We often hear how important water, sewer, roads, bridges are to our local economic development efforts, but broadband is equally important and becoming a key factor every day. Access to high-speed internet is of critical importance to employment of residents of Halifax County. Internet service is a key component of our infrastructure that now plays a daily role in job creation and retention.
Take Meherrin River Forest Products, a hardwood lumber producer located near Weldon, NC. The company approached the Halifax County Economic Development Commission with an issue – Low speed internet was hampering the company’s ability to perform back-office functions and affecting videoconferencing, along with VOIP phone calls. If they could not find a solution, the company’s administrative functions would need to move to their Alberta, VA location.
The Halifax County Economic Development Commission offered to help find a solution that would retain those functions and those jobs in Halifax County. Director Cathy Scott reached out to the incumbent provider for a solution. Unfortunately, that solution’s price tag was close to $100,000. “Looking at the return on investment, spending $100,000 was not a feasible route for Meherrin to take,” commented Don Bright, President of Meherrin River Forest Products.
It looked like the only option would be to transfer this function to Virginia. Scott asked for more time to pursue other options.
In late 2021, Scott then reached out to Roanoke Connect, a local provider that was steadily expanding their broadband network in Halifax and surrounding counties. Unfortunately, their fiber build was about three miles from the Meherrin facility. She then reached out to colleagues at the NC Department of Information Technology to try to identify a solution. Neither route provided a solution to Meherrin’s issue as it was difficult to undertake a project to serve one business project.
Then in June of 2022, Angela Gordon, Director of Marketing & Sales for Roanoke Connect, contacted Scott by email, “We are going to be serving Weldon and plan on serving Meherrin. “I could not believe my eyes,” commented Scott. “I immediately called Don Bright and gave him the news.”
The build was complete in September and today, Meherrin can perform many business functions at the Weldon location that have not been possible in the past. “We have been looking for an Internet solution in Weldon for years.” Bright commented. “I am grateful for the partnership with Roanoke Connect and the Halifax County Economic Development Commission that is helping our business be more productive here. Roanoke Connect offered a price that was very reasonable and will allow our company to continue to grow.”
“In the same way railroads, highways, and electricity stimulate commerce among communities, broadband enables small businesses to increase productivity,” commented Marshall Cherry, President & CEO Roanoke Electric Cooperative. As broadband connectivity is more readily available in our region, the business climate will enhance, thus creating more opportunities for our workforce,” Cherry added.
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