Wilson has made their community-owned Greenlight fiber network central to their economic development plan, a move that may forge a new approach for other communities with similar assets.
In 2008, when Wilson’s Greenlight community network first launched, the Federal Communications Commission ranked North Carolina last in the nation in percentage of households subscribing to at least a "basic broadband" service. Today Wilson offers free Wi-Fi downtown, schools and libraries are outfitted with high-quality connectivity, and a majority of households subscribe to the broadband service.
Home to over 50,000 residents, Wilson has had a diverse history of industries popping up and dissipating over the years. After deploying their Greenlight Community Broadband, they’ve leveraged new businesses and an entrepreneurial spirit that shows no sign of relenting.
Wilson is initially focusing development downtown. The local daily paper The Wilson Daily Times decided to refurbish an old building and move downtown. The city raised money to renovate an old theater into a cultural center, and an electrical components manufacturing company, Peak Demand, has invested $2.6 million to renovate an old tobacco processing plant.
A Shift From the Old
Wilson involves all community stakeholders to make this revitalization a success. They have worked closely with Barton College, a liberal arts university, and the local nursing school. The community is consciously trying to buy locally and many people meet to discuss how best to promote this.
Wilson’s economic development model has evolved alongside their broadband network and they credit much of their success to Greenlight's benefits. In years past, many towns looked to bolster their economy by attracting companies that offered a windfall of manufacturing jobs— an industrial-era dream. But Wilson is no longer fretting over the decline of large-scale manufacturing companies that once haunted rural America. Instead, they’ve embraced the evolution towards technology companies and entrepreneurial business.
Their community-... Read more