Keith MacIntyre is dedicating himself to getting Penticton involved in the Smart Cities Challenge. Submitted photo

Smart Cities process hitting the right notes

Penticton’s plans meet with approval from Smart Cities Challenge director

Keith MacIntyre is excited about Penticton’s Smart Cities Challenge.

That’s not news. As the leader of the drive to develop Penticton’s entry in the $10-million federal competition, the local entrepreneur is always excited about the challenge. But a recent meeting with Gerard Peets, the executive director of the Smart Cities Challenge, he’s even more positive.

“I could just see the excitement in him, that he is going to be able to go back to his boss and say ‘hey, this is one community that is doing it how we hoped,’” said MacIntyre.

Related: Tech Talk: Penticton — The Smart City Champion of Canada

The Smart City Challenge is a cross-Canada competition through Infrastructure Canada, encouraging communities to think about how to improve the lives of their residents through innovation, data and connected technology.

Penticton is vying for one of two prizes of $10 million for communities with under 500,000 people. There is a top prize of $50 million, open to all communities, that the city could have chosen to try for.

MacIntyre and Jim Bauer, chief financial officer for the City of Penticton, travelled to Vancouver for a 90-minute meeting with Peets.

“They had found us through the media and called me to get an idea of what our approach was to the challenge. Right away, they were excited that we were doing it from the community, but in close co-operation with the city and city staff,” said MacIntyre.

“The impression that I got at the time was that this was the approach they were looking for and hoping for. That was completely re-enforced by our meeting in Vancouver,” said MacIntyre.

MacIntyre said it was also an opportunity to question Peet about the challenge and what they would be looking for in the entrants’ challenge statements, which are due on April 24.

“The short answer is we are absolutely on the right track,” said MacIntyre. “Community involvement is a very key component to what they are looking for. They are really hoping that community leaders would step up and run the challenge like we are doing.

“He gave a few veiled hints that he is really excited about our city and our ability to engage the entire community really quickly.”

Related: Smart Cities Challenge needs community support

MacIntyre also questioned Peet about whether Penticton might be at a disadvantage competing against much larger cities in the under 500,000 population category.

“He said absolutely not,” said MacIntyre, adding that Peets’ attitude was the more ideas the better.

“It’s not about the size of the bid, it’s not about the population. It’s about what we are doing: is it meaningful and is it ambitious?”

Partnerships are also important in the bid judging, MacIntyre said, adding that the Smart Cities group is again on the right track, reaching out to the Penticton and Wine Country Chamber of Commerce, Junior Chamber International, Okanagan College, Okanagan Skaha School District and others.

MacIntyre isn’t sure home many communities are participating in the Smart Cities Challenge but said he’s heard that Kelowna, Victoria, New Westminster, Squamish and the Kootenays are working on entries.

“I think there is going to be a significant amount of entries. I still feel we are very well positioned,” he said.

“Yesterday, I was at the Chamber of Commerce presentation and they have given us support, the Junior Chamber has given us support.”

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