Broadband for a diverse economy – whether in Kentucky or Minnesota

I caught an interesting Public Radio story on how Kentucky was able to diversify from “coal to code” with some training. The coal industry just isn’t what it used to be – so a couple of local guys started teaching coal workers how to code.

Note: Usually I like to focus on Minnesota news – I think it you replace “coal” with “iron ore” in the following story, I could be writing about Minnesota. Super bonus with a lot of broadband-based jobs, they’re clean, they’re safe, they pay well and they are skills than transfer to different jobs and employers so from an economic development perspective, you’re not putting all of the eggs in one basket. Back to the story…

Public Radio interviewed one new coder who explained that working in coal had been good money. He was afraid that when he got the call, he’d have to move to find a job with the same compensation. But he learned to code instead and was able to stay at home.

All the new company needs is good people and infrastructure – but not roads, broadband…

In the past, politicians focused on improving the region’s asphalt infrastructure, building two- and four-lane highways to eastern Kentucky. They blamed the struggling economy on the topography: mountains and forests that necessitated spiderweb networks of long, winding roads.

But now, Bit Source manager John Handshoe says for companies like his to thrive, eastern Kentucky needs a different type of infrastructure.

“We’re not shipping coal out of here anymore; we’re shipping code,” he says. “The broadband’s our highway, our shipping lanes, our trains.”

Kentucky is working to get them the infrastructure they need…

The region’s Internet speeds lag when compared with most other cities, though a state-funded project is working to bring broadband to the region.

Maybe legislators here would benefit from learning about how broadband can diversify an economy.

This entry was posted in economic development by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

I have a Master’s Degree in Library and Information Science. I have been interested or involved in providing access to information through the Internet since 1994, when I worked for Minnesota’s first Internet service provider. I am pleased to be a part of the Blandin on Broadband Team. I also work with MN Coalition on Government Information, Minnesota Rural Partners, and the American Society for Information Science and Technology.

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