Internet allows communities to connect, compete

When I hear the word “transportation,” I think of conveyance. Cars. Trains. Motor coaches. Trucks. Ships. Airplanes.

Then I put my marketing hat on, and review the four P’s of marketing: product, price, place and promotion. Transportation is definitely a “place” function that deals with channels of distribution.

I had the great fortune to be a part of the CDF and CREATE Foundation’s Jim Ingram Community Leadership Institute and the Tupelo Convention and Visitors Bureau’s Tourism Leadership Program. Both times I had the opportunity to meet and hear Vaughn Grisham, the acclaimed sociologist from the University of Mississippi.

In one of the meetings, Dr. Grisham talked about how Tupelo was formed. Tupelo started growing after the two railroad lines made a grade crossing. Our group discussed with him other cities where there were multiple modes of transportation which aided in their economic growth. Most of the cities discussed had access by rail, water, air and land.

We discussed visionaries like former Atlanta Major William B. Hartsfield who oversaw the building of an expressway system and for whom the Atlanta airport is partially named.

We compared the transportation systems of major cities. Most are accessible by water while some others aren’t. We talked about those with greater access than others and how they have grown more.

We looked at the assets of North Mississippi. Interstate 55 and the designated Interstate 22/U.S. Highway 78. The Tennessee-Tombigbee waterway. The railroad routes. The regional airports. All of these make the area attractive to prospects. Getting the goods to the consumers is very important.

Then the big question came.

What is the next transportation access that will be a determining factor to industries and businesses looking to locate here?

To fit in with the transportation discussion, it was once called the “information superhighway.” It’s the connectivity to the Internet. And, not unlike the other transportation routes, those areas with the greater capacity to serve businesses, industries and customers are in a better position to grow economically.

I joined our firm in 1992. And, I’ve watched the growth of electronic media. Yes, we had a computer, but it was more of a word processor than what I would call a computer today. It managed our invoicing, but initially it was not connected online. Our first electronic medium – our first email – was a fax machine, able to send a document electronically. “Email” has a new meaning today. Now our fax machine is rarely used. The graphics that we once created with colored pencils and markers are now composed on a computer. The old markers that were used have dried up.

Thanks to the Internet, I have friends in other countries that I can see when we talk. I can conduct a nationwide conference, look at everyone and not have to leave my office. We can share and manipulate files all online.

In some cases, the Internet can make a long journey instantaneous. We’re able to connect with each other in places that we could not before. Motor coaches, airplanes and some automobiles are coming equipped with Wi-Fi. I can do more with my smartphone than I could with my first computer.

North Mississippi is fortunate to have the Mississippi Economic Growth Alliance & Point of Presence (MEGAPOP). With MEGAPOP’s partnership, North Mississippi has access to a more than 40GB capacity, giving local Internet service providers faster, more competitive and more reliable service.

Just as larger cities have a greater capacity for traditional traffic, like the six-lane Interstates, the communities that have a greater bandwidth and greater connectivity points will be the ones who have the edge in recruiting the new businesses.

Originally published on page 6F of the Friday, August 7, 2015, issue of the Northeast Mississippi Business Journal in the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal.

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