June 4, 2013 By Wayne Hanson
Chances are pretty good that you've never heard of Dublin, Ohio's Deputy City Manager and Director of Economic Development Dana L. McDaniel. After all, he has worked behind the scenes for 25 years in Dublin city government, a town of some 42,000 people. But McDaniel this week will receive a lifetime achievement award from the New-York based Intelligent Community Forum (ICF) for "quietly and tirelessly dedicating his career to improving his community in ways that exemplify the global Intelligent Community movement."
McDaniel got an early introduction to public service. His mother was a community volunteer and McDaniel jokes that he and his brothers were "volun-told" to help out. "So when you do that you get a sense of commitment," he said. Later, he majored in public administration at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, and went on to graduate studies at the John Glenn School of Public Affairs at The Ohio State University. McDaniel balanced his 25-year career with the City of Dublin with a 32-year career in the Ohio Army National Guard. His wife has had a long career in state government in nearby Columbus, and his two brothers are retired military. "So we have a family tradition in public service."
Dr. Philip A. Russo, Jr., director of Miami University's Center for Public Management and Regional Affairs remembers McDaniel very well as one of those "special students whose interest in studying public administration was nicely intertwined with his commitment to values and ideals of public service." Russo said that McDaniel has been selected to serve on the advisory board of Miami's new initiative -- Ohio Public Leaders: Inside State and Local Government.
"Those of us that taught him, worked with him, and know him appreciate that his career achievements are bound tightly to his core values to positively influence the lives ... of others," Russo said.
McDaniel started out in the Dublin City Manager's Office, with responsibilities in recreation, public works and utilities. In that role, he began to develop some innovative collaborations with private and non-profit organizations. With telecommunications deregulation in the mid-1990s, the city realized that competing companies would want access. The city collaborated with a company to build a conduit system on city rights of way, in exchange for one conduit throughout the system. The city then began to populate the conduit with fiber for institutional use. And it paid off handsomely. "Hooking up our building and running our fiber system among city buildings gives us about $400,000 a year in cost avoidance," McDaniel said.
The fiber network -- DubLink -- wasn't originally built with economic development in mind, said McDaniel, but with the deployment, its potential soon became apparent. "Broadband is as important as roads, electricity and gas," he said. "It set us up as a global community, a small community that can operate on a global scale.
"We have about 25 miles of fiberoptics in our commercial area of our city -- fiber to the curb," he said. "And we have another 100 miles of fiber that loops throughout our region. And that makes fiber much more robust, it passes by more points of presence, data centers and so forth." DubLink connects to the Ohio Supercomputer Center, the Ohio Academic Research Network, the Battelle not-for-profit research institute, the Ohio Health System, CareWorks, the Online Computer Library Center, IGS Energy, Wendy's International, Cardinal Health and more. "We also lease fiber to other folks on a monthly basis," McDaniel added.
Next, the city deployed a 24-square mile Wi-Fi network that backhauls over the fiber, for use primarily by city field crews, with access for area events such as the Irish Festival and the Jack Nicklaus Golf Tournament. The city made the capital investments, then partnered with a private company to connect and run the network. The city owns 25 percent of the bandwidth on the back side. Along with the commercial broadband providers, the city's fiber and Wi-Fi provides "healthy competition that makes us broadband rich," said McDaniel. The Wi-Fi is primarily for the outdoors, he said, so it is available in the parks, for remote cameras, etc. Some private subscribers use it as a backup network, he said, pulling it inside with boosters.
"Every angle we've taken here is to open up collaboration," he said. "DubLink is available for industry to lease at a very competitive rate, and we've held those prices firm since it was built in the late 1990s." The city doesn't provide services, just dark fiber, so Dublin has avoided the confrontations with private providers that sometimes snarl projects in other cities. "And companies that don't want to use it, we do cooperative builds with them. We put in a trench, they can put conduit there and vice versa."
McDaniel figures Dublin has attracted more than 12,000 jobs as a direct result of taking the area's access and competition to the next level. And, to help ensure a strong economic future, Dublin also launched its own business incubator.
McDaniel -- when asked what advice he might give to other jurisdictions -- suggested taking inventory against the ICF's "Intelligent Community Indicators."
McDaniel will accept his award at ICF’s annual awards luncheon at Abigail Kirsch Stage Six at the Steiner Studios in Brooklyn, N.Y., on June 7.