Morristown Designated as
City officials and business leaders gathered this morning to celebrate the announcement of Morristown becoming one of only 17 communities in the nation to be designated as a “connected community.”
The designation was a part of a long partnership with Morristown Utility Systems, the Morristown Area Chamber of Commerce and Connected Tennessee, the state’s broadband initiative created in 2007 to improve economic development and increased access through wireless connectivity.
The three entities spent months researching and analyzing data in relation to the availability, ease and access of Morristown’s broadband services.
Executive Director of Connected Tennessee Corey Johns said connectivity is becoming more important every day in terms of competitiveness in the global economy.
“Today is a landmark day for Morristown and for Tennessee as you join a very elite and select club to have that opportunity to be a connected community. There are very few places in the world that has the assets that Morristown has, Johns said.
“If we truly want a vibrant economy in Tennessee and we want to be competitive on the world stage and we want to be a place that’s a world class community where the best companies want to expand and locate, then we have to have a world class infrastructure and a digitally literate workforce,” Johns said.
With Morristown’s high-speed broadband network, FiberNet, MUS General Manager Jody Wigington said the company is proud to be involved in the project but the recognition goes elsewhere.
“It’s the commitment of our residents who take broadband services. It’s your support that’s laid the optical foundation to meet tomorrows needs,” Wigington said. “I don’t think there’s a better place in the state of Tennessee for a business or a resident to locate than here in Morristown. This is exactly the vision city council, our board and state legislators had in 2005 and they led the way.”
Alyson Ferine, the State Operations Manager for Connected Tennessee, explained how Morristown was able to receive the designation.
Ferine said Connected Tennessee helps the community go through a 120-point scoring assessment that analyzes existing providers, what facilities are in place, broadband options, the awareness of residents and how broadband is used in government.
The assessment scores communities based on three main criteria of access, adoption and use worth 40 points each. Morristown scored respectively 40, 36 and 39 for a total of 115, which Ferine said was an amazing score and speaks volumes of the commitment of leaders in the community.
“There are 165 communities engaged in the program in states such as Ohio, Michigan, Texas and South Carolina. Out of those communities only 17 are designated as connected communities, Morristown being one of them. So this is a big deal and it has been a heavy lift,” Ferine said.
Besides a new road sign displaying the designation, Ferine said Morristown would now be elevated on a national platform that showcase the community to potential site selectors and show Morristown’s enhanced infrastructure.
“The designation is not the end. There’s always more work to be done,” Ferine said.
Ferine acknowledged some priority projects or things to come in the future that came out of the assessment including hosting a technology summit, improving education through digital learning and pursuing next generation 911 upgrades.
Morristown Mayor Danny Thomas added some statistics he learned had came out of the assessment.
Thomas said 100 percent of Morristown households have access to broadband Internet. Out of the four providers in the area Morristown has for broadband, 80 percent of residents have availability to at least two of those providers.
Thomas said the certification will be an asset to workforce development.
“It’s another tool we have to bring our workforce up to the standards we need to bring in new industry and supply the workforce for the existing industry. I’m impressed with the changes in education that you can in your own time and own pace get a college degree even while working. That’s very important. Couple that with out city’s existing institutions for learning and that’s very powerful,” Thomas said.
State Sen. Steve Southerland said the honor is all about the community working together for the better. He acknowledged the broadband supplies and thanked them for co-operating to make the designation possible.
Chamber President Marshall Ramsey said what the designation means going forward is in economic development and future projects.
“Every industry we get to look at our area request broadband connectivity and we can show them this. Our area has always been a regional hub for retail and healthcare and this exemplifies our commitment to continuing that as well. When site selectors look for something, this is the nugget that sets us apart,” Ramsey said.
Ramsey said the Chamber will use the certification to market the community to potential industries and others.
He also noted that the initiative was through the Morristown Utility’s Commission’s forward thinking and risk taking early on.
“You see about six or seven utilities in the state doing this and they knew it was a risk. A lot are unsuccessful at it so that really justifies the commitment our utilities have made here. I think a lot of people who in the community are pleased with their broadband offers and the affordability we have because of healthy competition,” Ramsey said.
-By Chris Phipps, Tribune Staff Writer
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THE NOVEMBER BOARD MEETING OF THE MORRISTOWN UTILITIES COMMISSION WILL BE HELD FRIDAY, DECEMBER 6, 2013 AT 10:00 AM AT 441 WEST MAIN STREET.