How does Portage, a small, lively city of just under 50,000 residents in Southwest Michigan improve quality of life, attract visitors, and engage its community - making it a natural place to move? By having the desire to be first to test new technologies and follow through on making sure they are successfully implemented and used by the public.
City Manager Larry Shaffer and his team have been on a tear over the past two years, working tirelessly to bring innovation to life to benefit residents. Most recently, the City of Portage partnered with Soofa to be the first city in Michigan to install a Soofa Bench; we sat down with City Manager Larry Shaffer and Chief Information Officer Devin Mackinder to learn more about some of the latest City innovations.
These include providing public WiFi, deploying PortageAlert, a mass notification system, and a citizen reporting tool powered by SeeClickFix called ReportIt!. The main themes consistent among them is clearly providing a public benefit and continuously improving the City relationship with its residents.
PortageAlert Gives City Leaders a Reliable and Important Communication Channel
PortageAlert was deployed so the City can efficiently communicate emergency and non-emergency community announcements in a targeted fashion. . Through PortageAlert the City can send messages to citizens via phone, text, email.. These messages range from severe weather alerts to leaf pickup dates or hydrant flushing schedules. We like this because it’s a great way for the City to communicate in real time, which not only provides pragmatic benefits to residents that make life easier, but also helps strengthen transparency and build the relationship between the local government and the community.
MI.Portage Provides Portage Residents an Easy Way to be Engaged
Portage has an app called MI.Portage which serves as a single location for residents to access many types of information. This includes things like being able to browse the latest city news and events, locate parks and park amenities via the park locator, view the K-Metro Transit schedule, and use the Report It! Citizen request for action platform. Report It! is powered by SeeClickFix and gives residents the power to report numerous community issues such as potholes, inoperable traffic lights, and 29 others. We like it because it’s a great way to both engage the community and show progress by following through and taking care of their requests. The app notifies citizens when an action has been taken on their request, including pertinent information like the time and date of each action taken. In 2015 Portage city leaders received over 500 ReportIt! requests.
Robust and Reliable Public WiFi Benefits Citizen Experience in Parks
In Celery Flats, the same park that is home to the city of Portage Soofa Bench and Soofa Core, is a robust public WiFi network. Deployed earlier this year, the WiFi network has now registered over 2,400 unique users. As City Manager Larry Shaffer explained, "access to the Internet is absolutely an amenity people are looking for. Thousands and thousands of people use Celery Flats. We are maximizing community enjoyment and usage of our facilities."
Soofa Installation Attracts More People to Celery Flats
Shaffer and Mackinder see technology as a great tool to both improve the public’s experience in the park and even attract more people to come in the first place.
With Portage being the first city in the state to partner with Soofa, they will be first in line for future product upgrades, new products, and will have a role in sharing their thoughts on what type of technology can enhance day to day life in the City and continue to make it natural place to move.