Hays entrepreneur thinks Main Street is still alive and well and living in rural America
10/07/2002

Main Street businesses were once considered the heart of every small town's economic base. A stroll through the downtown district provided options at every turn. Soda shop, hardware store, diner on the corner, and a market with the freshest produce around. When these businesses flourished, so did the town. Are those days gone forever? Can Main Street succeed in today's economy?

The folks at CS Post & Co. think it can. Chuck Comeau and his wife, Shirley, run this old-fashioned general store right in the heart of downtown Hays, KS. The requirement to be successful these days is that Main Street businesses must go global. After adding a Web site, Comeau has seen a dramatic increase in business.

"Our Web site is so important because it allows everyone anywhere to access our store. When they see what we provide -- interesting products and good service -- they pay attention."

This Main Street success story is just one part of this year's 11th annual Telepower Conference to be held Oct. 24 and 25 in Garden City, KS. Telepower is a two-day conference sponsored by Fort Hays State University's Docking Institute of Public Affairs. The conference helps rural community leaders and business owners to use information technology to promote local industry.
Comeau has noticed that "People are spending more time on the site. There have been 8,000 visitors who have spent more than 15 minutes on it." That kind of exposure translates into good business and an increase in sales.

Featured in the October 2002 issue of Better Homes and Gardens magazine, Chuck Comeau is a firm believer in the revitalization of Main Street and its businesses. He is also the developer of the Chestnut Street District in Hays, concentrating on renovation of historic buildings and new business attractions.

People enjoy the lifestyle of a small town and don't want to leave because of a lull in foot traffic. Comeau saw a need, and jumped right in.

"They think it's a luxury the way we live here," he said. "There have been New York editors who have come here, looked at the sky and didn't see tall buildings for the first time. They were blown away by it." The Comeaus plan to stay.

At Telepower, rural leaders, state officials and telecommunications business representatives will come together to learn, share ideas, and help shape the economic futures of their communities, using the very latest in information technology. Topics to be covered during the conference include using the Internet to develop higher paying jobs, growing an information technology workforce, information technology and value-added agriculture, and building community demand for broadband technology.

This year's conference promises valuable information and ample time to network and rub shoulders with leaders in the technology community.

Underwriting sponsors include Fort Hays State University, Southwestern Bell, Kansas Technology Enterprise Corporation, and Hubris Communications. Corporate sponsors are Nex-Tech Rural Telephone, Information Network of Kansas, Garden City Information Technology Cooperative Inc., High Plains Public Radio and the Kansas Small Business Development Center.

Additional sponsors include Aquila, WestLink Communications, Sunflower Electric Power Corporation and Southern Kansas Telephone.

For more information, or to register to attend Telepower 2002, contact Jean Walker at the Docking Institute, (785) 628-5952, or on the Web at www.fhsu.edu/docking/telepower.


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