Aerial view of Riverside, CA (Photo Credit: vlasta2/Flickr)
When you think of the city of Riverside, what comes to mind? A center for logistics and warehousing? Possibly. An agricultural hub? Yup. A university town? That’s right too.
Well, the city of Riverside has come out of the shadow of the larger metropolitan area of Los Angeles by becoming a capital of high-tech, workforce development, digital inclusion, arts, innovation hub, collaboration.
It’s a mouthful, but these are the reasons why the Inland Empire city was named the world’s Intelligent Community of the Year 2012 by the Intelligent Community Forum.
We first brought you this story back in June. Now the city is the focus of a new book and, in fact, the title of the book was taken directly from one of the city’s programs, “Seizing our Destiny,” by ICF.
“A lot of people never heard about Riverside before and for it to transform itself from being this kind of bedroom community a decade or more ago and being on the cusp of potentially going down the tubes to go, instead in a completely new direction and become this thriving model that everyone is looking towards,” said John Jung, co-founder of ICF as well as author of the chapter in the new book that features Riverside. “We see Riverside as a model that’s why ICF chose the city.”
Jung spent a good deal of time in the city, speaking with individuals from various sectors and was very impressed:
“The community had transformed itself by taking a hold of the issues of the day, a community that had decided it was having some difficulties and it need to focus on differentiating itself and making the community much more prosperous and they did it with a visioning program.”
Back in 2004, Riverside mayor Ron Loveridge got together with the dean of economic development at UC Riverside and decided something had to be done to boost the city’s prosperity. They created a road map with a strategy that would increase salaries of people in the area, as well as attract other types of companies to set up shop.
“They targeted, generated and attracted IT companies into the area,” said Jung. “Don’t forget it was previously known as an ag and warehousing, logistics community, a feeder for other things as opposed to generating its own wealth internally. And that kind of evolution not only showed tremendous leadership, it was very strategic and showed collaboration of a few components of the community.”
The city, through the Renaissance Project, invested $1.6 billion dollars on its infrastructure to bring high-speed broadband and try to fill in the digital divide by providing computers and tech training. Then they focused on local innovation and worked with companies to create incubators at the University.
“They were then able to attract companies to the region and other investors like Winston Global Energy to invest in solar tech and battery tech at the university,” said Jung.
Riverside also taught ICF one thing: the importance of sustainability through their program, “Seizing our Destiny.”
“We credit Riverside with teaching us a thing or two.”
It took the city nearly eight years to accomplish all of this and they’ve left behind their road map for other cities to follow.
“It’s as simple as civic leadership taking ownership of the issues and wanting to move forward in a positive way, coupled with an educational institution that has students who want to stay in the community to help it prosper, and a really good infrastructure,” added Jung.
“If you’ve got the public sector, the private sector and institutional sector, sometimes called the triple helix, working together all in the same direction, wanting to achieve success, there’s nothing holding them back.”