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Meeting to address wireless plans for McDuffie County

The Thomson-McDuffie County Information Technology Department needs some input. And IT Director Kelly Evans is asking for everyone's thoughts.

Georgia Tech's Economic Innovation Institute is compiling information from McDuffie County residents for a study to outline the best way to initiate wireless broadband capability that would stimulate the local economy.

It is part of the $112,000 Phase I portion of a Broadband Rural Initiative to Develop Georgia's Economy grant McDuffie received in conjunction with the other Clarks Hill Partnership counties.

Mrs. Evans said members of the public are invited to add their two cents during a May 31 meeting at the Depot in Thomson between 1:30 and 5 p.m.

"It's a technology road mapping study which means that you look at the use of technology in business, in the public sector, in government and education and health care, and you look at all of it from one time, from a community level," Mrs. Evans said.

She added that information from managerial levels of the business community is essential to help receive funding for the implementation phase of the grant. The study benchmarks the community's technology to help get the "most bang for your buck."

"You have to pull comments from all areas of the community," Mrs. Evans said. "The more different kinds of people that participate, the better. We were lacking health care, adult education, industry and small business at the last meeting."

During that last meeting, McCorkle Nurseries IT Director Stephen Palmer learned a great deal about McDuffie County's technological future. And he said he is excited about what could be on that roadmap.

"It will have a positive effect on the workforce within the county. It will have a positive effect on, perhaps, accelerating the extension of broadband services across the county," Mr. Palmer said.

The second portion of the grant - should McDuffie and other surrounding counties receive the funding - could begin the installation of wireless internet (wi-fi) hotspots across the county.

Those hotpots could then be used to entice business and industry to locate in the area. Mr. Palmer said McCorkle's is already heading in that direction out of necessity, and the county looking that way could only help.

"We do that here at the nursery, around parts of the nursery," he said. "We have plans on extending and making the entire nursery wireless in the next year or two. I'm sure (Mrs. Evans) is looking at the same technology I'm looking at."

And one of the aims of the grant could be to help spur development in downtown Thomson, something local officials have been harping on for years.

"I can envision downtown, that's desperately in need of lots of entrepreneurs filling those empty buildings," Mr. Palmer said. "Having wi-fi commonly available just in the downtown area to where someone opens up a pizza shop or a deli or ice cream shop or something, and some of those second story buildings turned into lofts - rentable space - then I could see a revitalization taking affect downtown."



Web posted on Thursday, May 24, 2007













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