Rural Co-op Fiber Draws New Business, Bolsters Established Firms In MN

High-quality connectivity from the local cooperative is attracting economic development to rural Minnesota. Consolidated Telecommunications Company (CTC), began developing a fiber-optic network in the Brainerd area in the early 2000s; as the cooperative has expanded the network, businesses are getting fast, affordable, reliable connectivity.

Connected Satellites

A recent Brainerd Dispatch article highlighted several businesses that credit the local workforce and the network for their decision to build satellite offices in the Brainerd area. In addition to “battle-tested sales people who can establish relationships with customers and can ‘close the deal,’” GovMint.com’s Director of Sales Jim Martin told the Dispatch:

Equally important is the area's fiber optic network, a high-speed Internet connection that allows the sales staff to access the company's giant customer and product database, and efficiently complete online sales forms.

Martin said the company relies on its computer system for call routing, customer information, online orders and sales leads that come through the Internet. GovMint.com's sales staff makes 150-300 customer calls a day.

"The system has to be reliable or Jim's phone starts ringing," Martin said. "The service we have in Crosslake is very fast and very reliable."

The company sells rare and unique coins and has headquarters in Burnsville, Minnesota; the satellite office employs 25 people. The company has doubled revenue over the past five years and needed to expand so established the office in Crosslake, near Brainerd and on the CTC network.

Great For The State

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The Minnesota Department of Human Services chose Brainerd for its service center in part because they needed access to a network that could handle its technology demands. Applications are processed digitally with high bandwidth applications that require access to large state databases. Fiber-optic technology is the obvious choice to handle the work efficiently. There are 160 employees now working in the state’s DHS service center.

Growing Locally

Using the network, established companies are finding ways to increase business and expand. Northern Tool + Equipment switched to a VoIP phone system and uses fiber connectivity for representatives to work from home. With online sales and 97 stores across the country, the ability to communicate to Pequot Lakes contact center staff must be fast and efficient.

"The fiber infrastructure is crucial to our operation," said Todd Mouw, contact center operations manager. "We depend on the bandwidth not only for data processing capabilities but for our telephone infrastructure as well."

Clow Stamping, a local manufacturing firm, relies on the CTC network to send and receive data heavy files; for businesses, the ability to upload quickly and reliably is just as important as receiving downloads. As President and CEO Reggie Clow describes in the video below, customers have certain expectations:

CTC is very important to us. Our customers expect their suppliers to be world-class and without the technology to support that, it wouldn’t happen.

The network also serves residents in the area. Last fall, the cooperative released a report that described their findings from a survey. One revealing result - fifty-six percent of CTC residential customers said they use their home connections for work purposes. The true impact of the Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network is likely more significant than we know.

 

Image of their factory courtesy of Clow Stamping.