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Blog // Connect Ohio

Broadband Expansion and Connect Ohio Programs Help to Save Jobs in Eastern Ohio Community

By Amanda Murphy

When Gallia County Jobs and Family Services (JFS) was notified 108 local jobs were in jeopardy with the closing of a Gallipolis telemarketing facility, director Dana Glassburn and supervisor Beth Moore began looking for options.

An Ohio-based company was closing its Gallipolis facility, but offered eligible workers the opportunity to continue their employment by commuting to the company’s Huntington, West Virginia facility.

“Depending on where you live in the county, the commute to Huntington can range from 30 minutes to an hour and fifteen minutes one-way,” said Glassburn.

Of the 108 employees, 88 held positions for which the company would allow the opportunity to work from home – if the company’s computer and Internet specifications were met at the employee’s home.

“We immediately made arrangements to hold on-site meetings with the employees,” said Glassburn. “We wanted to know what options worked for them and how we may be able to help them transition.”

Glassburn and Moore found many of the employees preferred the work at home option rather than to commute. For more than half, to make that a possibility, they needed a newer home computer or high-speed Internet at home, or both. That’s where Connect Ohio came in.

Since 2009, Connect Ohio has worked closely with leaders in Gallia County. Collaborating with county officials, community organizations, and technology companies, including AT&T, Time Warner, and local wireless Internet service provider JB Nets, an eCommunity Strategies team was created. Using a process designed and lead by Connect Ohio, that team compiled a countywide technology plan that fueled area broadband expansion and economic growth. For a number of years, Connect Ohio continued providing support for broadband expansion projects in the county through research, data collection, propagation studies, and more. In 2011, Connect Ohio partnered with Gallia County Economic Development, and later with Gallia County JFS, to provide Every Citizen Online basic computer and Internet training to area adults, improving technology adoption rates.

Connect Ohio was apprised of the opportunity to save jobs through additional access to broadband technology and an action committee was formed that included Gallia County JFS, JB Nets, State Representative Ryan Smith, Gallia County Economic Development, and Connect Ohio.

To qualify for employment from home, individuals needed home DSL or cable Internet service. As a result of Connect Ohio’s earlier efforts with AT&T and Time Warner, 45 employees immediately met this qualification.

However, more than 60 jobs were still at risk due to lack of high-speed Internet access and qualified computer equipment.

JB Nets had the availability to service, or was already servicing, a few dozen of these employees. Unfortunately, because the broadband service was wireless, it did not meet the company’s telework requirements. JB Nets provides 4 mbps download/2 Mbps upload speeds, exceeding the telework connection speed requirement. The action committee requested the company revisit its telework requirements and conduct tests of JB Nets’ service. The company complied and additional jobs were secured.

JB Nets continues to expand its broadband service in specific areas of the county to reach other currently displaced employees having to make a long daily commute to the Huntington facility to work. The wireless Internet service company only services Gallia County and has been a driving force for expanding Internet to unserved homes for the past few years. The availability of broadband access that JB Nets brings to the community is helping to transform the local economy. As part of The Digital River Project, JB Nets provides free high-speed Internet to the downtown Gallipolis area, which helps small businesses and attracts new businesses.

“We hope to reach four more of the employees by May,” said Jake Kline, president of JB Nets. “We have put up one new tower already and possibly have two more coming.”

These new towers expand JB Nets’ wireless broadband signal. Gallia County JFS was able to fund the building of the first tower. This tower was built for the sole purpose of reaching one displaced employee, but will allow additional homes in Gallia County to have access to high-speed Internet.

“The tower was installed on my property in March,” said the recently displaced employee. “I had service right away and am now able to work from home. I’m absolutely thrilled with the service speeds and I’m going to save a lot of money being able to work from home.”

“It’s uplifting to know we can give back to the community that has helped us grow our business and move forward,” said Kline. “We are very honored the local government and county organizations would consider us to be part of the solution.”

“I commend JB Nets for making the extension of their broadband service to these displaced workers a priority,” said Melissa Clark, director for Gallia County Economic & Community Development. “This situation reaffirms the need to continue to further expand broadband infrastructure into underserved areas in Ohio, and how that expansion will greatly impact local economic development and job creation.”

Gallia County JFS also funded the purchase of home computers for those employees in need. Due to the affordable pricing of computers through Connected Nation’s refurbished computer program, dozens of computers were purchased and distributed to employees, helping save additional jobs.

“By purchasing a home computer or funding a home Internet connection, we were able to keep Gallia County residents employed and present the opportunity to work out of their home, giving them more flexibility,” said Glassburn.

“This is a great example of how our work engaging community champions with a common belief – that increased broadband access and adoption fuels jobs and economic development, was able to make an immediate impact,” said Stu Johnson, executive director of Connect Ohio. “It’s fascinating to think of all the individuals and organizations over the 4-year span that played a part in helping more than 80 adults continue getting a paycheck, and Connect Ohio is proud to be a part of facilitating that.”

“The company’s announcement to close the Gallipolis facility was a call to action for the community,” said Ohio State Representative Ryan Smith. “Faced with the potential job loss, whether permanent or relocated to West Virginia, we were able to collaborate resources and allow these workers to continue employment in their community and to maintain a flexible work-life balance.”


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