by Joan Tupponce
How smart is Danville? Smart enough to make an elite list when it comes to technology. For the second year in a row, Danville is one of 21 communities across the globe named to a list of the world’s Smart21 Communities. This year, it’s one of six American localities — and the only one from Virginia — nominated to the 2011 list.
“We’ve gone from textiles and tobacco to more of a technology-based economy,” says Jason Grey, who serves as the broadband and network manager for the city’s utilities department. “We have a lot of good stories to tell.”
Smart Communities is the brainchild of New York-based International Community Forum (ICF), a think tank that studies the economic and social development of the 21st-century community. The list of 21 communities will be narrowed to the top seven in January with a winner to be announced in June. The 2011 honorees include communities from 12 nations in the Americas, Europe and Asia.
Each year the organization chooses a theme that guides the nominations for the Intelligent Community of the Year. The 2011 theme, “Health in the Intelligent Community,” had judges looking for cities that found innovative ways to deliver health care and boost productivity while eliminating unnecessary costs.
“This year’s Smart21 are using educational networks and universities — both physical and virtual ones — in more innovative ways,” notes ICF co-founder Louis Zacharilla.
Grey points to health initiatives at Danville Regional Medical Center and nDanville, a 125-mile-plus fiber-optic communications network, as reasons for Danville’s strong showing.
Danville Regional has collaborated with Averett University to create a nursing degree program. Meanwhile, nDanville expanded to create the nDanville Medical Network, which connects Danville Regional and nearly 40 medical and dental facilities.
“Danville was in a decline,” says Zacharilla. “It understood the challenges it had and then took the appropriate first step with nDanville. For a small town, they thought big.”
The city also stood out for its work force. “They are trying to create a work force for the future,” Zacharilla says. “They are upgrading the intellectual quality of the work force through partnerships with colleges and schools. They are doing the work to keep the best and the brightest in Danville.”
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