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Blog // Connect Ohio

ECO Showcases Importance of Broadband/Web Presence for one Gallia County Company

By Lyndsey Kleven

 

Going from living in a large metropolitan city and moving to Gallipolis, Ohio, located in the state’s Appalachian region, W. Oran Smeltzer was in for a change. Having been raised in Gallia County, Smeltzer knew before moving back that parts of the area relied much less on technology and Internet than he had become accustomed to living in an urban area.

A significant barrier to opportunity that the region faces is lack of Internet connectivity and adoption. In Connect Ohio’s recent report, Technology Barriers and Adoption in Rural Appalachian Ohio, it is revealed that an astonishing 531,000 adults in the area do not have home broadband, and one out of three households do not have a home computer.

Although Smeltzer had never owned a home computer, he did rate himself as having some basic computer skills. He knew how to browse the Internet and do basic word processing and spreadsheet data entry from work, but never spent much time online or felt he was using the Internet to its full potential. After hearing about the Every Citizen Online free computer training through his local library, Smeltzer recognized the opportunity and registered.  

The classes start by teaching the fundamental basics of how to use a computer and build from that, covering an introduction to the Internet and the benefits that broadband access brings to improving all areas of life.

One thing that Smeltzer noticed through taking the class was the eagerness that participants had for learning about computers and the Internet.

“What I found to be most beneficial is the knowledge that there are many people from various segments of our community who want to learn about, and can benefit from technology,” said Smeltzer. “People here are bright and talented. Their potential is unlimited if you introduce them to new ways, in a manner that complements, supports, and integrates the old ways.”

Smeltzer gave a lot of credit to the course instructor, Jake Bodimer, for having a talent for doing just that. 

“There were two days of classes, after the first day participants walked out very anxious to come back for the second class to learn more,” said Smeltzer. “The instructor was very good about answering questions. Everyone was enlightened.”

Smeltzer, too, felt enlightened by the knowledge he was able to take from the courses and applied it to his own life, seeing the potential that having a web presence can bring to businesses. Smeltzer works for his father as a certified public accountant and sought out to get the business online. He ended up hiring a local web designer to create a page for his company, and has now taken the business online.

“The main reason we began a website was to streamline our appointment scheduling function. Booking appointments over the telephone can be unproductive and inaccurate,” said Smeltzer. “Busy signals, lost messages, etc. lead to client frustration and lost opportunities, not to mention the fact that the website is open 24 hours.”

Taking businesses online is certainly the direction that many businesses are heading, with a proven increase to drive revenue. Connect Ohio’s 2011 Broadband & Business Survey finds that Ohio businesses that subscribe to broadband and maintain a website reported median annual revenues that are $500,000 higher than businesses that do not use broadband at all.

Not only has Smeltzer used the web designer for his family’s business, he is also connecting him with other organizations in Gallia County looking to get online. The same designer has also created a website for a local charity, Perennial Cats, Inc., which Smeltzer volunteers at.   

Smeltzer is a supporter of local charitable institutions, like Perennial Cats, Inc., and uses the websites as promotional tools, linking to one another. Smeltzer is thankful of the support he has gotten from the web designer to be able to digitally connect some local organizations.

“They provide encouragement when I talk about developing a local ‘digital community’ in which we link various websites promoting local services, charities, and businesses,” said Smeltzer. “With support from programs like Connect Ohio, we look forward to keeping our community on the right side of the digital divide.” 

Find and ECO Training Facility

View the 2011 Broadband & Business Survey 

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