IBM Reports on Richmond Challenge

~Three-week project focuses on Neighborhood revitalization~

A six-member consulting team commissioned by the worldwide technology services company IBM has concluded a three-week research project in the city of Richmond and is now finalizing an action plan to help Mayor Dwight Jones’ efforts associated with poverty mitigation.

The work comes as part of the IBM Smarter Cities Challenge, a worldwide initiative to distribute a total of $50 million worth of services and technical assistance to a total of 100 cities through 2013. The Richmond project carries an approximate value of $400,000 at no cost to taxpayers. The City asked IBM to specifically look at ways to enable businesses, citizens, and community leaders to identify, champion and produce economic opportunity in targeted neighborhoods.

In sharing the findings, IBM executives acknowledged that the city of Richmond is on track to become a Tier One City through targeted economic, community, and workforce development efforts. “I’m very pleased to see that the work we have already been doing in using economic development strategies as a pathway toward reducing poverty is seen as forward thinking and on target,” said Mayor Jones. “This new research and analysis can help provide us with a solid roadmap that will enhance our focused budgeting work and improve our economic development and neighborhood revitalization efforts.”

The city of Richmond competed for and won the grant from IBM and is one of only 32 cities selected worldwide this year. Only seven U.S. cities were selected for the grant program. Through this Smarter Cities Challenge; residents, city leaders, economic development professionals, businesses, and colleges and universities collaborated with IBM’s consultants from across the country to create actionable recommendations and a plan to address the city’s challenges. Executives held 33 meetings with over 105 people over the three-week period.

Key recommendations that grew out of the research include:
·         Develop a Smarter City Decision System – essentially develop a performance framework utilizing key performance indicators.

·         Align stakeholder groups to focus on neighborhood revitalization utilizing Smarter City Decision System.

·         Evaluate and pilot social enterprise business model for targeted neighborhoods – essentially build businesses around a desire to solve a specific need that already has a demand and connect a targeted neighborhood to that business opportunity.

·         Implement specific tactical recommendations that affect key leverage points.

“I’m particularly interested in more specific recommendations on ways to develop a social enterprise business model,” said Mayor Jones. “I believe such an approach can work effectively in Richmond and can have not only an economic development impact, but a community unifying impact. I’m also very interested in achieving more of a horizontal management approach to city government with improved collaboration across departments.”

IBM will provide a full report with detailed recommendations to the City over the next six to eight weeks.