Many rural American communities have struggled as the economy has shifted over recent decades. But some of these communities are using technology to evolve and adapt.
One small mountain town—Erwin, Tennessee (population about 6000)—is revitalizing by investing in reliable, high-speed broadband internet to catalyze new growth and redevelopment focused in their walkable, historic downtown.
Here’e a brief excerpt from a March 5, 2018 Smart Growth America podcast:
John Robert Smith: In many ways, Erwin was ahead of the curve, investing in a growing fiber optic network, and having forward-looking groups like RISE Erwin focused on reinvigorating downtown. Smart Growth America’s Cool & Connected workshop had a strong foundation to build upon:
Lee Brown: The Cool & Connected planning assistance grant really helped us further solidify the things that we need to focus on as a priority in downtown Erwin. It helped to raise awareness to a lot of different stakeholder groups in the community and was another shot in the arm to help push us and re-energize us and push us towards our destination of trying to make our downtown great again and to encourage the use of broadband and make that available and affordable to every resident of our community.
Tyler Engle: And I would just say we have a lot of folks who are looking forward to the last leg of the Cool & Connected process where we’re going to help people get training through co-starters—a nine week course where they can formulate a basic business plan. We’re going to get them plugged into the Tennessee Small Business Development Center and then they’re gonna have the opportunity to pitch to an independent panel and win a year of Erwin Fiber connectivity, a year of free membership in the Unicoi County Chamber of Commerce and up to $4,000 for point of sale or connected equipment. So we feel like that grant is going to really help folks get started in their new business downtown.
Smith: Erwin is one of many rural communities across the country using broadband to help spur infill development and reinvent their economies for the 21st century without compromising the historic nature of their town.
Photo of Main Street in Erwin by Brian Stansberry via Wikipedia.