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Columbus hires lead for Smart City effort, with staff moving to Idea Foundry in Franklinton

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Columbus is bolstering its Smart City efforts with a new point person to lead the multimillion-dollar initiative, and giving its staffers a new home in up-and-coming Franklinton. Mayor Andrew Ginther announced during a recent press conference that Mike Stevens, a former deputy director of the Columbus Department of Development, would return to the city as Columbus’ first chief innovation officer to lead the Smart City effort. He has been CEO of Lake County Partners, a nonprofit economic-development organization outside Chicago, since leaving the city in 2012.He’ll be paid $182,000 a year, with $30,000 of his salary funded by the Columbus Partnership, the economic development organization made up of area CEOs and business executives.

Stevens will work in tandem with Mark Patton, a former JobsOhio official who was hired as vice president of Smart Cities at the Columbus Partnership. The city staffers working on the Smart City effort will be relocating this month to the recently renovated second floor of the Idea Foundry in Franklinton, designed as co-working and creative space to foster innovation. Ginther said the plan is for Columbus to become “the nation’s teacher in how to become a Smart City,” with innovation becoming Columbus’ “ultimate export to other cities.” To that end, Ginther said the Smart City effort has secured $367 million in public and private investment pledges to complement the initial $40 million in funding approved by the federal government in the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Smart City Challenge.

According to information from the city, that includes $31 million in investments from Columbus, primarily toward clean energy initiatives by the Columbus Division of Power, with other upgrades in electric vehicles and other efforts. Most of the private money is pledged by American Electric Power Company Inc., which is investing in new electric vehicle charging stations and a rollout of smart meters to Central Ohio homes and business, among other initiatives. Ginther said he ultimately wants Smart City “to be a billion-dollar effort for our community.”

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