Stirring the Pot: Supporting Entrepreneurship

As originally posted on the Blandin on Broadband blog

Doug Dawson, in his always interesting blog “Pots and Pans”, has an informative article about Chattanooga and their efforts to support entrepreneurship, spur innovation and address digital equity (https://potsandpansbyccg.com/2020/01/06/leveraging-the-benefits-of-fiber/).  I highly recommend that you subscribe to this blog as well as the Blandin on Broadband (blandinonbroadband.org) blog for daily updates on all things important to community broadband and economic development leaders.

Minnesota is lucky to have fiber networks like Chattanooga’s in many rural communities and counties.  When you look at the DEED broadband maps, these areas shine bright green as having at least 100 Mb/20 Mb broadband service that includes all of the Fiber to the Home (FTTH) networks and most cable modem services.  The 100% FTTH areas are likely have a minimum of symmetrical 100 Mb/100 Mb service and probably symmetrical Gigabit services available not only in the community, but also in the rural countryside.  It is interesting, maybe even disturbing, that Chattanooga has established a national brand as a tech-centric, fiber-connected community while Minnesota’s thousands of square miles of fiber networks are virtually invisible on the national economic development scene.

Why?  I think that while some Minnesota communities and regions are active in promoting some elements of technology-based economic development, it seems to me that they are too few in number, too limited in scope, and certainly, too limited in self-promotion.  This is a missed opportunity for collaboration between communities and broadband providers, individually and collectively!  If you think that I am wrong on this, let’s hear about it so we can promote it on the Blandin Blog!

If you think that your area has unrealized potential for technology-focused community vitality, you should know Blandin will soon be selecting four Blandin Broadband Communities shortly after the January 24th application deadline.  In addition to community facilitation using the six element Intelligent Community framework (www.intelligentcommunity.org), the Foundation provides financial resources to implement projects to spur community vitality.  The Blandin team is happy to help your cross-sector leadership team fully consider this program as an option for your community.   Check out the program details at broadband.blandinfoundation.org.

Even if you decide to pass on the Blandin Broadband Communities opportunity, you should know that thirty-two hours of ad hoc community technical assistance is always easily available via Blandin’s Community Broadband Resources Program to help spur either broadband infrastructure, adoption and/or economic development initiatives.

Chattanooga’s municipal network ownership enables easy integration with other city initiatives.  With private and even co-op ownership of most Minnesota’s broadband networks, it takes some additional effort for collaborative provider partnerships. More and more sophisticated broadband users are good for providers; they should be interested in helping your community to thrive via technology. I urge you to contact your broadband provider(s) to discuss partnership opportunities. In addition to the Blandin Broadband Communities Program, a good starting point would be completion of DEED’s new Telecommuter Ready (https://mn.gov/deed/programs-services/broadband/telecommuter-forward/) certification program.

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