Stories from the Sho-Me States

Stories from the Sho-Me States

It seems that every time I come back to the Springfield/Branson area, there are more things hopping in the area. This time, I noticed that the airport has continued to turn itself from a sleepy commuter hub to a sleek, modern facility with more electric outlets than any I have seen in my recent travels. Never underestimate the power (no pun intended) or importance of airport outlets; I’ve been known to hang out in the O’Hare Airport bathrooms simply because they are the only outlets available in certain terminals at certain times of day!

That being said, while spending time with the rural broadband providers of the great state of Missouri, one hears a similar story of innovation and progress. A lot of exciting things are taking place in the state as folks continue to move forward in their fiber network builds and look for innovative ways to serve their remote communities. I actually had a fun story regarding a Missouri member that coincided with the Google/RealClearPolitics event last week in DC where I served as a panelist on the digital transformation of the US economy. Google has been using an ad on television and at the event, they played the longer version. It’s the story of Jenny Hart who founded the Missouri Star Quilt Company in her hometown of Hamilton, Mo. While content to sew and sell a few quilts, her kids convinced her that she had the right pizzazz to do YouTube videos on quilting and the next thing you know, she is an overnight sensation and her small store is now employing hundreds of local folks and selling 5000 quilts…a week. Thousands of folks are flocking to Hamilton and it has become a destination for the quilting community. I always find myself getting a tad weepy when I see the ad and the longer version played at this event was no different. However, right before I had to bop on stage, I was inspired to see who might actually be the service provider in Missouri and if there was a hook to the story given that the Missouri Star Quilt Company and Jenny herself, could not be a success without access to robust broadband. Our staff was speedy quick with a response but sadly I had already grabbed my microphone and only to find out afterward that it was indeed Green Hills Communications, an active NTCA member with a seat on the Foundation for Rural Service Board, who serves Hamilton. What a great connection. E-commerce plus broadband equals progress, growth and economic development. Win, win, win!

MTIA executive director, Ric Telthorst put together a terrific meeting and I particularly enjoyed Bob Knapp with NECA sharing the rules of the road regarding call completion and robocalling….

But the highlight of my time was meeting Jeff Case, The Rural Development Director for the state of Missouri and a member of the USDA’s rural broadband task force. His comments and perspective were “right on” and as soon as he said that he saw himself as a “facilitator” between rural telcos and electrics in the state, I knew that we could have a constructive working relationship together. In all seriousness, Jeff was terrific and I am looking forward to a long working relationship and look forward to our work together on the USDA pilot project program whose NOI was just released. The room was packed when Jeff and his team talked and the mood was certainly to look for ways to create scope, scale and synergy in rural America.

Now, I will be simply delighted if my travel plans, already delayed by about four hours, see me safely into DCA this evening!

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