Task force looking for feedback on Sarnia’s future

Louis Pin – The Sarnia Observer, Jan. 25, 2019

Sarnia and Lambton County residents are needed to help build a plan for the future of the community, one focused on three core tenants: economy, culture, and society.

It might sound vague, but brainstorming work by the Intelligent Sarnia-Lambton Taskforce has helped Sarnia-Lambton become a mainstay on Intelligent Community Forum’s “Top 21 Intelligent Communities” list. Conversely, the last four years have been bittersweet as Sarnia-Lambton has been shut out of the whittled-down Top7 Intelligent Communities list.

Late Thursday, the task force announced it would hold a series of private and public forums to push their ongoing applications to the next level.

“When we didn’t make Top7 for the second, third time in a row, we started to ask ourselves: what are we trying to do?” Chris Gould, chair of the task force, said. “It’s not about the recognition. It’s about doing the right thing for Sarnia and the County of Lambton.”

People from “all walks of life” are invited to the first two forums, Feb. 5 at the Royal Canadian Legion in Wyoming and Feb. 7 at the Western Sarnia-Lambton Research Park, near Lambton College. A third event, also at the Research Park, will be held Feb. 13 for community leaders and municipal staff as well as leaders from indigenous nations in the Sarnia-Lambton area.

Hosting two of the three forums near Lambton College is fitting. In early January the college announced it would lean into applied IT research with a new Information Technology & Communication Research Centre, later doubling down on that announcement with a strategic plan focused on the future, and specifically, future technology.

The college is a core part of Sarnia-Lambton’s annual application, Gould said, and its recent success has helped thrust the area into the spotlight.

“At the heart of every intelligent community is a major academic institution,” Gould said. “And almost every one has a university at its core . . . but the landscape of education is changing. In today’s world, colleges are becoming more and more leaders in education.”

Two people from the college — Andrea Hands, research development and outreach manager, and Medhi Sheikhzadeh, dean of applied research and innovation — sit on the 12-person task force. Other task force members are from Sarnia, Lambton County, Western Research Park, and a number of other smaller community groups and businesses.

One of more than 400 communities to apply last year, Sarnia-Lambton could be named a Top7 community at the Intelligent Community Forum’s annual winter conference Feb. 11, in Quebec City. Applications were graded on their economic, cultural, and social competitiveness.

Canada is usually well-represented on the Top21 list, this year by Abbotsford, Greater Victoria, Sarnia-Lambton, and Winnipeg. Those names are only picked from applications, not from all cities worldwide.

The goal is to become a Top7 Intelligent Community for the first time, Gould said. The task force could hold another public event if they are named at the February forum.

“We’ll probably do an outreach event if we’re successful,” Gould said. “It’s a pretty incredible feat (to be in the conversation). We’re honoured.”

lpin@postmedia.com

If You Go (Lambton County)

What: Strategic Planning Session
Place: Royal Canadian Legion, Wyoming
When: Feb. 5
Time: 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Cost: Free

If You Go (Sarnia)

What: Strategic Planning Session
Place: Western Sarnia-Lambton Research Park
When: Feb. 7
Time: 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Cost: Free

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