Westerville is one of only four cities in the U.S. to be named a 2019 Global Smart21 Community by the Intelligent Community Forum, an international organization.

Cities are chosen based on broadband connectivity, knowledge workforce, innovation, digital equality, sustainability and advocacy throughout the community.

Fewer than 200 communities worldwide have been named to this list, according to an announcement the city issued Oct. 25. Cities named as Smart21 communities begin a process to be named to the list of 2019 Top7 Intelligent Communities.

The city of Hudson was the other municipality in the state to be named to the 2019 list. Columbus and Dublin previously have been recognized as Smart21 communities, the announcement stated.

For Westerville leaders, the title serves as recognition for their work to modernize the city and develop its workforce and infrastructure.

"This was a significant effort of telling the Westerville story and our intentional investments in innovation, digital equity and economic development," City Manager David Collinsworth said. "Becoming a Smart21 Intelligent Community puts us in this year's class with world-renowned cities, including those in Australia, Brazil, France, Taiwan, India, Canada and more.

"We're proud of this designation and will continue our efforts to stand out not only in the state of Ohio, but across the globe," he said.

Todd Jackson, Westerville's chief information officer, said he sees the award as an opportunity to "keep the conversation moving" and maintain momentum around Westerville, and sees the city's WeConnect data center and fiber network as important factors in the award.

"While it's a recognition, we looked at it as an opportunity to get the different community partners together, keep the conversation going and identify all the opportunities we have for collaboration and innovation," he said.

Jackson said he believes "this is the type of community we are," and the award shows that Westerville "relies on the success of our community partners" for overall success.

"It really demonstrates and represents how collaboration and innovation are an integral part of our community culture," he said. "I really think that's what it demonstrates. The ICF and their (nomination) process really helped to pull specific examples out from each organization which demonstrates that."

For the next phase in the Awards Program, leaders of the Smart21 will fill out detailed questionnaires providing more information on their communities, according to the ICF website.

Seven will be named as the Top7 Intelligent Communities of 2019 on Feb. 11 at Universite Laval in Quebec City, Canada. One of the Top7 will then be named the Intelligent Community of the Year on June 13 during an awards dinner at the 2019 ICF Global Summit in New York City.

And whether Westerville reaches that point or not, Jackson said the Smart21 designation will help the city's economic-development efforts.

"It really shows that the Westerville community competes and fits in very well with the different global markets," he said.

Jackson said Westerville isn't alone in its efforts, as Dublin and Columbus' previous success set the stage for Westerville to get on the map.

"That collaborative culture is also growing within central Ohio, which is really nice," he said.

"I think we compete as a region more than we compete against each other."