Bacon Bits: Rural Development Edition

Seeding entrepreneurship. The Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority has approved $180,000 in seed-capital grants up to $10,000 for businesses that have been operating less than a year and have fewer than 10 full-time employees. The new businesses are projected to create $770,000 in total private investment and create 135 full-time and part-time jobs. Assuming the businesses deliver on their investment and jobs — not to be taken for granted — this looks like a promising approach to economic development. Since it started two years ago, reports the Bristol Herald-Courier, 53 businesses receiving micro-grants have generated $3.1 million in private investment and created 542 full- and -part-time jobs. Beats subsidizing an out-of-state company to build a light manufacturing plant and then shut it down 10 years later.

Addressing the doc shortage. Southwest Virginia has a chronic shortage of doctors, nurses and other health care providers. The United Company Foundation in Bristol is issuing a $1 million challenge grant to the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine in Blacksburg to lower medical school debt for doctors who agree to practice in Southwest Virginia, reports the Roanoke Times. Two $40,000 scholarships will be awarded this spring to third-year medical students. After they complete their residencies, they will be required to work for three years in the region.

To plug the broadband gaps, first you have to find the broadband gaps.

The General Assembly has coughed up $19 million to help bring broadband to rural Virginia next year. But Virginia’s broadband guru, Evan Feinman, has identified a surprising obstacle: Private companies like Verizon and Comcast won’t tell the state where the service gaps are, reports Radio IQ. “If you call them and say, “I live at this address can I get connected? They can tell you yes or no. They will not share that information nationally,” Feinman says. Rather than creating maps that make proprietary information available to the public, the state now is encouraging incumbent Internet Service Providers to share the information with companies interested in filling the gaps without insisting that the state get involved.

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11 responses to “Bacon Bits: Rural Development Edition

  1. The difficulty identifying who has service and who doesn’t has been with us since the beginning. Definitions of served areas being one where any single entity is served have plagued the truth about coverage and given some a sense of complacency because they thought things were better than they are.

    There are small areas left uncovered when the cable rn out or for other reasons. I live in an area where Comcast veered off the main road 3 miles from the end. That 3 mile segment remains unserved and is so small that no one is motivated to serve us. Worse, many think all are covered when we are not.

    Changes are needed.

  2. There is a difference between a company that produces widgets that get sold elsewhere – those are net new jobs – and a business run by local folks selling widgets or services to other local folks. Those are not net new jobs and the purchased products and services are local money switched from buying other local products/services.

    That’s why bringing in an outside employer whose products and services are sold to folks outside that region is true economic development and not just have one new local business cannibalize another existing business

    Beyond that – the failure rate for small business is horrendous, 20% fail in their first year, and about 50% of small businesses fail in their fifth year and if the area is economically distressed – even worse.

  3. mapping where there is not coverage would seem to be a fairly simple project for high school or college students and it would be an excellent way to acquire basic skills in marketing, computers and GIS and the end product – exceptionally valuable.

    Why we let he cable companies do what they do is a disservice to everyone.

  4. Access to reliable broadband connections is key to any rural development/redevelopment plan. With broadband access in place, many people can work from wherever they want. My Tysons-based law firm has a lawyer working fulltime from Champaign, IL, one from Indianapolis and one from Chicago. We also have consultants working from Florida and Pennsylvania. Work is done by broadband, VoIP and cellphones.

    My largest clients are located in Mountain View, CA; Denver, CO; Pittsburgh, PA; West Des Moines, IA; and Crolles, France.

    More and more people are able to leave Metro areas and live and work where they please with broadband. Rural areas, especially those with reasonable access to airports, hospitals and highways, can attract people who don’t want to live in expensive traffic hell-holes especially after their kids have completed K-12.

    • Yes, you are right. This is why rural Virginia has a very bright future if only Virginians will get their act together and make welcoming and attractive local places that are a joy and pleasure to live in, instead of being tired, sullen and claustrophobic places. The real underlying problem, as I have suggested many times here before, is Virginia’s lack of an open and inviting, hospitality culture. Virginia has isolated itself culturally, socially, and psychically for too long. I suspect this dates back to the Civil War. Virginia has had a tough time shaking this closed and sullen side of its culture off, unlike many other southern states.

    • “This is why rural Virginia has a very bright future if only Virginians will get their act together and make welcoming and attractive local places that are a joy and pleasure to live in, instead of being tired, sullen and claustrophobic places.”

      How to we start thinking about ways to fix this problem?

      One way to start would be for everyone involved in economic development in Virginia to read a wonderful, practical and highly insightful and intelligent book first published in 1989. “The Great Good Place” by Ray Oldenburg, is one of the best books once can read on the key ingredients of vibrant, healthy, alive, and thriving places. As with all great books, this one will surprise and awaken the reader. Like how great bars and saloons make great places, and all the other many obvious ingredients to great places to live in that so many of us have forgotten, if we ever knew, or never traveled through and lived in, out the countryside with our eyes and ears open to what was going on around us, why so many were having so much fun.

  5. https://www.naco.org/testit

    Use this to help the National Association of Counties to create a map of the need for broadband across the nation.

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