Talks for revamping the North American Free Trade Agreement took place last week. A trade agreement that is a quarter of a century old needs to catch up with today’s new platforms for global trade. Cities play a role in connecting producers of exports with enterprises that demand goods and services for resale in their countries. The great American urban centers, such as Chicago and New York, have in common an investment in communications, energy, and transportation infrastructure that provides the greatest value to trade and commerce occurring in their cities. As Americans and the rest of the globe become increasingly urbanized, urban infrastructure will have to increase its capacity to carry more digital traffic, distribute electricity from additional fuel sources, and implement multi-modal transportation options.
It appears to me, however, that the smart cities discussion has placed more emphasis on improving how local governments manage their municipalities versus improve their commerce and trade activities. Discussions have centered on better traffic management, improved public safety response, or expanded citizen-government engagement. These discussions are important because they address elevating a city’s quality of life.
But smart city initiatives shouldn’t just be about how a city government improves its operations. Smart city initiatives provide should also provide entrepreneurs with inputs necessary for producing goods and services and transporting those goods and services anywhere in the world.
My adopted home state of Florida provides an example of how initiatives to upgrade communications and energy infrastructure play a vital role in improving trade and commerce. In a recent article in Global Trade Magazine, Craig Guillot describes the Sunshine State’s fast growth and how a state known for pristine beaches and a hospitality industry led by a world-famous mouse is also becoming a hub for manufacturing.
According to the article, the expansion of the Panama Canal is generating increased opportunities for Florida’s port cities. Port Everglades, the Port of Jacksonville, and Port Canaveral have invested in deepening their shipping channels, deploying larger cranes that can offload more cargo from larger ships, and increasing the size of their ports. The investment in Florida’s port facilities will in turn facilitate the movement of goods from an emerging Central Florida manufacturing sector.
Central Florida’s I-4 corridor is benefiting from investment in transportation and manufacturing infrastructure. The Orlando area is seeing investment and expansion in the area’s rail system and international airport. Central Florida’s manufacturing sector is also getting a boost from the recently launched Bridging the Innovation Development Gap (BRIDG), a research initiative connecting the manufacturing sector and academia in developing and designing semi-conductor technology for microelectronics.
How can municipalities ensure that these trade and commerce initiatives reach full potential? During a recent webinar on smart cities hosted by the Energy Equity Alliance and the American Association of Blacks in Energy, the state of Connecticut’s Consumer Counsel Elin Katz shared an insight on cities’ roles in trade. Smart city infrastructure, especially in port cities, provides opportunities for reducing the costs of shipping, particularly in the area of shipping. EEA chairman Joe Gibbons added that a major contributing factor to global trade by smart cities is the ability of smart city utility infrastructure to help reduce costs of providing the energy needs for shipping.
As the American economy becomes increasingly integrated into the global economy, and as the private sector responds to the trade demands of this economy, a robust discussion on smart cities should include how best to leverage advanced communications and energy infrastructure.