Thursday's Washington Post poses the "Rural Riddle: Do Jobs Follow Broadband Access?" Cecilia Kang's article offers a reasonable comparison of two small towns, Lebanon and Rose Hill, both in southwest Virginia. Both towns have recently gotten high-speed Internet. Politicians helped Lebanon land $2.3 million in grants three years ago to lay super-fast fiber-optic cable to homes and businesses. 92 miles away, Rose Hill got $700K of government money two years ago for similar broadband infrastructure.
The results: Lebanon hit the employer jackpot, with Northrup Grumman and CGI creating 700 new jobs averaging $50K annual salaries. (Think Eagle Creek and then some.) Rose Hill has seen a "handful" of new jobs but no big influx of employers.
The difference: population and education. Both towns are "hamlets" from the Washington Post perspective, but from the South Dakota urban development perspective, Lebanon has a whopping 3272 residents (that's like Howard and Flandreau put together), while Rose Hill is less than a fourth that size at 714 (that's Colman and lots of company). A bigger workforce means bigger recruiting potential.
But more crucial, I'd argue, are the education levels of those workforces. Kang notes that 71% of Lebanon's residents have high school diplomas. Only 29% of Rose Hill's residents have that august piece of paper. Plus, when the broadband lines came to town, Lebanon set up a training center to help people get their GEDs and some IT skills that employers would look for.
Rose Hill is still seeing some benefits: one grant-writer can work from home; the NAPA guy uses online shopping to get better prices on parts for his customers. But if you want to supercharge your local economy, you've got to couple high-tech with high-quality education.
Smoking Bad, Beer Drinking Good! - As the mayor is set to chew all of our butts (no pun intended) about smoking, he is taking the EC siding settlement money and building more beer coolers an...
28 minutes ago