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Connected Community Designation Assists Main Street Development

Broadband connectivity is a key decisive factor for more and more businesses.  From online marketing to online financial management tools and much more, companies of all sizes are harnessing the Internet to make business faster, easier, and more efficient.  Community initiatives focusing on economic development are working hand-in-hand with broadband development programs to help expand business through broadband and give everyone access to the opportunities broadband brings.

Manning, IA began working with Connect Iowa to coincide with their work as a Main Street community. The National Main Street Center is a national organization committed to historic, preservation-based community revitalization.  While the Main Street program focuses on leveraging historic, cultural, and architectural assets, Connect IA and Connected Nation focus on the town’s modern infrastructure.  Both programs work toward similar ends: improving the character, living, and working environment of the community.  Working with both the Main Street program and Connect IA, Manning began to refurbish its existing resources while introducing and redeveloping new resources as well.  Officials at the Main Street program were the first to inform Manning community leaders of the designation and encouraged them to seek certification.

“It’s a powerful tool in our economic development toolbox,” said Ron Reischl, Main Street Manning Board President.  “We wanted to show that we have Internet capabilities for businesses and also the ability for others to work at home.”

While renovations began on three storefronts in the community in accordance with the Main Street program, Manning was also working on the underlying links which businesses and residents depend on.  Local stakeholders from the hospital, school system, local utilities company, local government, and others all met together with Connect IA and Main Street organizers to measure broadband availability and methods for improvement.  A survey of the area revealed capabilities available to both the public and the business community, also paving the way for local utilities provider Manning Municipal Communications and other Internet providers to expand into dark or underserved areas.

New businesses have begun to move into Manning’s renovated storefronts and more renovations are still underway.  Manning has also conducted a rebranding effort as a part of the Main Street program and its economic development strategy, attracting new tourism as well as local residents and businesses.  Marketing and advertising efforts as well as the city’s new website have all used its new banner, imagery, and key opportunities available.  Manning showcases its advantages as a quiet small town that is also well-connected and thriving.  As of January, 2015, Manning added its Connected community certification to its designation as a Main Street community, becoming the first city with a population of fewer than 5,000 people to receive the status.

“The Connected certification is a tool that shows business and residents that we have high-speed connectivity,” said Reischl.  “It is something that we obviously analyzed in depth, and it shows that we have an action plan moving forward.”