“There isn’t one cookie-cutter approach,” says Chris Kyle, Vice President, Industry Relations and Regulatory for Shentel. Kyle was referring to rural economic development and how each community has unique needs. In the above interview, Kyle talks about the important role that broadband providers and their local employees have in connecting with and providing ideas to various civic, educational and business organizations interested in economic development.
As an example, Kyle discusses Shentel’s role in an effort to bolster the long-term economic improvement for McDowell County, West Virginia. McDowell County, a coal-rich region, has seen decades of decline having a peak population of nearly 100,000 in the 1950s, while today, fewer than 20,000 people call McDowell County home. According to the Reconnecting McDowell website, McDowell County has ranked last in education for most of the last decade, leads the nation in narcotic drug overdose deaths and 72% of its students live in a household without gainful employment.
He cites several different initiatives that Reconnecting McDowell, with the help of its partners, is undertaking, including:
- Job fairs
- Lap-top donations to schools
- Special broadband pricing for households with students
- The $5.5M Renaissance Village which aims to attract teachers to the area by providing affordable and desirable housing. Originally planned for completion in 2016, environmental concerns, location and financing have pushed back completion to September 2017.
Because of the many challenges, like what Reconnecting McDowell has faced with the Renaissance Village, Kyle emphasizes that both a long-term focus is necessary, as well as regular course corrections to ensure continued economic development in rural areas.
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