A New “Region of Regions” Approach Plans to Face Funding Challenges Head On

The smart cities scene in the U.S. is growing up, as evidenced by the recent announcement of a new  multi-regional cooperation between The North Texas Innovation Alliance (NTXIA), The Connective and the Southern Arizona Smart Region. 

This “Regions of Regions” approach is led by smart city champions Jen Sanders, NTXIA Executive Director and Dominic Papa, Executive Team Member of the Connective and Vice President of Smart State Initiatives at the Arizona Commerce Authority. Both were early adopters of the smart city collaborative model, putting frameworks and governance structures in place in their local areas of Dallas and Phoenix (respectively) long before there was cross-sector support or funding. It is this kind of trailblazing that is providing a solid foundation for the proliferation of the entire sector. 

All three organizations were initially formed “to develop public and private sector support and funding to build each region’s economic competitiveness and quality of life for residents through the design and adoption of innovative approaches, including smart city solutions.” By coming together, each region strengthens its original mission while amplifying the geographic scope which expands opportunities for all.  

“We’re community builders at heart, so we intuitively know that when you bring people together with a shared objective to serve all citizens/residents, you can accomplish great things and overcome significant challenges,” explains Sanders, NTXIA Executive Director. “The goal of this partnership is to accelerate learnings, build connections, and ultimately identify approaches that will improve cities and towns throughout our respective regions.”

Some of the barriers in the smart city arena that the collaboration will address include:

  • Evaluating new financial models to overcome budget shortfalls
  • Better addressing evolving resident expectations through member communications and education 
  • Exploring emerging technology to improve service delivery 
  • Establishing dual-region projects and joint research opportunities.

Designing new revenue models, monetization strategies and sustainable financial models is a core focus for NTXIA, Connective and RPC. Prioritizing this ominous challenge is an impressive move that reflects the reality-based focus of the group. This brave exploration exposes an ever-present roadblock for smart city practitioners; in the absence of dedicated funds, the question of “who will pay for this” can often stymie smart city solution design and execution. 

Undaunted by the heightened budget challenges of 2020 and 2021, the group will explore and evaluate submissions from the Call for Revenue Generating Solutions for Municipalities and Regions, which is a partnership initiative between NTXIA and Marketplace.city.  The resulting analysis seeks to provide insight on the diverse landscape of opportunities that provide new revenue and financial models that can accelerate priority projects. 

“This partnership will create the environment necessary to ensure sustainable growth and stability for each region for generations to come. A coordinated multi-region approach is the right model to coordinate testing, deployment and financial sustainability that can be leveraged and scaled both nationally and globally.” says Papa.

“Our role to find innovative solutions that address regional challenges and lead to the economic benefit of our communities depends on public and private partnerships,” said Dr. Satish Hiremath, Chairman of the RPC. “However, delivering innovative solutions requires new funding sources. This broader collaborative effort brings thought leaders together to pursue new and creative avenues of funding necessary to drive results that advance the quality of living in our communities.” 

This multi-regional approach is proving the hypothesis that people and partnerships are at the core of overcoming what seems impossible. By coming together, they can mitigate risk and maximize resources. This may be the first, but the model will be inevitably replicated by others for many years to come, creating exponential value for urban citizens and residents. 

About the North Texas Innovation Alliance

The North Texas Innovation Alliance (NTXIA) is a 501(c)3 consortium of key cross-sector stakeholders working to build and implement a smart region strategy for North Texas. The mission of the NTXIA is to build the most connected, smart, and resilient region in the country. NTXIA was launched to collaboratively utilize data, technology and community to address the most pressing topics to create solutions that will improve quality of life, drive inclusive economic development and promote resource efficiency. www.NTXIA.org

About the Connective

The Connective (CONNECTIVE) is a collaborative research and implementation partnership between public sector, academia, industry, and civic institutions to drive the creation, advancement, and adoption of smart city technology on a regional scale, to improve the quality of life for all citizens and businesses within our communities.

About the Regional Partnering Center (RPC)

The Regional Partnering Center, a 501(c)3 nonprofit entity that advances policies, practices and solutions to regional planning, environmental and energy challenges in Pima County, was established by Pima Association of Governments. PAG is the region’s association of governments and metropolitan planning organization for transportation, air quality management, water quality and solid-waste planning.