Rural needs a focus of Telecom Summit
Making sure all businesses, even the smallest in the most rural settings, can capitalize on today’s communications technologies is among the items at the top of the agenda of the Governor’s Telecommunications and Broadband Summit, set for Sept. 8 at the Fireside Inn in West Lebanon. Over 150 attendees are expected at the one-day event, including Gov. John Lynch, U.S. Sen. John Sununu and owners of microbusinesses — those with five employees or less — from around the state. Businesspeople will be able to see the latest in technologies, receive training in “Best Practices” for companies of their size, hear what initiatives are available for those seeking better and faster telecommunications deployment, and learn how homeland security issues may drive communications deployment in the future. According to Greg Franklin, a summit organizer and presenter, “This is the conference to attend for any microbusiness interested in growing and learning about what tools are available to help. They’ll learn how to access more markets as well as open up new markets. They’ll come away with specific information on how they can reach more customers at a lower cost, maintain and strengthen relationships with their existing customers, and better position their company in the marketplace.” “Telecommunications and broadband access can be critical to the success” of microbusinesses, said Stuart Arnett, director of the New Hampshire Division of Economic Development. “Being connected can make the difference between being a small, local business or a niche business in the global marketplace.” Arnett said his division has been helping New Hampshire microbusinesses understand and capitalize on the opportunities that high-speed access provides with its High-Speed Heroes initiative, a microbusiness research and best practices effort. The program will be the focus of one of the Telecom Summit’s four workshop tracks and is a “must” for any microbusiness owner, especially those from the most rural counties in the state, he said. Franklin will be the primary presenter of the High-Speed Heroes workshop. His firm, GSFA Consulting, conducted the microbusiness utilization research that will be unveiled at the summit — research that should be of interest to policymakers, rural businesses and vendors alike. “In the High-Speed Heroes workshop, we’ll be showing businesses how the High-Speed program can help transform the way they do business,” said Franklin. He added that the workshop will be “especially beneficial” to microbusinesses from Coos, Grafton, Carroll and Sullivan counties. “Shortly after the summit, the Division of Economic Development will be selecting one microbusiness from each of those four countries to receive significant free on-site IT services,” Franklin said. “All microbusinesses attending from those four counties are invited to apply.” (Application forms will be available online, as well, for those not able to attend.) The High-Speed Heroes program has already recognized Littleton’s Pilgrim Furniture, Salmon Press of Meredith and the Gorham School System, all of which have received significant benefits since gaining high-speed access. Advantages for Pilgrim Furniture have included faster updates of the company’s Web site as well as online ordering, while Salmon Press has saved 50 percent of the cost that it used to spend on couriers to transport computer disks between the company’s eight offices. The Gorham School System was able to develop a cost-effective network that serves both the schools and town offices, said Franklin. It’s apt that the Division of Economic Development focuses on rural microbusinesses for the next High-Speed Heroes awards. In June, Governor Lynch signed legislation that could help expand wireless and broadband Internet access to rural New Hampshire communities. The governor, who has made the telecommunications infrastructure a priority of his administration, will speak at the opening session of the Summit, while Senator Sununu, a leader in the Senate on telecommunications issues, will be the keynote speaker at the day’s luncheon. Other workshop tracks will include Homeland Security and Telecommunications Infrastructure, Public Policy and What’s New in Technology. There also will be a daylong trade show. Tours of the nearly completed Dartmouth Regional Technology Center - a bioscience incubator - will be available following the Summit. The one-day summit is being hosted by the Division of Economic Development, the New Hampshire Telecom Advisory Board, the New Hampshire Telecom Association, U.S. Dept of Agriculture—Rural Development and others. Cost for the day is $75, which includes breakfast and lunch. For more information, contact Trudy Gendron of the Telecom Association at 800-400-NHTA (6482). Reduced rate lodging is available at the Fireside Inn by calling 1-800-962-3198. For information on the High Speed Heroes initiative, visit NHtechnology.com.