— Racine’s county executive and mayor presented differing perspectives on how to pursue a smart city at the UW-Parkside event.

Jonathan Delagrave, Racine County executive, says it’s time to “go big, or go bold” to take advantage of the “incredible, incredible opportunity in front of us.”

He added: “Start eating the apple maybe in two bites, rather than smaller bites.”

In contrast, Racine Mayor Cory Mason says it’s best to pick just a few areas of improvement, listing challenges like transportation, workforce and water.

“I think if we try to do all of them all at once, we might find ourselves in a position where we’re not succeeding at as many of them as we would like,” he said. “Focus on two or three things and do them well.”

Mason also noted that existing infrastructure like light poles and fiber optic cable lend themselves to smart city design, even though they weren’t originally intended for that purpose.

“One thing to focus on is we’re not starting from zero in this process, believe it or not… some of this stuff already exists, so even though the concept might be new, give yourself a little bit of credit,” he said. “You probably have some assets in place that would allow your city or municipality or the region to build onto this model.”

— Debbie Ford, UW-Parkside Chancellor, says “we are ready to embrace the opportunities that lie ahead of us.”

“When I think about this, the first thing that comes to mind is, we are ready,” she said at the Kenosha summit.

Though she admitted she and others weren’t certain at first of what a smart city really is, she says she viewed the gathering of more than 200 interested people as “an opportunity for us to learn together and to really create through collaboration.”

As part of the event, small-group discussions were held at each table, meant to foster new ideas in the attendees, who represented universities and businesses from across Wisconsin.

This was the second in a series of UW System Wisconsin Idea Summits, created by UW System President Ray Cross. The first, focused on the dairy industry, gave rise to the Dairy Task Force 2.0, a joint effort between the UW System and the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection to study and report on the state’s dairy industry.

Dr. Joseph Kershner, provost for the Medical College of Wisconsin, spoke on the importance of simulations in training medical professionals, noting the aviation field has been benefiting from risk-free practice for decades.

He also said MCW is “not that far behind” UW-Madison in terms of research in biotech and biomedicine, with over $220 million of research expenditures a year overall.

“Partnering with many of the institutions that are in the room, we have an important engine for driving that smart technology,” he said.

Listen to audio recording from the discussion here: http://soundcloud.com/wispolitics/wisconsin-idea-smart-future-summit-education-panel