Economic development

Broadband Properties: Fiber and economic development

Submitted by acohill on Fri, 05/01/2009 - 10:18

I am back from three days at the Broadband Properties annual conference. As more communities make investments in broadband infrastructure, we are beginning to get some interesting data back on the economic impact.

In Anson, Indiana, a developer is putting duct and fiber to 1790 homes and 9 million square feet of commercial and retail space--all part of a master planned community. The investment has brought an Amazon distribution center and 1200 jobs to the community.

In Orlando, Florida, the Lake Nona planned community is building one of the nation's largest set of medical facilities, with more than 5 million square feet of specialty clinics, hospitals, and medical facilities. One million square feet of retail is planned, and 5400 housing units are being built. There will be fiber to every single premise.

In the rural Hill Country near Austin, Texas, the local telephone coop is building fiber to the home, and says that the initiative has retained 150 jobs and added 200 new jobs. The coop works closely with local economic developers, who are pushing hard to get the right telecom infrastructure to be able to meet any business need.

Economic developers in other parts of the country need to be asking: "How do our regions compare with these kinds of projects? How will we convince companies to come to our region when these other communities have world class telecom infrastructure?"

Rural broadband is creating job opportunities

Submitted by acohill on Fri, 04/24/2009 - 12:49

From Beaumont, Texas, an interesting article with some good anecdotal data about newly emerging job opportunities where high performance, affordable broadband is available in rural areas. And where it is not, people are actually renting commercial office space to do jobs that could be done from home--a very sad state of affairs. Nationwide, millions of new jobs could open up in rural communities if the right kind of affordable broadband is available.

The Library of the Future

Submitted by acohill on Fri, 04/17/2009 - 11:11

Libraries have a bright future, particularly in small and medium–sized communities. As the Knowledge Economy continues to change the way business is conducted, both locally and globally, libraries can play an essential economic development role as well as enhance community and civic life. Indeed, by changing and adapting their role and mission slightly, libraries could enter a “Golden Age,” where the venerable institution plays a more central role in the community, with a commensurate increase in funding.

The attached handout describes how libraries can play a central role in the economic renewal of communities--including entrepreneurial development, small business growth, job training, and the arts.

Renting supercomputers to increase economic development

Submitted by acohill on Tue, 04/14/2009 - 08:27

As far back as 2004 I wrote about the potential to use supercomputers as an economic development tool. A few universities in the U.S. have made supercomputer time available as a fee, and New Mexico is probably farthest along, with an ambitious and visionary statewide project to make supercomputing capacity available throughout the state. Meanwhile, a firm in India is commercializing supercomputer access. As regional and municipal broadband projects like nDanville, The Wired Road, and the Eastern Shore of Virginia Broadband project bring high performance fiber to most businesses, it becomes relatively straightforward to put a supercomputer on the network and offer it as a service for hire by the hour or by the job. A region with a fiber network and supercomputer services would have a substantial economic development advantage.

Cluster-based economic development

Submitted by acohill on Wed, 03/11/2009 - 09:15

This story about how some laid off sign manufacturing workers used technology like Facebook to help each other cope with job loss and job seeking has an interesting nugget in the middle of the story.

The laid off workers started working with local economic developers to get an intense focus on attracting new companies in the sign-making business as well as helping existing companies in the area find new business (and then hire some of the laid off workers). The strategy was very successful, and provides a useful illustration of the importance of identifying local business assets and promoting them as part of an overall economic strategy that is more than just industrial recruitment. Helping existing businesses grow is the quickest and easiest way to create jobs--just look at the data. Most new jobs are created by businesses already in place in your community, and not by relocating businesses.

Broadband on Main Street

Submitted by acohill on Fri, 02/20/2009 - 16:42

Broadband investments should be part of a larger set of community and economic development strategies. This handout describes what is needed to bring Main Street back to life, with a particular focus on attracting a broader mix of professional businesses, entrepreneurial start ups, and high tech firms.

Rural Wyoming business creates 700 home-based jobs with fiber

Submitted by acohill on Tue, 02/17/2009 - 10:27

Via Broadband_Report's Twitter feed, here is an NPR story that shows the impact fiber can have in rural areas. An entrepreneurial start up business in tiny Ten Sleep, Wyoming (pop. 350) is on track to employ 700 home-based workers by the end of this year. The business? Teaching English to Koreans. Oh, and the 15,000 students are in Korea.

Why does this work? Ten Sleep has fiber, which enables inexpensive hosting of the live two-way video connections needed to support the individual student-teacher sessions.

How about your rural community? Would 700 new jobs help the local economy? And these are green jobs--no commuting, no use of fossil fuels to get to work. These folks pour a cup of coffee and walk to work--in the next room.

Where to find the next new business

Submitted by acohill on Tue, 01/13/2009 - 14:20

Smart economic developers should start advertising immediately....in California. Businesses, engineers, scientists, and other business professionals are packing up and leaving the state. Many of them will be looking for the good quality of life in small towns and fiber to the home, so they can work from home and/or run their newly relocated business from home. And fiber in your local businesses parks will help attract the bigger firms moving from California.

New Mexico's Spaceport signs 20 year lease with Virgin Galactic

Submitted by acohill on Fri, 01/02/2009 - 09:47

New Mexico's rise to dominance of the space industry in the U.S. may become the fodder of economic development case studies for decades. The State of New Mexico just announced that it has signed a twenty year lease of facilities at Spaceport America with Virgin Galactic. Virgin Galactic says it intends to locate its world headquarters at the facility, bringing with it jobs and tourism.

New Mexico started down this path years ago, when the whole idea of spaceports seemed a bit kooky. But it has been a textbook example of setting a bold vision, funding it properly, and sticking with it until results begin to pay off. Many communities and regions have great ideas, but fail in execution by not funding them properly and/or not staying with them long enough to see the impact.

Virginia is another state with big plans for a commercial spaceport. The Eastern Shore of Virginia has been working with NASA for sometime to convert the obscure Wallops Island rocket launching facility into a mixed use spaceport that supports both government and commercial operations. Not surprisingly, broadband is playing a key role, and NASA and the two counties on the lower Delmarva Peninsula have formed the Eastern Shore of Virginia Broadband Authority, which is about to break ground on a major fiber backbone to support spaceport operations. The Broadband Authority is also beginning work on a community broadband fiber to the home network in the very rural area because the influx of knowledge workers, scientists, and engineers need business class broadband services at home.

Did you know?

Submitted by acohill on Sun, 10/26/2008 - 10:45

This short video has been around in various forms for several years. This new version has been updated with current data, and should be required viewing for all educators, economic developers, and elected leaders.

Danville, Virginia broadband report

Submitted by acohill on Mon, 10/20/2008 - 09:32

Here is a brief video report on the broadband fiber network already in use in Danville, Virginia. The system has been operational for 10 months, and all services on the network are offered by private sector service providers (Disclaimer: Design Nine has helped Danville design and deploy the network).

Blue Ridge Crossroads: Best place to start a business in the U.S.?

Submitted by acohill on Wed, 10/01/2008 - 16:32

The Blue Ridge Crossroads region in southwest Virginia may be the best place to start a business in the United States, if the results they rolled out this week are any indication. Three years ago, the region's leaders started an aggressive program to diversify their economic development strategy to include more focus on entrepreneurs and business start ups.

In less than three years, Carroll and Grayson counties and the City of Galax (the three local governments that comprise the Blue Ridge Crossroads region) have helped start 85 new businesses. Those businesses have created 391 new jobs, and there has been more than $19 million in direct capital investment, with an estimated total economic impact of nearly $80 million.

The EDA is building a regional high speed fiber and wireless network that will eventually provide service to every home and business in the region, so that entrepreneurs can start businesses from home and have access to high performance, business class telecom services, including VoIP phone service and Internet access. In 2009, as part of that effort, fiber will be installed at the three existing business parks in the region.

The EDA is also building a major new business park close to two of the busiest interstates on the East Coast (the intersection of I-81 and I-77), and planning is already underway to have fiber and wireless services at that location.

A key success factor in spurring new business development has been Crossroads Institute, which took an old, empty big box building and converted it to a world class business incubation and higher education facility. The facility is home to dozens of public and private entities, and the availability of high speed Internet access has been important for attracting jobs and businesses.

Jobs creation and broadband: a case study

Submitted by acohill on Mon, 09/22/2008 - 08:04

Perhaps the most frequently asked question we receive is, "How will broadband help our local economy?"

The answer is, "...in ways you can't even imagine."

Broadband and the expansion of connectivity via both fiber and wireless is creating entirely new businesses and jobs that simply don't appear in the strategic plans of most economic development agencies.

A case in point is Trism, which is a $5 game for the iPhone. Trism's popularity has netted the single developer $250,000 in revenue in just two months. He is now seeking investment capital and is making plans to hire new workers and to expand substantially.

What enabled this? New technology in the form of the iPhone, sophisticated new software written by Apple to deliver software like Trism cheaply over the network, and the network itself.

I have not been able to verify this, but I'm willing to bet that Trism was developed at home, and that that home has a broadband connection.

eBay has said that it believes more than 500,000 people in U.S. make a full time living from buying and selling on the auction site. That's a whole industry, and virtually of those jobs represent home-based workers. The economy is changing, and new jobs and businesses are emerging wherever affordable high speed broadband is available.

9% of workforce already working from home

Submitted by acohill on Wed, 08/13/2008 - 09:07

A new study out from Forrester says 9% of the workforce is already working from home for their employer, and another 22.8 million are running their own businesses out of their home. This adds up to a major demographic that is turning neighborhoods into business districts.

The report also highlights what Design Nine has been telling communities for a long time--you have to have business class broadband services in residential areas or you are choking off economic development. A major reason for communities to get involved in broadband infrastructure is to ensure the community can compete economically. If people can't work from home in your town, businesses and workers are going to go elsewhere. In other words, do you want to lose 10% to 20% of the jobs in your community because of a lack of broadband in neighborhoods?

Did quality of life win Volkswagen to Chattanooga?

Submitted by acohill on Tue, 08/12/2008 - 08:34

According to Suzanne Morse, a long term commitment to quality of life issues in Chattanooga won the city a coveted Volkswagen manufacturing plant, which is estimated to be worth up to $1 billion in investment for the area.

Is the global economy over?

Submitted by acohill on Mon, 08/04/2008 - 08:07

An article I saw in the local paper about hair dryers and a blog article from local curmudgeon on the high cost of shipping furniture both suggest the same thing: we may be very near the point (or already at the point) where making everything in China and shipping 7,000 to 10,000 miles is no longer economical.

The note about hair dryers was in response to a question to the paper about the availability of U.S. made ones. The reply indicated a firm had just moved its manufacturing facilities back to the U.S. in part because of high shipping costs. The manufacture of furniture is even more interesting, since the wood for that furniture often comes from U.S. forests. So we ship the raw materials 10,000 miles, then ship the finished product another 10,000 miles.

But the global economy is not going away; it is simply going to shift resources around to find the lowest cost of production. It may be that the U.S. will be able to compete again. Communities with broadband will have a leg up, because manufacturing firms are not going to place factories in places where they can't receive orders 24/7 reliably. Global businesses want redundant telecom providers, redundant cable routes in and out of the community, and redundant electric power feeds (from more than one substation). It's an easy checklist for communities:

How many of these can your community check off?

Suburbs down, Main Street up

Submitted by acohill on Wed, 06/25/2008 - 09:10

This article provides more data on the fast-shifting but likely permanent change in how we decide where we want to live. We are probably seeing the biggest shift in housing since the end of World War II and the rise of the suburb. Suburbs are not going away overnight, but the cost of commuting to and from often rural subdivisions has caused sharp drops in the value of homes in such locations, and there will be a counterbalancing increase in the value of homes closer to work and shopping--welcome back, downtown neighborhoods.

Smart communities will aggressively begin rehabilitation of neglected older neighborhoods--street and sidewalk repairs, park improvements, fiber to the home--as this will help draw workers and families that want to reduce or even eliminate commuting costs. It also suggests a tremendous opportunity to finally bring back Main Streets, which have been struggling since the sixties as commerce moved out to the edge of town.

The "new" Main Street will be focused primarily on business and professional companies and food/entertainment--things to do after work and places to eat for business professionals. Class A office space on Main street and Main Street business incubators will draw businesses looking for "quality of business life," where walking to work, walking to lunch, and easy access to professional services (copy services, banking, accounting, legal) are all within a few steps of the office.

And as always, downtown fiber will make this work.

Why VPNs are important to communities

Submitted by acohill on Mon, 06/09/2008 - 07:11

VPNs, or Virtual Private Networks, are fast becoming a major issue with respect to broadband. A VPN is a way for a remote user (e.g. from home, traveling) to be connected to the corporate or business network as if he or she was in the office. It gives the home-based worker or business traveler complete access to all the documents and services he or she would normally have sitting at their desk.

But here's the rub: VPNs work best over high performance, well-designed broadband networks. I'm on vacation right now, and have to connect through a wireless signal. The VPN barely works. I can connect, but transferring files is painfully slow, and I keep getting time outs.

As more and more people start working from home part time to avoid the high cost of driving, community broadband efforts will begin hearing more and more about VPNs. If we are going to save energy, community broadband networks have to support business class connectivity and bandwidth. Neighborhoods are going to be business districts in the Energy Economy.

Small businesses creating more jobs

Submitted by acohill on Sat, 06/07/2008 - 08:58

Despite high oil prices, small businesses created 61,000 jobs in May. Too many communities discount small businesses in their economic development strategy, and fail to include small businesses needs in their broadband planning. Big industrial companies get lots of attention, but those firms are the ones shedding jobs. Fast, nimble small firms can adapt more easily to changing economic conditions and changing customers needs.

Broadband Properties '08: Ft. Wayne leverages fiber

Submitted by acohill on Wed, 04/30/2008 - 09:55

Graham Richards, the former Mayor of Ft. Wayne, Indiana, spoke at the Broadband Properties Summit about why Ft. Wayne pushed fiber to the home. Some of the services and benefits included:

A green affordable housing initiative cut monthly energy costs for lower income families, and the broadband network was used to monitor energy use.

The network enabled live video monitoring of latchkey children whose parents had to work. Parents could have high quality video chats with their children as soon as they arrived home in the afternoon.

Local schools were able to offer enhanced distance learning opportunities to their students, including afternoon and weekend mentoring with tutors (enabled by the fiber network).

Their vision was fiber everywhere: a community broadband network dedicated to equality of opportunity and universal access.

They began a pilot initiative to have the city use hybrid plug in vehicles to reduce fuel and transportation costs for city workers.

They set a goal of saving 5% of the city budget through IT/broadband and green strategies--helping to conserve taxpayers dollars.

While Richards was mayor, he was able to turn the economic growth of the city from a deep loss of jobs to a dramatic turnaround in jobs creation and new businesses, and he attributed it to setting a vision, sticking to it, and broadband.

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