LOUISVILLE – Connected Nation, a national technology non-profit organization based in Bowling Green, Ky., took part in the Southern Governors’ Association (SGA) Annual Meeting this week, which was hosted by Kentucky Governor and 2013 SGA Chairman Steven L. Beshear. Connected Nation President and COO Tom Ferree was a guest speaker Sunday to highlight the important role that broadband plays in growing the regional prosperity of Southern states.
The theme of this year’s SGA meeting, which concluded Monday, was “Advancing Manufacturing in the American South,” with a focus on the region’s job-creating manufacturing sector and how to support its continued growth. In addition to critical infrastructure such as broadband, the SGA agenda included higher education and workforce development. During his remarks, Ferree noted that underlying the potential contributions education and workforce training can make to enhance the South’s manufacturing capacity, broadband is an assumed and necessary prerequisite.
Ferree spoke during a conference session titled “Maintaining the Competitiveness of the Region’s Infrastructure Assets,” and provided an overview of the status of broadband connectivity in the South, broadband’s impact on the South’s manufacturing sector, and what role governors can play in the continued expansion of broadband across the South.
Ferree outlined three basic calls to action to the governors: support engagement at the local community level where broadband access, adoption, and use can be assessed and addressed in a meaningful way; form or re-energize broadband task forces and caucuses similar to what the governor of Iowa launched just last week; support targeted initiatives that focus on regions that are critically underserved.
“In our experience working at the grassroots level of communities and with state agencies, we know that technology planning is rarely factored into economic development site visits,” Ferree said. “We think it is critical that states and communities understand where broadband assets are located and where there is room for improvement.”
Ferree cited Greenwood County, SC as an example of a community that has directly benefited from the expansion of broadband to save jobs in the manufacturing sector through enrollment in Connected Nation’s ConnectedCommunity Engagement Program and the establishment of public-private partnerships.
“Connected Nation research shows that there is a significant, positive correlation between increased broadband availability and increased employment in the manufacturing sector in Southern states,” said Ferree. “These firms are staying in communities – they are expanding, growing, and becoming more advanced because of broadband communications access.”