Across the United States, cities big and small are exploring how to reinvent themselves economically, culturally and structurally, as they adapt to the realities of the 21st century. This quest for reinvention is driven by the many challenges that cities currently face, such as outdated infrastructure, a changing economy, and new priorities for residents - all of which are prompting authorities to figure out how to ensure urban areas remain safe and accommodating, both now and in the future.
Small businesses in nearly every industry have the opportunity to contribute to the transformation of America’s cities. Vendors in construction, communications, maintenance, transportation, cultural services, education, and many other sectors will all be needed as local governments repair, replace and renew the elements that make our cities livable. From the public park to the parking meter, every aspect of urban living depends on many people working together to come up with solutions to the problems that come with having millions of people live together in a small area.
Below are just some of the areas where cities will be investing in the coming years.
Transportation and Transit
Across the United States, cities are preparing for a future of autonomous vehicles and modernized mass transit systems. Several major cities including San Francisco, Pittsburgh and Boston are currently exploring how to integrate autonomous cars and trucks into their cityscape; Las Vegas recently wrapped up a 10-day pilot phase of a driverless shuttle that, the city says, was an enormous success, both in terms of how the vehicle performed and how the public reacted to it.
In some cases, ridesharing services such as Uber may provide the most obvious entry point for cities to gradually embrace autonomous vehicles, since the companies are already testing the technology and have infrastructure in place to roll out driverless cars across the country.
Driverless cars will require local maintenance and support services, which will open up opportunities for vendors to partner with governments and companies as they work to integrate driverless vehicles into cities.
Education and Schools
Many of America’s schools are in need of critical repairs to their foundations, roofs, plumbing and more; schools in major cities are no exception. Federal, state and local governments are being called upon to invest tens of billions into schools across the country, which will require the skills of contractors to complete the work needed to restore schools’ viability. Construction, information technology, plumbing and electrical, landscaping services, and educational services will all be required as part of refurbishment projects.
Water and Sewage
After the lead-contaminated water of Flint, Michigan became a global story, many cities started checking into lead levels in their own water systems, revealing that lead contamination is a common problem in cities across America. Sewer and wastewater infrastructure is also a top priority for many municipalities, who have learned the hard way after major weather events that their aging systems are unable to handle the demands of a growing population, or the risks of a changing climate. The replacing of lead pipes and old infrastructure will require the services of expert vendors in the plumbing, construction, and engineering sectors.
The way people generate, consume and transmit energy has been undergoing a slow-motion transformation for a generation. Today, the speed of that change is accelerating. The adoption of renewable energy technologies is driving innovation in the private sector to meet the demand; in Colorado, vendors are rising to the challenge. Private vendors can expect that they will have a role in the transformation of the energy sector, by providing expertise, planning and support services, equipment or even sourcing uniforms and products to support renewable projects.
Cities today are reexamining car-centric design principles with an eye to making cities more pedestrian-friendly. This includes widening sidewalks, lowering speed limits, investing in green spaces and beautification projects, and re-purposing old infrastructure to accommodate foot traffic and small businesses. These investments require vendors in construction, landscaping, urban planning, cultural services and other sectors to contribute to projects over long periods of time.
Today’s technology offers the ability to efficiently and effectively monitor and assess infrastructure problems wherever they occur. For cities that want to attract startups and new residents but can’t convince major telecom companies to provide services, municipal broadband projects are becoming more popular. For vendors in the IT and telecommunications sectors, these areas of development have the potential to offer many opportunities.
Vendors in software development may already be aware that all levels of government have developed mobile applications to engage directly with their constituents. Open data initiatives are also opening the doors of government to average citizens, inspiring public participation in communities and engaging vendors in IT to contribute to the modernization of government. Vendors in software development, IT, communications, marketing and public relations can all contribute to this growing sector.
Nathan Munn | BidNet.com