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 Iâ€™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. Youâ€™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.
Youâ€™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 arenâ€™t going to look at Connersville unless the web presence is there. Youâ€™re situated to tap into markets in Cincinnati, Indianapolis and even Dayton. Distance isnâ€™t really measured in miles so much as megabytes these days. Thatâ€™s all for now. Hopefully Iâ€™ll see you in cyberspace.