The City of Fresno has been selected to receive a $400,000 grant from the IBM Smarter Cities Challenge. The grant will provide the City with access to IBM’s top experts to work on economic development and neighborhood revitalization efforts.

Launched in 2011, the IBM Smarter Cities challenge is a three-year, 100-city, $50-million competitive grant program and represents IBM’s single-largest philanthropic initiative.

As part of the program, IBM assigns experts to each winning city to study a key issue identified by the city’s leadership. Fresno targeted its application for regional economic development and revitalization.

Part of their efforts will to build the knowledge and skills necessary to build a regional cloud for sharing “open data” and modeling tools that will be instrumental for citizen engagement.

The City will also work with IBM on a plan to deploy ultra-high speed broadband in the Downtown Corridor, which could serve as the underpinning for development of a regional agricultural technology cluster in Fresno.

“The City of Fresno is poised and ready to benefit tremendously from the expertise that IBM will provide to our ongoing efforts to deal with our economic challenges,” Mayor Ashley Swearengin said. “We are pleased to partner with IBM through the Smarter Cities Challenge to help us optimize the use of our limited resources.”

Over a three-week period, IBM will work with the City officials to analyze data and solicit the input of dozens of local agencies and community groups before providing detailed recommendations on how the City might improve its neighborhood revitalization and economic development efforts. City officials are working with IBM to schedule the team’s stay in Fresno.

Mayor Swearengin said the IBM effort will complement the ongoing work of the Strong Cities, Strong Communities initiative, a federal interagency collaboration that has been partnering with the City for more than a year to address revitalization and economic development issues. Fresno is one of six cities nationwide selected by the White House to participate in the initiative.

“There are tremendous opportunities all around us,” Mayor Swearengin said.  “With the help of IBM, the support of the Strong Cities, Strong Communities initiative, and the strong partnerships that already are in place in Fresno, we’re in a unique position to take advantage of those opportunities.”

Mayor Swearengin, in her announcement of the grant, also praised the work of the City of Fresno’s Information Services Department, which took the lead on the IBM Smarter Cities Challenge grant initiative. Carolyn Hogg, the City’s chief information officer, recently was honored by the White House as a “Champion of Change” for the department’s work on broadband issues.

Fresno is one of seven U.S. cities selected for the IBM Smarter Cities Challenge grants.  Other U.S. cities are Buffalo, New York; Burlington, Vermont; Knoxville, Tennessee; Reno, Nevada; Richmond, Virginia; and Tucson, Arizona.  A total of 31 cities worldwide were selected.

“The winners distinguished themselves among their peers by convincingly demonstrating their preparation and willingness to make the kind of improvements that will improve their residents’ quality of life and make their cities even smarter,” said Stanley S. Litow, IBM vice president of Corporate Citizenship & Corporate Affairs and president of IBM’s Foundation.  “We consider it a privilege to share with these cities the talent and expertise of our most gifted employees, who are the envy of the industry.  They have premier skills in a range of disciplines – all useful for helping build smarter cities and a smarter planet.”