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From the Desk of County Commissioner
 Marty Qually

(1/2014) In my October article I invited you to join the County Commissioners for Adams County Connectedís (ACC) final report presentation on internet connectivity in Adams County. You can read the report on the County website at www.adamscounty.us, or better yet since you are reading this already, I offer this brief summary of the reportís five key recommendations.

The county needs to extend the task force or create the next generation of the Adams County Connected effort. The new taskforce needs to transition from a fact-finding entity to a task oriented entity. Clearly define task force goals that are directly tied to the County strategic vision and goals. The task force needs to collaborate with state and federal resources already engaged in ACC to fully leverage greater resources. The task force needs a funding model not just by the county, but all entities within the county who have a stake in economic development and educational opportunities. In short the fact finding academic phase is over and it is time to step it up a notch.

Create a marketing presence on the task force for ACC. Thereís a strong belief that Adams County has the potential to cultivate existing and new business as well as serve as a bedroom community to all points North and South; as we build the infrastructure and create strong lasting partnerships throughout the county there needs to be economic leadership ready to capitalize on both opportunities. Appoint a sub-committee to take responsibility for the branding and presence of ACC and its web presence to continue mobilizing community members through a digital and social presence. As a community service ACC has helped to educate residents, especially seniors, in the very confusing field of technology. The more people know about ACC, the better they will understand the technological services and tools around them.

Over the past year Scott Wehler of the Adams Electric Cooporative has done an excellent job working with internet providers to get a better understanding of the internet infrastructure in Adams County. Now that the groundwork of understanding what services are available in Adams County is complete, this committee must begin to focus on more issues to get services to the public. This goal should begin by formalize a meeting schedule to strengthen and grow the relationships with the providers. While the providers have plans to grow the market on their own, ACC can be a great community partner in improving that effort. The committee with the guidance of the Adams County Economic Development Corporation should invite all internet providers and municipal planners to be a part of that committee serving as a conduit for economic development policy recommendations.

Explore the use of county towers to see if there is a financially sound endeavor to create revenue and provide improved connectivity throughout the county. Working with county and municipal planners, the committee must draft modern internet and communication service ordinances in Adams County. Lastly, work with Adams County to use existing County resources to lower smaller municipalityís costs for their internet expenses and assist them in increasing the availability of community services via the internet. Promote and market the recent expansion of Internet services amongst providers to the community to help ease connectivity struggles while lowering costs!! And lastly once new and improved services are realized in Adams County, this committee must help to market these solutions outside the county to increase economic development.

The forth priority is to create a sub-committee of the task force focused on educational opportunities, gaps in education, and develop a long term educational strategy. The Internet 101 courses have been a huge success but we know we have not begun to scratch the surface of Adams County resident needs. School districts are looking to create value for their taxpayers and have the facilities to hold these classes. In the effort to inform and educate County tax payers on becoming a connected community it is a natural fit to partner school districts and higher education providers. While many schools are already working to provide affordable technology to their students for educational purposes, the ACC education sub-committee must continue to educate the public in the need to reduce the "digital divide" caused by a lack of technological resources to our children. While education for education sake is rewarding, we need to also have students prepared to face the economic realities of a modern world.

Lastly, ACC needs to improve two way communication and tailor dialogue to multiple segments of our County population. This year we learned that different segments of our population have drastically varied needs in regards to the internet. Now, we must focus the discussion with each of these groups to determine how best to help them achieve their goals. The following segments or user groups should be the focus of an improved communication effort: Education, Government, Tourism, Agriculture, Financial, Manufacturing, Healthcare, Professional Services, Retail, Residential, and Small Business. It is only through improved communication that the ACC can act as a truly county-wide liaison between our residents, business interests, public institutions, and the private for-profit internet companies. With the support of the County Commissioners ACC is in a unique position to a conduit for knowledge and action.

As you can see in this last section and throughout the recommendations, this year ACC will be strongly focused on an unwritten goal of economic development. This is not by accident, but rather by design. It has become plain to the County Commissioners that internet connectivity is as vital to business retention and improvement as roads, water, sewer, and electricity. Not only do all businesses now need the internet to be competitive, but also to attract the new businesses that service the internet. While most of us grew up with computers and the internet as a luxury, in todayís world they are necessary and Adams County Connected has been and will continue to be a truly great resource.

If you have any questions regarding Adams County Connected or if you would like to help them achieve these goals, do not hesitate to email me at mqually@adamscounty.com.

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