A team of IBM experts, funded by a grant from the major technology services company IBM, has started a three-week project to determine realistic solutions to revitalize downtown Jacksonville.
The project is part of the IBM Smarter Cities Challenge grant program, a worldwide initiative to provide a total of $50 million worth of services and technical assistance to the most progressive 100 cities around the world through 2013. The project carries an approximate value of $400,000 and requires no tax dollars.
Jacksonville was selected earlier this year among eight cities nationally and 33 globally after Mayor Alvin Brown and a number of stakeholders from the public, private and nonprofit sectors met with IBM representatives at City Hall to make the case for downtown.
"This isn't just an opportunity for our city. It's a game-changer," Brown said. "The IBM Smarter Cities Challenge grant empowers our city to invest in our downtown at a time when City Hall must cut back on spending to protect taxpayer assets and restore economic security. Through the talent and enthusiasm of the IBM team, my hope is to chart a path to make downtown Jacksonville more vibrant and competitive than it has ever been."
Brown also said the project is a shining example of how public-private partnerships are valuable in the city of Jacksonville. The mayor created the office of Public-Private Partnerships to leverage government resources and private sector participation more effectively.
With a target date of Aug. 24 to unveil an initial downtown report, the consulting team plans to become immersed in all of the issues surrounding downtown from branding and marketing to transportation, safety, housing and business opportunity.
"Jacksonville is a city that is rich with promise and accomplishment, and it is a distinct honor for our team to become honorary citizens, at least for three weeks," said Emily Santos, corporate affairs manager at IBM. "As members of our IBM Smarter Cities Challenge team settle in to begin their project, they look forward to meeting stakeholders who have so much to be proud of and so much to look forward to."
IBM's Smarter Cities Challenge grant, the company's single-largest philanthropic effort, provides the expertise of top IBM employees to cities and counties. Issues addressed include health, transportation, economic development, education, finance, sustainability, public safety and e-government. IBM said a number of cities have improved citizens' quality of life because of its recommendations. For more information, visit www.smartercitieschallenge.org.