Group impressed by Metropolitan Solutions tourWritten by Sarah Ottney | Managing Editor | firstname.lastname@example.org
HANNOVER, GERMANY — Between business meetings at the Hannover Messe on April 12, Toledo Mayor Mike Bell toured Metropolitan Solutions, an exhibit showcasing advances in urban planning and development and innovations in sustainable “green” city living.
The exhibit, which covered an entire hall, featured displays of electric cars, solar and wind-powered motorized bike racks, LED lighting, self-sufficient power grids, lighweight trams and more.
The topic interested Bell because of his involvement with groups like Future of Toledo and the Green Town conference Toledo hosted last year.
“There were some very interesting solutions there that could possibly be utilized inside the City of Toledo,” Bell said. “I was particularly interested in the electric car concept. From the way things are being aligned from the standpoint of fuel efficiency and the ecosystem, at some point and time we’re probably going get there, so how do we, once again, get in front of this as compared to behind it? So I thought that was sharp.”
Bell said he enjoyed his first ride in an electric car.
“That thing moved quick enough it pushed you back in the seat,” Bell said. “It can do about 90 mph. I found it to be very impressive. I think it keeps in step with what we were doing with greener communities and puts us right in step with some of the goals we have inside our city.”
What many people don’t understand is that “green” concepts don’t just look pretty and are good for the environment — they are also help drive economic development, said Paul Syring, deputy mayor for external affairs and economic development.
“That’s what people don’t understand,” Syring said. “Visually, you’re intrigued by what you see, but there’s a whole economic side, the bean counter side of it that’s actually driving it.”
The group met with and saw displays from companies, including Siemens, Deutsche Bank, Schneider Electric and Krone.
“I found it impressive the crystal building Siemens had and the concept that all they needed was electric and the rest of the building took care of itself from the standpoint of heat and cooling,” Bell said. “They were using glass to do it and how we could somehow maybe connect that with Libbey Glass to where it would be a benefit to our city.”
City Finance Director Patrick McLean said he found the information about advances in LED lighting interesting.
“We’ve converted a lot of our lights already to LED and that’s saving us money, but there were things [in the exhibit] that show with the right technology you can save 90 percent more potentially on the cost of electricity even from traditional LEDs,” McLean said. “So going from where we were to LEDs, which are a fraction of the cost, and then knocking it down more.”
The mayor said he brought back information from Krone to give to the city’s water department to research.
The displays were inspiring, but also served to show how much Toledo needs to catch up with other places in the world, Syring said.
“For those who gave Green Town a lukewarm reception [last year in Toledo], they were off because it has already arrived in most of the rest of the [first] world,” Syring said. “We are behind the curve. Toledo is definitely behind the curve, and that’s what the mayor is trying to change.”
McLean said the fact the exhibit was offered illustrates the trend of more people moving into cities instead of out of cities. A display at the exhibit said 82 percent of the U.S. population now lives in urban areas.
“Cities are becoming destinations of choice again,” McLean said. “Where 30 years ago people were looking to move to suburbs, now all over the country and in fact all over the world people are looking to find ways to move downtown,” McLean said. “That’s an opportunity for us. We’re seeing a little bit of that in our downtown now and I think we have the potential to see a lot more.”
City Public Information Officer Jen Sorgenfrei was also impressed.
“It’s beneficial at some point for people to see what the rest of the world is doing that we have the potential to achieve at some point, but we haven’t tapped into it yet,” Sorgenfrei said.