What actually gets companies to locate in Chattanooga?

So we heard about Chattanooga all during the school “unification” referendum. I turns out Chattanooga really does have something that attracts business (no, not a unified school system; if you want to go back into that, I’ve got the references available). What really attracts businesses to Chattanooga is fast Internet broadband access.

Christopher Mitchell wrote for Planetizen 30 April 2012, Should Your City Build Its Own Broadband Network?

While on a site selection visit in Chattanooga, a CEO asked about broadband access. When told that the slowest tier on Chattanooga’s community fiber network was 30 megabits per second, he turned to his IT adviser for a translation. Upon hearing “that’s more than we can get in our headquarters presently,” the company cancelled its other planned visits and located its new site in Chattanooga.

That’s right, Chattanooga really does have one thing going for it: high speed Internet access.

Why does that matter?

The digital economy depends on high-speed connections to the Internet. And, as recent studies indicate, communities with fast, affordable, and reliable networks will both attract and cultivate jobs; those without robust connections may suffer the same fate as those missed by railroads, electricity, and highways.

It’s great that the Valdosta-Lowndes County Industrial Authority (VLCIA) plays up our airport, highways, and railroads, plus nearby seaports. But in all the many VLCIA meetings I’ve attended, I’ve never once heard them even mention Internet access or speeds.

What I do hear from local “leaders” is “we’ll never be Austin; we’ll never be Silicon Valley.” I’m tired of hearing that, especially after I read this:

On my last visit to Chattanooga, I found young entrepreneurs living there who chose Tennessee over the Silicon Valley. Chattanooga, the “Gig City,” has made waves with its decision to build a globally competitive broadband network. It is one of many communities that have built their own network to encourage economic development, improve the quality of life, and generally become less dependent on a single cable company and a single phone/DSL company.

We don’t have to be Austin or Silicon Valley. But we can look at what works elsewhere and adapt some of it for use here. We can be the best Valdosta and Lowndes County we can be. Whatever happened to the old pioneer spirit?

Probably everybody knows that Troupville as the county seat of Lowndes County located at the junction of the Little and Withlacoochee Rivers because of their transportation advantage in the mid-19th century. And that Troupville’s citizens picked up and moved the entire town several miles to be on the new railroad when it came through and renamed it Valdosta. And that Valdosta and Lowndes County have benefitted greatly economically by I-75 coming through in the mid-20th century.

What are we doing now that the 21st century equivalent of river, rail, or road is being built elsewhere? Where are our Internet broadband connections? Where is our “Open” sign for knowledge-based business?