Editor's Note: Gary Cavin (above) is speaking at The Columbus Innovation Reception on April 2nd, 2013 at the Columbus Museum of Art. 

Gary Cavin: Let's Innovate Together
By Terreece Clarke, March 27th, 2013

When the Intelligent Community Forum selects a city as a “Top7 Intelligent Community,” it is easy to find people from all sectors of the area eager to take credit. Gary Cavin, CIO and Director of the Department of Technology for the city of Columbus, is just the opposite. Cavin is more eager to spread the accolades among the leadership of the city’s community partners.

Cavin said Columbus’ continued success in innovation is the fruit of great leadership from across all segments of the city. Committed champions from public, private, not-for-profit, education and entrepreneurial sectors like Mayor Michael B. Coleman, Columbus City Council, Columbus 2020 and the CEOs of companies like Nationwide Children’s Hospital and Battelle have collaborated with the city to help set an agenda that keeps Columbus, Ohio growing and developing better ways to service the community.

Leadership from Within

Cavin is no stranger to helping organizations grow. He began his career many years ago in the Department of Development for the City of Columbus. Later, he moved on to serve as the Deputy Chief of Staff for the Mayor before becoming the Director and CIO of Technology for the City of Columbus. Cavin said his path to CIO was neither direct, nor planned, but maintained the path was necessary to gain the broad base of knowledge it takes to lead the city’s technological efforts.

“Understand, the tech does matter - it’s the engine in the car - but the business is the driver,” he said. “[CIOs] must have a mixture of business and tech knowledge and good communication skills.”

Those communication skills are put to the test as Cavin works to create, nurture and sustain vital community partnerships.

“[The Top7 selection] is very exciting,” Cavin said. “It [applying for the Intelligent Community selection] is a very involved process. The time was really spent creating partnerships and identifying great organizations to work with. That was the best part - and the longest.”

Mobility in the City

The state of the City’s innovation projects is strong. With a variety of technological successes behind him, Cavin draws on one in particular that demonstrates the collaborative atmosphere sustained by the city’s stakeholders – the My Columbus mobile application. It is one of the projects that has been the most satisfying to Cavin in his tenure as CIO.

“It’s because it was a collaborative effort,” he said. “We used students from The Ohio State University to write the initial code, leaving them with real world experience they might not have gotten before they graduated. We used a company that went through TechColumbus’ incubator to produce the final product…we produced an app, that was cost effective, with the community.”

Broad(band) Ideas

The city's next big goal embraces the idea of Broadband Economy. Cavin said the city of Columbus aims to be the most connected city in the nation. Mayor Coleman, Cavin said, has already begun the groundwork for achieving this ambitious task.

“The Mayor has allowed us to purchase quite a bit of fiber [-optic cable],” Cavin said. “About 300 miles of it… and we plan to purchase a total of 400 miles. We know for a fact the world is becoming more mobile…there are more mobile devices than there are people and when we’re looking at our younger people, [being connected] is really something they demand. We believe that this is just as important as highways, water; and as railroad used to be. It’s what is going to help us to stay competitive.”

Becoming the City for IT Pros

Staying competitive and attractive to workers is the goal of every city and Columbus is no different. Cavin said the city's big internal push is in predictive analysis to better understand and service the residents of the city. Cavin contends Columbus is almost perfectly situated to becoming the best city in the country.

Cavin is not alone in his assessment of the city's attributes. In an October 2012 interview with IT Martini entitled, Why Tech is Working in Ohio, Jeff Lusenhop, founder of Janova, discussed the reason why he chose to locate his thriving software company in Columbus instead of choosing another tech center like Silicon Valley:

"It's a nurturing environment. You have organizations like TechColumbus, TechLife, IT Martini...that help the [tech] community stay in touch and share information, contacts and resources. It's more collegial instead of competitive like other places, Lusenhop said. The West Coast is focused on getting users, social media buzz...Central Ohio is not caught up in hype. Here, people focus on building strong business-to-business relationships. They make the big businesses, the Nationwides, etc...more efficient and profitable."

Columbus has been a hotbed of technology and innovation for decades, yet it is only in the last ten years that the city has garnered significant international attention for the variety and depth of its technological assets and contributions.

We have a great combination of city, private and not-for-profit support, the cost of living is great, [Columbus] is culturally diverse - which is very important. It's all those things, Cavin said. We're number one in innovation and if we were located on the beach we'd be the best city in the nation.

When the Intelligent Community Forum selects a city as a Top7 Intelligent Community, it is easy to find people from all sectors of the area eager to take credit. Gary Cavin, CIO and Director of the Department of Technology for the city of Columbus, is just the opposite. Cavin is more eager to spread the accolades among the leadership of the city's community partners.

Cavin said Columbus' continued success in innovation is the fruit of great leadership from across all segments of the city. Committed champions from public, private, not-for-profit, education and entrepreneurial sectors like Mayor Michael B. Coleman, Columbus City Council, Columbus 2020 and the CEOs of companies like Nationwide Children's Hospital and Battelle have collaborated with the city to help set an agenda that keeps Columbus, Ohio growing and developing better ways to service the community.

Leadership from Within

Cavin is no stranger to helping organizations grow. He began his career many years ago in the Department of Development for the City of Columbus. Later, he moved on to serve as the Deputy Chief of Staff for the Mayor before becoming the Director and CIO of Technology for the City of Columbus. Cavin said his path to CIO was neither direct, nor planned, but maintained the path was necessary to gain the broad base of knowledge it takes to lead the city's technological efforts.

Understand, the tech does matter - it's the engine in the car - but the business is the driver, he said. [CIOs] must have a mixture of business and tech knowledge and good communication skills.

Those communication skills are put to the test as Cavin works to create, nurture and sustain vital community partnerships.

[The Top7 selection] is very exciting, Cavin said. It [applying for the Intelligent Community selection] is a very involved process. The time was really spent creating partnerships and identifying great organizations to work with. That was the best part - and the longest.

Mobility in the City

The state of the City's innovation projects is strong. With a variety of technological successes behind him, Cavin draws on one in particular that demonstrates the collaborative atmosphere sustained by the city's stakeholders " the My Columbus mobile application. It is one of the projects that has been the most satisfying to Cavin in his tenure as CIO.

It's because it was a collaborative effort, he said. We used students from The Ohio State University to write the initial code, leaving them with real world experience they might not have gotten before they graduated. We used a company that went through TechColumbus' incubator to produce the final product¦we produced an app, that was cost effective, with the community.

Broad(band) Ideas

The city's next big goal embraces the idea of Broadband Economy. Cavin said the city of Columbus aims to be the most connected city in the nation. Mayor Coleman, Cavin said, has already begun the groundwork for achieving this ambitious task.

The Mayor has allowed us to purchase quite a bit of fiber [-optic cable], Cavin said. About 300 miles of it and we plan to purchase a total of 400 miles. We know for a fact the world is becoming more mobile¦there are more mobile devices than there are people and when we're looking at our younger people, [being connected] is really something they demand. We believe that this is just as important as highways, water; and as railroad used to be. It's what is going to help us to stay competitive.

Becoming the City for IT Pros

Staying competitive and attractive to workers is the goal of every city and Columbus is no different. Cavin said the city's big internal push is in predictive analysis to better understand and service the residents of the city. Cavin contends Columbus is almost perfectly situated to becoming the best city in the country.

Cavin is not alone in his assessment of the city's attributes. In an October 2012 interview with IT Martini entitled, Why Tech is Working in Ohio, Jeff Lusenhop, founder of Janova, discussed the reason why he chose to locate his thriving software company in Columbus instead of choosing another tech center like Silicon Valley:

"It's a nurturing environment. You have organizations like TechColumbusTechLifeIT Martini...that help the [tech] community stay in touch and share information, contacts and resources. It's more collegial instead of competitive like other places, Lusenhop said. The West Coast is focused on getting users, social media buzz...Central Ohio is not caught up in hype. Here, people focus on building strong business-to-business relationships. They make the big businesses, the Nationwides, etc...more efficient and profitable."

Columbus has been a hotbed of technology and innovation for decades, yet it is only in the last ten years that the city has garnered significant international attention for the variety and depth of its technological assets and contributions.

"We have a great combination of city, private and not-for-profit support, the cost of living is great, [Columbus] is culturally diverse - which is very important. It's all those things," Cavin said. "We're number one in innovation and if we were located on the beach we'd be the best city in the nation."