An Open Letter to Connersville, IN

I sub­mit­ted this to my old hometown’s news­pa­per, the eco­nom­ic de­vel­op­ment group, cham­ber of com­merce [the on­line form is bro­ken!] and li­brary [pro­vid­ed email ad­dress does not ex­ist], since I was able to ac­com­plish vir­tu­al­ly noth­ing on­line this week­end. I didn’t send it to the mayor’s of­fice be­cause they on­ly sup­ply a snail mail ad­dress and a phone num­ber. No won­der every­one leaves town.

An Open Letter to Connersville, IN.

Dear old home­town,

I know that un­so­licit­ed ad­vice is sel­dom ap­pre­ci­at­ed, but while I was home for the Thanksgiving hol­i­day I spent a good while try­ing to find a de­cent in­ter­net con­nec­tion some­where in town in or­der to do a bit of telecom­mut­ing. Failing that, I ul­ti­mate­ly de­cid­ed that un­so­licit­ed ad­vice is bet­ter than no ad­vice at all. I cur­rent­ly live in Cleveland, where I can check my email just about any­where in less than two min­utes. In Connersville it takes al­most three-quar­ters of an hour. While Cleveland is sev­er­al or­ders of mag­ni­tude larg­er than Connersville, it comes from a sim­i­lar in­dus­tri­al and man­u­fac­tur­ing back­ground and is go­ing through a sim­i­lar process of re­de­f­i­n­i­tion. So I’m go­ing to steal some plays that are cur­rent­ly work­ing for Cleveland and scale them down to a small town lev­el.

In my mind, the most ef­fec­tive bang for your buck will come through de­vel­op­ing and en­hanc­ing the tech­nol­o­gy of the area. This can be done on an in­di­vid­u­al, busi­ness, mu­nic­i­pal and even re­gion­al lev­el. You’ve got broad­band, now go wire­less. The Fayette County Public Library would be the per­fect place to set up a free WiFi net­work; and every town that wants to grow in­to the new tech econ­o­my should have at least one. In a per­fect world an en­tire town would be wired, but a few places here and there is a good start. Free WiFi acts as a cat­a­lyst for net­work­ing and in­for­ma­tion shar­ing.

You’ve got a city web­site, but it is sta­t­ic and ne­glect­ed and, frankly, about a decade be­hind the times. A Connersville wiki [fun­ny name, I know] would al­low the com­mu­ni­ty to give de­tailed de­scrip­tions of the area in their own words, and mul­ti­ple users could en­sure that in­for­ma­tion about the area is up­dat­ed quick­ly and ef­fi­cient­ly. Check out the Wikipedia for an ex­cel­lent ap­pli­ca­tion of this tech­nol­o­gy. Start your own weblogs about what­ev­er you find in­ter­est­ing and talk to your chil­dren about this kind of on­line in­ter­ac­tion, they prob­a­bly al­ready use free so­cial net­work­ing and weblog­ging ser­vices like Blogger, MySpace, Friendster, LiveJournal and Upcoming​.org.

A few more quick sug­ges­tions: The News-Examiner puts its con­tent on­line—very good — now make it in­ter­ac­tive: al­low com­ments, free on­line clas­si­fieds like Craigslist, et cetera. Honestly, the News-Examiner web­site is al­ready bet­ter than The Plain Dealer’s site in Cleveland. There should be a Connersville-speci­fic bul­let­in board for events and ac­tiv­i­ties and a com­put­er club at the high school or formed lo­cal­ly that holds com­mu­ni­ty train­ing ses­sions and sets-up web­sites and wire­less net­works for lo­cal busi­ness­es.

What are the up­shots of all this grass­roots ef­fort? There are far too many to list, but some of the most vis­i­ble and im­por­tant ones in­clude in­creased com­mu­ni­ca­tion among com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers and a mod­ern and tech-smart busi­ness im­age that will seem much more at­trac­tive to pos­si­ble new eco­nom­ic de­vel­op­ment. IT com­pa­nies or new me­dia busi­ness­es that would be amenable to small town and ex­ur­ban lifestyles aren’t go­ing to look at Connersville un­less the web pres­ence is there. You’re sit­u­at­ed to tap in­to mar­kets in Cincinnati, Indianapolis and even Dayton. Distance isn’t re­al­ly mea­sured in miles so much as megabytes the­se days. That’s all for now. Hopefully I’ll see you in cy­ber­space.

Yours Truly,
Adam Harvey
aharvey@​organicmechanic.​org

6 thoughts on “An Open Letter to Connersville, IN

  1. Man, from what I’ve heard (and in­ferred) about your home­town, the idea of wire­less com­mu­ni­ca­tions would be yelling from the hen house to the corn field.

  2. That’s about right. A girl at the cof­fee house asked me what I was talk­ing about when I men­tioned WiFi. I did get a 20oz chai and a bagel with cream cheese for $4, though.

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