'Click and mortar' storefronts equally important as brick and mortar to Kansas economy

In order to provide business owners and community leaders information they need to develop a "click and mortar" presence for their business or organization, a session entitled "Web Development for the Beginner" will be featured at the annual Telepower Conference from Oct. 15-16 in Salina.

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 use information technology as a tool for economic development.

The web development session will provide useful how-to information about developing and maintaining a Web presence, plus tips and tricks from companies that have made it work.

Studies have shown that in today's information age, the Internet is an important tool. In a three-year study, the UCLA Internet Report, "Surveying the Digital Future," research findings indicate that 71.1 percent of Americans went online in 2002, with approximately 60 percent of them accessing the Internet from home. According to this study, 44.5 percent of respondents shop and buy online while 36.2 percent find travel information and nearly 35.5 percent seek out medical information.

Of those surveyed who use the Internet, nearly 76 percent of respondents reported spending $15 to $175 a month for online purchases. Despite the dot-com busts of recent years, the Internet can be an important economic development tool for Kansas business owners, but for many business owners and community groups, the prospect of developing an Internet presence is daunting.

Billie Ayers, Web developer for CS Post and Co., Hays, and a Telepower panel speaker, believes one of the greatest hurdles of Web site design for someone just starting out is understanding some of the language.

"The jargon may seem overwhelming, but if you can save a file on a computer, you can make a Web site," she said. "You just need to get past the vocabulary either on your own or with a little start-up help."

Scott Roe, Web development supervisor for Nex-Tech in Hays and also one of the session's panel speakers, says that there are several key technical components that separate the good Web sites from the bad.

He said that a good Web site must be customer-friendly, with fast download speed and easy navigation to keep customers from becoming impatient and moving on before finding out what a business has to offer. He also said that it is important that a Web site be built so that potential customers can find it when they type a topic into a search engine such as Google or Yahoo.

"When starting out, if you don't know how to incorporate some of these key features into your Web site construction, a Web site may not get you the results you are looking for," Roe said.

Ayers said that having a great Web site has had a very positive impact on the traditional store front at C.S. Post & Co. in Hays.

"The C.S. Post & Co. Web site (cspost.com) has enabled the company to receive national media attention," he said. "Besides expanding awareness and increasing the volume of visitors to CSPost.com, the exposure has increased tourism and traffic to our brick-and-mortar store in downtown Hays' Chestnut Street District."

Rural leaders, state officials, and telecommunications business representatives will come together to learn, share ideas, network and help shape the economic futures of their communities at Telepower '03. Topics to be covered during this year's conference include downtown Main Street development, Internet marketing, telemedicine, technology in education and information technology policy.

This year's conference also features a community tour of the Smoky Hill Vineyards and Winery as well as an optional golf outing, dinner and luncheon addresses.

Sponsors include FHSU, Kansas Technology Enterprise Corporation, Hays Medical Center, Ruraltel/Nex-Tech, Small Business Development Center, Information Network of Kansas, Aquila, State Independent Telephone Association, Sunflower Electric Power Corp. and SBC Communications.

For more information or to register to attend, contact Casey Rackaway at the Docking Institute at (785) 628-5233 or ccrackaw@fhsu.edu, or visit the conference Web site at www.fhsu.edu/docking/telepower03.

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Office of University Relations   |  600 Park Street   |  Hays, KS  67601-4099
(785) 628-4206   |   Fax (785) 628-4152
Kent Steward, Director   |  ksteward@fhsu.edu  |  Kurt Beyers, Assistant Director   |  kbeyers@fhsu.edu