In 2012 IBM selected Reno in Nevada, USA, as one of 33 cities to receive a Smarter Cities Challenge®grant as part of IBM’s citizenship efforts to build a Smarter Planet.™ The City of Reno is honored to be selected as one of only 100 recipients of IBM’s prestigious Smarter Cities grant for 2013.

The grant, which provides professional consulting and services, is valued at $400,000, and will allow Reno to create sophisticated analytics software which will provide citizens and developers complete access to information on properties within the city.

Reno is partnering with the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, the University of Nevada, Reno, the Nevada for Renewable Energy Commercialization, the Desert Research Institute, and EDAWN on this project to ensure that the resulting system provides effective, accurate, and useful information for our local community.

IBM Recommendations for Smarter Region

Change the Mindset
We need to change our thinking to understand that from a national perspective, our region is perceived as very small and from an international perspective, invisible. The ONLY way we will be able to successfully compete with other regions is if we work collaboratively. This translates into more intergovernmental and interagency cooperation. When it comes to economic development, elected officials have to shift from territoriality to regionalism.
IBM’s next step: Develop an integrated economic development strategy
One Strong Voice
For too long, each entity in our region has been attempting economic development independently. This has led to weak and fragmented results. Building on Recommendation #1, we need to designate one entity as our regional economic development face to the outside world and then rally around it. We also need to adopt an outside-in perspective, understanding what investors and major industries look for when selecting a region.
IBM’s next step: Designate EDAWN as the region’s One Strong Voice
Harness the Data
We should view the vast array of publicly collected data as a resource, not just a massive inventory. Big Data analytics can help us to leverage our local information in new ways, ways that can facilitate economic development. Building a system-of-systems data utility on a geo-spatial platform will allow different users – everyone from elected officials to commercial developers to private citizens – to quickly extract information that can drive business decisions and inform data-driven public policies.
IBM’s next step: Develop a regional system-of-systems geo-spatial analytics utility to support economic development
Brand the Vision, Not the Slogan
Our region has had many slogans throughout the last century. All of them were based on attracting tourists, not industries. Industries are not drawn to locations based on catchy slogans; they evaluate locations based on key criteria ranging from infrastructure assets and costs to access to a qualified workforce. Our region needs to develop a concept around an economic development identity – a “vision” of what we want our region to be. Each entity can maintain its own brand, such as Biggest Little City for Reno, but collectively we need to define a macro-brand.
IBM’s next step: Build a common regional macro-brand for the outside world while maintaining individuality in micro-brands for each jurisdiction
Invest in Your People
This was the recommendation IBM considered the most controversial.

Our region MUST align education in the Washoe County School District, the University of Nevada and TMCC with the regional economic development strategy. This means addressing funding issues for K-12 and higher education and linking them to performance. We cannot expect systems that we are starving to perform at increased capacity. IBM also recommended that we leverage DRI’s reputation as a world-class R&D institution and improve our outside-in perception of K-12 educational attainment by quoting Washoe County statistics separately from the State.
IBM’s next step: Focus on improving the state’s image and assets for attracting a creative class and high-tech workforce

Smarter Region FAQs

What is Smarter Region?
Smarter Region is a new initiative aimed at strengthening our region’s economy by attracting industries and creating jobs. Smarter Region calls for a new way of thinking about how our region undertakes economic development – how we present ourselves to the outside world, how we recognize education’s role in our economy, how we compete with other regions of the country, and how we respond to corporations that express an interest in relocating here.
What is the ‘region’ in Smarter Region?
‘Region’ is the metropolitan areas of Reno and Sparks, and the I-80 Corridor between the California stateline and TRIC in Storey County– essentially the service area that falls within the boundaries of the Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada (EDAWN).
What is the goal for Smarter Region?
To improve our local economy. A healthy, growing economy is the bedrock for our region’s success. It supports services for residents, education for students, and revenues that fund infrastructure. We know from experience what the alternative looks like: our over-reliance on only a handful of industries contributed to Nevada being one of the hardest hit states in the Union in the Great Recession. Our economic future depends on increasing and diversifying our industrial base – on attracting new industries, and retaining and expanding existing ones.
Who is part of Smarter Region?
How did this initiative come about?
Smarter Region is the upshot of an IBM Smarter Cities Challenge grant that the City of Reno received in 2013. Smarter Cities Challenge was a three-year global project in which IBM provided their top business consultants to help 100 cities address critical issues they were facing. Reno identified the need to improve economic development as our critical issue and asked IBM if it was possible to “mine” the public data we collect in a way that would facilitate industrial growth. IBM told us it could be done but also advised us that merely activating data wouldn’t be enough to increase our industrial base – we needed to position ourselves more competitively compared to other up-and-coming areas, e.g. Phoenix, Salt Lake City. The IBMers gave us five recommendations to achieve that goal, provided below. View the Final Report.
Has any progress been made?
Yes, besides growing from one entity to 11, we have been working to implement the five recommendations. We formed the first coalition in Northern Nevada’s history to encompass local government, K-12 and higher education. All 11 entities have all agreed to rally around EDAWN as the region’s one economic development voice to the outside world, to work on developing a new regional economic development identity, and to focus on increasing support for education and workforce development. Our first Summit meeting was convened on April 24, 2014 and we are planning the next one for October 15, 2014 at Joe Crowley Student Union at the University.