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Giving Back By Christopher Durso


Take Away


A Sustainable Brew


The IBM Smarter Cities Challenge grant recently awarded to Milwaukee is another sign of its ongoing evolution—and a testament to the fact that every meetings destination is also a living city.


WhenBrent Foerster,vice president of salesand marketing for VISIT Milwaukee, talks up Brew City, he’s very aware of its reputation as, well, Brew City.“Milwaukee is often the last [destina- tion] to be thought of as a green city, or as a city with a lot of environmentally friendly initia- tives,” Foerster said.“We are often thought of, in addition to our heritage as a brewery city, as a manufacturing city.” In fact, Foerster said,Milwaukee is “exactly the


opposite of that”—a 21st-century destination with a “beautiful, naturally kept waterfront” on Lake Michigan, whose presence has spurred the city to reinvent itself as a bastion of water technol- ogy and water science, home to more than 120 companies working in that arena, along with the University ofWisconsin–Milwaukee’s Great Lakes WATER Institute. Two years ago, Mil-


grant will go to SweetWater Organics, an urban- farming project that produces fish and vegetables in a reclaimed warehouse in Milwaukee’s Bay View neighborhood. Sweet Water is the first commercial test of a sustainable “aquaculture” system developed by Growing Power, a nonprof- it organization — also based in Milwaukee — that’s dedicated to “helping to provide equal access to healthy, high-quality, safe, and affordable food for people in all communities.” “The key is that they’re doing it in an urban


environment,” Foerster said. “Certainly organic farming is popular and doing well, but often it’s done out in the country.…A lot of these urban environments are getting better, fresher foods that they might not normally get. Those are some of the areas that need it the most.Andthe flip side of it is, you’re creating jobs and you’re taking what


The IBM Smarter Cities Challenge awarded grants to 22 cities.


waukeewas designated a UnitedNations Global Compact City—oneof only 13 in the world, and the second in the United States—because of its status as a hub of water research. And in March, the city received another acco-


lade: a grant fromthe IBMSmarter Cities Chal- lenge, which is aimed at addressing “the wide range of financial and infrastructure challenges fac- ing cities today.” Twenty-two cities around the world were in IBM’s inaugural class, nine of them in North America. (See Take Away, at right.) Milwaukee’s grant in particular, which is


worth about $400,000 in IBM technology and services, is a reminder that meetings destinations are living cities, and that the things they do to improve the quality of life for their citizens also have a tangible effect on the events they host. The


was in this case a rundown, vacant warehouse and turning it back into a useful business.” Growing Power and SweetWater both supply


food to area restaurants, grocery stores, and cater- ers—meaning thatmeetings that use those venues and service providers will be guaranteed fresh, locally sourced menus. Beyond that, the two organizations represent what Foerster hopes is the beginning of a new specialty for Milwaukee. The city is already a natural choice for water-related meetings, with a variety of institutions and initia- tives that can offer speakers, tours, and case stud- ies. Foerster said:“We really hope…wecandothe same related to the environment and the growing of food and [making] better use of our resources. …This grant fromIBMis just one more thingwe have in our holster to showthatwe’re not just this old industrial city in the Midwest.” 


ON_THE_WEB: For more information about the IBM Smarter Cities Challenge, visit https://smartercitieschallenge.org. To learn more about Sweet Water Organics, visit www.sweetwater-organic.com.


36 pcma convene May 2011 ILLUSTRATION BY ROBERT HANSON


‘Vibrant and Livable’ The IBM Smarter Cities Challenge will award $50 million in grants to 100 cities across the world over the next three years —all of them chosen because they are in some way working “to become more vibrant and livable places for their citizens.” In March, IBM announced the first 22 recipients:  Antofagasta, Chile  Boulder, U.S.  Bucharest, Romania  Chiang Mai, Thailand  Delhi, India  Edmonton, Canada  Eindhoven, Netherlands


 Glasgow, U.K.  Guadalajara, Mexico  Helsinki, Finland  Jakarta, Indonesia  Milwaukee, U.S.  New Orleans, U.S.  Newark, U.S.  Nice, France  Philadelphia, U.S.  Providence, U.S.  Sapporo, Japan  St. Louis, U.S.  Syracuse, U.S.  Townsville, Australia  Tshwane/Pretoria, South Africa


 Christopher Durso is executive editor of Convene.


Giving Back is sponsored by Fairmont Hotels & Resorts, www.fairmont.com.


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