Broadband Communities

NOV-DEC 2017

BROADBAND COMMUNITIES is the leading source of information on digital and broadband technologies for buildings and communities. Our editorial aims to accelerate the deployment of Fiber-To-The-Home and Fiber-To-The-Premises.

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NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2017 | | BROADBAND COMMUNITIES | 25 someone else, it means helping two kids with math homework at the same time. For others, it means keeping the local newspaper printing. Following are highlights from our community interviews in the five counties. BELTRAMI COUNTY Bemidji Leads, a group of engaged and invested community members, has met monthly for 15 years. Members meet to create a vision of what they want their community to be, and then they work to make it happen. As Jim Benson, a former president of Bemidji State University, says, "ey plan from the future." ey are intentional and holistic as well as specific. Broadband is a key component of their plan. Bemidji is home to Paul Bunyan Communications, a member-owned cooperative created in the 1950s to bring infrastructure to its members. Today, Paul Bunyan's purpose remains meeting the telecommunications needs of its owner-members. To this end, Paul Bunyan borrowed $100 million in federal funds to bring the GigaZone, a world-class fiber-to-the-home network, to its members. Besides investing in infrastructure, Paul Bunyan has been an active partner in community efforts to drive broadband adoption and sophistication of use. e GigaZone is more than connectivity; it's a branding message that has caught on both for Paul Bunyan and the community. Existing customers want to convert to the GigaZone, and new customers ask for it by name; it makes Beltrami County a more desirable place to live. Communities throughout Minnesota are trying to woo the GigaZone into their areas. Another key asset for promoting the use of broadband and technology is the LaunchPad, the local entrepreneur incubator that offers daily and monthly co-working space and ongoing programming, including training, mentoring, networking and community planning. We met with representatives from Beltrami County at the LaunchPad. In the shadow of Paul Bunyan, they have built a cool technology buzz that has matured enough to see some results. eir intentionality is striking both in the community's determination to "plan from the future" and in the provider's unique marketing of the GigaZone service. • Bemidji and Beltrami County are booming. ey are a finalist for Best Minnesota Town of 2017. Enrollment at Bemidji State University (BSU) is up for the third year in a row. Twin Cities Business featured Bemidji in its February 2017 edition with a 10-page story, "Bemidji 2.0," which called Bemidji "a high-speed, regional center of enterprise." • Mike Stittsworth bought his family's butcher shop, Stittsworth Meats. In 2014, he posted a Facebook status promising a $200 voucher to the person who shared the message the most times. at post went viral. He now has 63,000 Facebook fans, and customers start arriving 15 minutes after he posts a special. People take road trips to visit him; 57 percent of his customers are new. And he doesn't even sell online – yet. (Refrigerated delivery is the hiccup; he's working on it.) He is also working on an expansion involving processing local meat. He started with three employees and has plans for 27 full- time employees next year. • Aircorp Aviation restores WWII aircraft from around the world. It uses broadband for promotion, research, part sourcing and cloud computing. Fabricating parts that are no longer available requires sharing large files and collaborating remotely in real time. e company developed software for project management and a platform for sharing documentation called the Air Corps Library, which is like for airplane parts. Like genealogy, aircraft restoration is a passion, and Aircorp has visitors from around the world. It gets 30 to 40 requests for tours a month and hosts an event on Veterans Day for 300 people. at means tourism revenue for the community. Aircorp could have located anywhere with broadband. It chose Bemidji because people in the area are good builders. It could not grow the business without broadband. Annual revenue is $4 million; General Manager Erik Hokuf says that without fiber, revenue would be more like $300,00 to $400,000. With broadband, the company is aiming for $50 million in 10 years. rough its website and reputation, Aircorp has been approached by major airlines with requests to help fabricate parts – a major part of the reason that $50 million over 10 years is possible. • Broadband on Main Street has allowed small shops to stay in business. Up to 90 percent of their sales are now online. Broadband levels the retail playing field; when a big-box retailer moves in, it takes local money, but online local businesses do the opposite. Boutiques are booming in Bemidji. People can make money in a niche business by appealing to customers both locally and online. • Broadband is making health care easier. Sanford Health, in Bemidji, the largest health care provider in the region, has gone digital. For patients, that means access to a health care portal to get health information and make appointments. It means e-visits, a cost-saving convenience that's growing in popularity. Sanford can't standardize remote care because not everyone in its service area has access to adequate broadband. Nevertheless, it is looking to add 50 doctors. Recruiting doctors will be easier because they will have a state-of-the-art workplace and broadband access at home, which means their children will have access for education and accompanying spouses will have increased employment opportunities. • Paul Bunyan Communications hosted two highly successful GigaZone Gaming Championships, in which teams and individuals won real money for gaming. Recruiting participants was easy, and the events brought tourists to the area. It built

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