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City Lights: Mark Patton. Vice President, Smart Cities, Columbus Partnership

SmartCitiesWorld talks to Mark Patton, vice president, Smart Cities, Columbus Partnership, about the Ohio city’s journey so far.


Columbus, Ohio, won the US Department of Transportation’s (USDOT) first-ever Smart City Challenge and was awarded $50 million in grant funding and the designation as America’s Smart City. Its vision is to be the model for connected cities of the future.


SCW: What is the main purpose of your role?


MP: Smart Columbus is the smart city initiative for the Columbus region that is comprised of public/private partnerships. My role is to lead the private sector side as we integrate our efforts with the City of Columbus.


SCW: What does the term ’smart city’ mean to you?


MP: A smart city uses data and analytics to improve the lives of its residents, make better decisions, reduce costs, operate more efficiently and promote innovation.


SCW: What are some of the key milestones/initiatives in your smart city journey so far?


MP: We’ve had several memorable milestones in our journey. We are particularly proud of exceeding the goals set forth for our electrification programme. From building out a robust charging infrastructure to increasing electric vehicle (EV) registrations and hosting the largest EV test drive program in the US, we have made great strides in promoting EV adoption.


Other key milestones include launching the first autonomous shuttle in Ohio, achieving broad engagement from our 65+ Acceleration Partners, opening a Smart Columbus Experience Centre and co-locating our teams – both public and private employees – in the Experience Centre.

"I’m always thinking of ways to economically sustain smart city initiatives without grant funding. It’s quite a feat."

SCW: What is your number one priority right now?


MP: My top priority right now is to ensure the sustainment of Smart Columbus post grant funding.


SCW: What do you see as your biggest achievement since you started the role?


MP: A great achievement for us has been making Columbus recognised as a global leader in the smart city realm.


SCW: What is the best part of the job?


MP: I love working through the uncertainties of new technologies and approaches. I love finding what works.


SCW: What is your biggest challenge?


MP: A big challenge has been deciding which projects and technologies are worthwhile investments. When we were first awarded the grant in 2016, countless companies and consultants had something to sell us. Figuring out which investments are worth our time, money and energy has been a great challenge and opportunity.


SCW: If you weren’t doing this job, what would you be doing?


MP: I’d probably be running a technology start-up if I wasn’t working at Smart Columbus.


SCW: What keeps you awake at night?


MP: I’m always thinking of ways to economically sustain smart city initiatives without grant funding. It’s quite a feat because you have to be able to convey the economic benefits and direct return on investment to your city, its residents and all stakeholders.


SCW: If you could make one change in your city tomorrow and money was no object, what would you do?


MP: If money was no object, it would be great to have an extensive network of light rail, or perhaps a non-stop flight to every major city in the US and rest of the world.


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