I’ve written about Weave Got Maille before – the super niche, super successful business in Ada, MN that manufactures chain mail. Think of what knights wear. I knew they talked the provider in the area into serving them fiber – what I didn’t know until I heard the story on MPR was that they are paying $800 a month for it…
And then there was the problem that plagues many small-town businesses: internet access.
“We were running an international online company with dial-up internet for a long time,” said Ramstad, who spent two years trying to get faster internet service to her headquarters in Ada. She finally paid for fiber optic cable to be laid and connected to her manufacturing plant, but internet access is still an issue: she pays more than $800 each month for the level of internet service that, in Fargo, often costs about $40.
Her goal for this year is to bring some internet competition to town and drive down prices for broadband service.
But Weave Got Maille isn’t the only business in town with needs…
That would make Ada’s mayor, Todd Sawrey, very happy. He runs West Main Pizza in town. The internet is essential infrastructure for his restaurant — and every business in town.
“If you do not have an internet presence, you’re not going to survive,” he said. “Edie has found [that] out, big-time. Even myself. If I didn’t have a website, if I didn’t have ways to do online ordering, you will die.”
Sawrey said he has been frustrated with government programs to expand broadband access, which he said often don’t account for the needs of rural communities.
The story in Ada bring up a few problems with access in rural areas: first – many areas don’t have access; second – lines are drawn that create have and have-not parts of the community…
Recently, he said, a local company received a government grant to expand rural broadband access by installing fiber optic cable.
“Well, they went and put it right down the main highways,” he said, but the cables “stopped at the edge of town, because the grant didn’t encompass being within the city.”
That project, while it wasn’t helpful for downtown businesses, means that Edie Ramstad can now get faster internet at her farm, three miles outside of town, than she can at her factory in Ada.
Weave Got Maille has moved a few times since its founding, and now operates out of a former service station in Ada. A refrigerated rail car that for decades sat abandoned next to the building is now used as storage.