinnati’s Streetcar (3.6 miles in Cincinnati, or more than 25 miles here in Columbus). Seattle got 3.8 miles of streetcar for an estimated $134 million. Kansas City spent $102 million to get 2.2 miles. Salt Lake City spent roughly $55 million for 2 miles. Norfolk spent $318 million and got 7.4 miles.

    Surely if this effort reaches $1 billion in funding, there will be some money left over after the autonomous vehicle roll out to construct a street car or light rail project, even if it’s just downtown and the immediate surrounding neighborhoods.

  • mr.smith.

    “This will require radical collaboration,” Did one of the ninja turtles write that speech?

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