SUMMERSIDE – “I’m a dreamer. I will always be a dreamer and you know what? Dreams do come true.”
That was the message offered by Fredericton, New Brunswick Mayor and president of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, Brad Woodside to the 34th annual Greater Summerside Chamber of Commerce /Summerside Rotary luncheon at the Silver Fox Curling and Yacht Club, Wednesday.
“I don’t want somebody coming up to me and say we can’t do that,” Woodside said. “I’ll show you how you can do it. It doesn’t happen overnight but if you believe in your community and you get everybody together believing in the message, there isn’t anything that you can’t accomplish.”
He said Fredericton was once an ultra conservative place, and the mayor wanted to change that.
“A number of years ago we undertook an economic development strategy,” Woodside said. “We got all of the community together, got all of the stakeholders, the chamber of commerce, the business organizations, we sat down and we asked ourselves ‘What are our strengths in this community and what are our weaknesses in this community?’”
He said one thing the city didn’t want was to be all things to all people.
“We wanted to focus and we wanted to select what is best for the community and the easiest to accomplish in our goals and objectives,” the mayor said.
Civic officials decided to become a “smart” city.
“The reason we decided to be a smart city is because a lot of that infrastructure was in place with the University of New Brunswick being the first university in Canada to offer a degree in computer science,” Woodside said. “And there were some small businesses that had left the university in the program and started to go public with their businesses. We thought it only made sense to be a smart community – talk about information technology.”
The city started looking at Internet rates in Fredericton.
“We were not competitive,” Woodside said. “It’s difficult for a mayor to go out and promote and try and bring businesses to town when the costs are so much higher than they are in other places in the country
The city decided to form its own company, but not to compete with existing Internet suppliers.
“I made it abundantly clear to those at Rogers and Bell at the time, we don’t want your customers, that’s not what we’re about,” he said. “We don’t want any residential component here. What I want is a rate that’s going to attract businesses.”
The city started selling the product to a very limited number of customers, one of them was the University of New Brunswick.
“We serviced our customers and had enough room left over to offer free high speed Wi-Fi to everyone in the city, becoming the first city in Canada to offer free Wi-Fi,” Woodside said. “Last year, I announced that we would be reducing our Internet rates by 75 per cent. Right now, Fredericton is the best Internet value in the entire country, one of the best in North America.
“Fredericton has been nominated twice as a top seven intelligent city in the world,” he said. “We’ve been recognized nationally and internationally. When we started we were a university and a government town and that was it.”
Along with the smart city accomplishment, Fredericton has become the home to several musical concerts and has frown in cultural diversity.