Intellectual stimulation

Oh, brother. Austin now up for "Top Intelligent Community" of 2012

Oh, brother. Austin now up for "Top Intelligent Community" of 2012

Austin Photo Set: News_Brian Salisbury_reel to real_October 2011_austin skyline
Real to Reel
Austin Photo Set: News_Rickie Windle_6th street music_August 2011_6thstreet
Austin Photo Set: News_Brian Salisbury_reel to real_October 2011_austin skyline
Austin Photo Set: News_Rickie Windle_6th street music_August 2011_6thstreet

What anyone living in Austin, Texas already knew is now official: Austin, Texas is the smartest, most intelligent community in the world. At least, the Intelligent Community Forum (ICF) says so. Well, they sort of said so. Actually they named Austin as a finalist on Wednesday, one of seven cities in the world to be considered for the Top Intelligent Community of 2012. The winner is to be named in June at the ICF annual summit in New York City.

(Apparently members of the Intelligent Community Forum haven't driven on Mopac lately, because the Austinites driving on that road could hardly be considered intelligent at all.) 

Austin has something though that the ICF thinks is special. Here's the write-up we get on their website:

Austin, Texas, USA. In the late Eighties, fourteen semiconductor manufacturers and the US government created a partnership called SEMATCH to solve common manufacturing problems. The selection of Austin as its headquarters sparked a technology boom. Growth was so robust for so long that the Austin economy began to look recession-proof—until the dot-com collapse of 2001 tripled the unemployment rate. In response, city government partnered with the Chamber of Commerce on a long-term economic development strategy that led to a nearly $6 billion increase in regional payrolls over five years. A second five-year plan launched in 2010 seeks to add another $11 billion. To address a workforce challenge, Austin has established a program that puts College Enrollment Managers into public schools to guide the choices made by students has helped boost the graduation rate for low-income students 14 percentage points to 75%.

So, now even more people have a reason to move here and make Austin even more crowded than it already is. To all the listmakers and smart people calling Austin the greatest, smartest, funnest, most awesomest place ever laid on the earth by God: STOP. Those of us who saw the light emanating from Austin and walked toward it back in the 70s and 80s would like to put up the gates and love our city to death before we lose yet another awesome Austin-tatious cool place like Liberty Lunch or the Armadillo.

Back in the 80s we were so smart that we stopped building freeways and roads in order to discourage population growth — we see how that worked out. Now we are all high-rise condos and 6th Street dance clubs, our lake is nearly empty and our roads more congested than ever. That hardly seems smart to me.

Still, many of us stay, choosing to love the Austin that remains and, perhaps, working our tails off for one the billion dollar tech companies making us so smart.

How did we come to get such gracious recognition? According to the ICF website, intelligent communities "come to understand the enormous challenges of the Broadband Economy, and have taken conscious steps to create an economy capable of prospering in it."

The forum looks at a number of criteria in order to choose the most Intelligent Community of the Year — do they stimulate entrepreneurship, create jobs, offer strong educational programs, invest in new technology infrastructure, yada, yada, yada... we get it. Austin does all those things, and I guess it's just a little cool that a bunch of intelligent people see that too.

There are other smart places in the world? Joining Austin on the finalists list are:

  • Oulu, Finland
  • Quebec City, Quebec, Canada
  • Riverside, California, USA
  • Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada
  • Stratford, Ontario, Canada
  • Taichung City, Taiwan

“The Top Seven of 2012 have demonstrated a profound dedication to the future of their communities,” said ICF Co-founder Louis Zacharilla in a press release. “Each of these communities has created a uniquely powerful ecosystem on a foundation of information and communications technology. By becoming platforms for innovation, they are creating a better life for citizens on all rungs of the economic ladder and a vibrant future for the next generation.”

That said, if you are from somewhere else and are thinking of moving to a smarter, more intelligent place, may I recommend Oulu, Finland? It's absolutely gorgeous there this time of year and the people there are really, really intelligent.