Martin O’Malley: MetroLab Welcomes the City of Raleigh & NC State

MARTIN O’MALLEY - Metrolab Senior FellowEarlier this week, I participated in the Triangle Smart Cities Summit, where we welcomed North Carolina State University and the City of Raleigh to MetroLab Network. The event, hosted by NC State, gathered leaders from the Research Triangle Region interested in urban technology and innovation. For decades, the Research Triangle Region has been defined by strong partnerships between cities, university, and industry. Now, the universities in the region are setting their focus on urban challenges.

NC State will partner on Raleigh on a number of exciting new projects. One will develop tools for planners and infrastructure developers dealing with emerging challenges associated with climate change, including extreme precipitation and flooding. Another will automate pavement condition mapping, which will enable better management of local infrastructure. A third will use a small computer system and USB temperature sensor to create an intelligent and efficient climate control system that will link the central HVAC system to room occupancy. These projects are the result of processes between the city and the university to match the research and development capability to local government needs. These types of processes are critical for cities and universities to effectively partner.

Chancellor Randy Woodson, NC State and Mayor Nancy McFarlane, City of Raleigh. Courtesy of Becky Kirkland.

Chancellor Randy Woodson, NC State and Mayor Nancy McFarlane, City of Raleigh. Courtesy of Becky Kirkland.

Coming out of the event, I wanted to share a few thoughts that were inspired by the work underway in the Research Triangle Region.

    • THINK GLOBALLY…[plan regionally]…ACT LOCALLY. I’ve added an interlude to the popular mantra used in issues related to planning, environment, and business. What do I mean? The Research Triangle Region consists of 4 of the 15 (and 3 of the 7) most populous municipalities in the state, all connected in one metropolitan region. As a former Mayor and Governor, I know the importance of working across jurisdictional boundaries when getting things done. The governments, universities, and leaders in the Research Triangle Region have woven communication and collaboration into their daily routine. I had the pleasure of hearing those stories first hand, while moderating a panel with Mayor Nancy McFarlane (Raleigh), City Manager Tom Bonfield (Durham), Council Member Lori Bush (Cary), and Mayor Pam Hemminger (Chapel Hill).
    • Visionary Leadership and Urban Growth. The region’s population has grown nearly 5x since 1960 (compared to 1.8x in the U.S. generally). And over the next 25 years, the Raleigh metro area is expected to grow 72%. What’s driving this growth? Access to education, a thriving tech industry, and affordable housing. The Triangle Smart Cities Summit was in the library named for Governor Jim Hunt. Before I was sworn in as Governor of Maryland, I went down to NC to visit with Governor Hunt and to learn the tricks of the trade. Governor Hunt was a visionary who saw tremendous potential for the Raleigh region – he served four terms in office and deserves much of credit for the vibrancy of the region today.
    • Measuring Tiny Ripples of Hope. The event happened to be on the 49th anniversary of Robert Kennedy’s assassination. In a famous speech in South Africa exactly two years before his death, RFK challenged apartheid and delivered perhaps his most famous line:

“It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped each time a man stands up for an ideal or acts to improve the lot of others or strikes out against injustice. He sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest wall of oppression and resistance.”

In today’s world, data reigns. We are reimagining our cities to be smarter, safer, more sustainable, and more just. We are creating a world where our numberless acts can now be counted and where tiny ripples can be measured. Our ability to drive change is more powerful and more accessible that it’s ever been. It’s up to us to bring the courage and belief.