The city of Westerville will play host to representatives from the Intelligent Community Forum in April to be evaluated for the title of Intelligent Community of the Year.

The ICF named Westerville to its international list of Top7 Intelligent Communities on Feb. 10 in Taiwan, marking a back-to-back designation for Westerville on the Top7 list.

"The next step will be folks from ICF coming into town and evaluating us here sometime in April," said Jason Bechtold, the city's economic-development director.

Westerville will be host to an ICF cofounder for an on-site visit and assessment to observe the city's infrastructure, programs and partnerships.

"We received the same designation in 2019," Bechtold said. "It's an opportunity to evaluate communities in terms of best practices and sustainability, talented workforce, advocacy and others and really in terms of maximizing our potential as a community."

Getting Westerville recognized on an international level as one of the Top7 communities in the world for the last two years, Bechtold said, shows the success the city is having in central Ohio.

Westerville is one of two cities from the United States (both from Ohio) on the 2020 Top7 list.

The other communities are Adelaide, South Australia, Australia; Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia; Hamilton, Ontario, Canada; Tallinn, Estonia; Hudson, Ohio, USA; and Markham, Ontario, Canada.

One of the seven finalists in the annual awards program will be named the Intelligent Community of the Year at the ICF Summit on June 18 in Dublin, a Top7 community in 2010 and 2011.

Taoyuan, Taiwan, holds the title of 2019 Intelligent Community of the Year.

The ICF evaluates communities on the basis of their performance in six indicators: broadband connectivity, knowledge workforce, innovation, digital equality, advocacy and sustainability.

"City staff and our partners in the community work intentionally to inspire and facilitate innovation, moving forward in a way that anticipates the needs of the future while remaining true to our history and values," said Todd Jackson, Westerville's chief information officer. "We are working now to imagine a future Westerville that delivers on the promise we make to our residents and businesses for exceptional public services."

The city of Westerville, Otterbein University, the Westerville City School District, the Westerville Public Library, the Westerville Area Chamber of Commerce and business-community stakeholders collaborated on the application for inclusion on the international list, according to a news release.

A profile of Westerville on the ICF website. intelligentcommunity.org/top7, describes the city as a northeastern suburb of Columbus that is home to nearly 40,000 people.

"It takes its name from the Dutch family that founded it in the 1800s. It was a small place that eventually became known as the 'Dry Capital of the World,' based on an 1859 law that forbid the sale of alcohol in the city and the decision of the Anti-Saloon League -- which played a leading role in Prohibition -- to move its national headquarters there in 1909."

The profile notes it was only in the 1990s, when Westerville annexed land that included alcohol-selling businesses, that local prohibition began to change.

"In the more than two decades since, Westerville has made a career of embracing change," the profile states. "In 2007, the city began planning expansion of an existing government fiber network to support smart-grid applications.

"The planning process revealed a lack of affordable choices for broadband and data center services. That ultimately led City Council to found WeConnect: an underground fiber network connected to a community-owned data center and delivering 100 Gbps connectivity to municipal service providers, businesses, schools, the local university and research institutes."

"It's a huge honor and recognition," Bechtold said. "Just getting recognized is validating the continued success that we've had working together with our community partners and our business community to have that success is the path moving forward."

Westerville was also recognized for its commitment to innovation through such cutting-edge collaborations as The Point at Otterbein University, which houses an exclusive "FinTech" program with JPMorgan Chase & Co., according to a press release.

The Top7 designation follows the announcement last October of Westerville on ICF's list of "Smart21" communities.

The organization also named Westerville to its 2020 top five list of 30 communities ranked by sustainability.

The Intelligent Community Forum, headquartered in New York, is a global movement of 180 cities, metro regions and counties with a think tank at its heart and a mission to make everyone's "hometown" at great place, according to its website, intelligentcommunity.org.

The ICF studies and promotes the best practices of the world's Intelligent Communities as they adapt to the new demands and seize the opportunities presented by information and communications technology.

mkuhlman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekMarla