With up to $50 million on the line, entrepreneur Keith MacIntyre is dedicating himself to getting Penticton involved in the Smart Cities Challenge.
The Smart Cities Challenge is a cross-Canada competition open to communities of all sizes; besides the main prize, there are two prizes of $10 million for communities with under 500,000 people and another of $5 million for communities with populations under 30,000. The challenge is intended to get communities thinking about how to improve the lives of their residents through innovation, data and connected technology.
MacIntyre is appearing before Penticton city council at their Dec. 19 meeting to make a pitch for the city’s backing to get the process started.
Penticton’s tech community is growing fast, MacIntyre said, a fact highlighted by a visit from Chris Heivly earlier this year, a high-level tech entrepreneur who visited the Okanagan to evaluate its potential for inclusion in a community-based tech development program.
“He pointed out a lot of strengths and weaknesses,” said MacIntyre. “But overall, he said we are punching over our weight.”
MacIntyre said the challenge isn’t just about the tech community, though.
“The thing I like about the smart cities challenge is it is very community-driven,” said MacIntyre. “It is about the community, us coming together and coming up with a challenge statement of what does our community need, what is the biggest issue in our community.”
MacIntyre thinks it may come down to finding innovative ways to deal with crime issues or increasing the standard of living and salary ranges in the Okanagan.
The positive thing about the challenge, he explained, is that it flips the communications.
“It is not about these are the little things that are bothering us … complaining about what is happening with the city, but coming together, figure out what our challenge statement is, and then let’s come up with some solutions,” said MacIntyre.
“If we get selected as a finalist, we get $250,000 to finalize the proposal. It will get the whole country looking at us as a region, as a booming tech region,” he said. MacIntyre is also going to visit Kelowna city council to encourage them to participate.
“I would like to see Kelowna and Penticton selected as finalists and then it is going to really get people looking.”
MacIntyre said Penticton doesn’t do well at community storytelling, and the complaining sometimes overwhelms the positive stories.
“We are kind of in our little bubble here, worrying about ourselves,” said MacIntyre. “What we don’t realize is that there are people all over the world looking at us. They want to live here, they want to work here. They are starting to notice that something is happening.
“We need to keep telling our story so that these people that are on the edge of moving here, extremely talented individuals, will make that decision and make the jump.”
MacIntyre likens the work needed for the Smart Cities challenge to the community effort when Penticton was trying to draw WestJet in, including the flash mob staged at the airport.
“They (WestJet) said that was a key thing that made us stand out. We have that ability in our community to organize something that exciting,” said MacIntyre. “It needs to be a community-driven initiative.”