HAYS, KS -- Rural areas no longer need to depend on the highway as their only access to opportunity. One rural community shaped its own prospects by creating a virtual technology center. At the same time, it changed the standards for rural communities everywhere.
That will be one of the stories told at Telepower 2001, Sept. 26 and 27, at Fort Hays State University.
Watford City, ND, transformed from a rural community with the population of 4,000 people into a thriving economic icon with employment opportunities from major information-based businesses. The conversion began when a local committee identified information technology (IT) as an economic development strategy five years ago.
From there, they used IT to create everything from new employment opportunities to better health care.
Gene Veeder, a resident of Watford City, currently serves as director of the McKenzie Economic Development. He understands the importance as well as the difficulties of incorporating these strategies into a community.
"The biggest obstacles we had to overcome on our path to success were educating ourselves about the IT industry, educating the world of business and industry that rural America was still valuable, obtaining financial resources, and providing education to the rural areas," said Veeder.
Veeder will speak at the 10th annual Telepower Conference on Sept. 27, 2001, at Fort Hays State University as a speaker sharing this IT access success story. He will describe how Watford City created a virtual community technology center, trained citizens to become an IT workforce, and then recruited businesses such as Midland Atlas and Cross Inc. to Watford City.
Veeder will also offer advice to the Telepower audience concerning the development of information technology in rural areas.
"The value and power of cooperative decision making between community leaders and IT providers is essential in the success of a community," he said.
Telepower is a two-day conference sponsored by Fort Hays State's Docking Institute of Public Affairs and is designed to teach local rural leaders of technological information to use in economic development, government, education and health care.
This year's underwriting sponsors include Southwestern Bell and Kansas Technology Enterprise Corp. The corporate sponsors are Rural Telephone, Information Network of Kansas, Garden City Information Technology Cooperative, Kansas Small Business Development Center, and the Kansas Association of Counties. The supportive sponsors include Sunflower Electric Power Corp., Utilicorp United, WestLink Communications, Kansas Department of Commerce and Housing, Avaya Communication, Robert and Sheryl Cox, and Palm.
Other topics covered in this year's Telepower Conference include workforce development in the new economy, when locals make it big, the economy's new deal, and electronic medical records.
For more information or to register for Telepower 2001, contact Cathy Drabkin at (785) 628-5952 or visit the Web site at www.fhsu.edu/docking/telepower/main.html