key to ‘cool cities’ initiative in Lansing
Kevin Schoen is an unreserved supporter of Gov, Jennifer Granholm’s
move to attract hip, well-educated young techies and professionals through
the Michigan “cool cities” initiative.
The CEO of ACD.net, an Internet service provider located in Meridian
Township, said that most of his IT friends left the Lansing area after
graduating from Michigan State University. “It’s difficult
to keep talent around here. A lot of people leave Michigan for hipper
Daniel Sturm/City Pulse
difficult to keep talent around here,” says Kevin Schoen,
CEO of ACD.net, an Okemos-based Internet service provider.‘A
lot of people leave Michigan for hipper places.’
percent, or 3,800, of the Greater Lansing area’s 240,000 jobs,
are in the information technology sector, whereas more than 130,000
are offered in areas related to local, state and federal governments.
Meanwhile, the manufacturing sector, which is the second largest employment
base, has been continuously shrinking. In 1973 there were 22,800 General
Motors jobs in Lansing. This number decreased to 20,000 in 1988, and
has since sunk to 10,500 jobs, where it remains today.
believes Lansing can diversify its economy away from the current dependence
on manufacturing and government by moving it towards high-tech jobs.
The 33-year old entrepreneur said that a cornerstone strategy for retaining
the “creative class” is to have affordable, attractive housing
and a rich entertainment base. Schoen believes that Old Town would be
a perfect place to attract IT professionals. Every other week Schoen
goes to a concert at the Creole Gallery in Old Town, which he thinks
comes closest in Lansing to Granholm’s vision of a hip community.
an e-Savvy Business,”
City of Lansing’s next IT Initiative Stakeholder Forum, Nov.
19, 1:30 to 3 p.m. at the Lansing Center, Room 201. R.S.V.P. to
Barbara Foreman, (517) 483 4140 or email@example.com
For more information about the City of Lansing IT Initiative/Get
Connected, call (517) 483-4140.
For the Regional Chamber of Commerce’s TechConnect Program
and Database, call
(517) 487-6340, or go here
For more information on Lansing/East Lansing’s Regional Smart
Zone, call (517) 337-1731.
native said most of his 23 employees live in Lansing. And if Lansing
would only begin to advertise the beauty of Old Town more aggressively
to Michigan State University students, many more would consider the
area more attractive.
ACD.net was the first to bring DSL to mid-Michigan, in the fall of 2000.
The IT firm also has 20,000 customers with 56k dial-up connection, operates
MSU’s dial-up network, and offers full network planning, deployment,
training and support.
Schoen believes Michigan’s decision to establish so-called Smart
Zones could be another key component to boosting high-tech in the area.
Last week, the IT executive testified at a Senate committee hearing
in support of legislation to create such a tax-free enterprise zone.
Lansing and East Lansing leaders hope the Smart Zone will help attract
cutting-edge software, biomedical, robotical and other high-tech companies.
Smart Zone communities are supposed to challenge high-tech “hot
spots” such as California’s Silicon Valley, Route 128 in
Massachusetts, and the North Carolina Research Triangle.
Today, Lansing theoretically has two Smart Zones, at the University
Corporate Research Park, and the Ottawa Power Station in downtown Lansing.
But neither one is up and running.
Although the high-tech industry is just opening up, Lansing has already
been able to attract a major IT institution. The Michigan Broadband
Development Authority, a funding arm set up to advance the infrastructure
of high-speed Internet connections throughout the state, recently moved
its offices from Ann Arbor to Lansing, at 735 E. Michigan Ave.
The decision to move Michigan Broadband was made by the director of
the state Department of Consumer and Industry Services, David Hollister,
Lansing’s former mayor. The move saves the authority some $250,000
a year in rent.
Michigan Broadband is working on an $8 million project that will expand
the broadband infrastructure, creating a fiber backbone to connect the
eastern Upper Peninsula with the rest of the state.
A 2001 study commissioned by the Michigan Economic Development Corp.
showed that development of a comprehensive statewide broadband network
could create 497,000 jobs and add $440 billion to Michigan’s gross
state product over 10 years.
Schoen said many different groups exist in the Lansing area that try
to foster high-tech businesses. However, a more coordinated effort under
one single umbrella could be helpful.
Four years ago the Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce launched a TechConnect
Program to promote and facilitate technology careers and provide education
and networking opportunities for its members, in order to increase productivity
and profits. Work is underway to provide a searchable database of IT
businesses and resources in mid-Michigan.
In 2001, then-Mayor Hollister, formed the IT Initiative Group, with
the purpose of making IT available to everyone who lives, works, performs
business, and attends school in the Lansing area.
In October 2003, the city’s IT Initiative, the Lansing School
District, and ACD.net launched the “Get Connected” pilot
project, to offer Dwight Rich Middle School and Riddle Middle School
students and their families within Lansing either free dial-up Internet
access or high-speed Internet access at a reduced rate of $30 per month
for one year. “Studies show that students with access to a computer
and the Internet at home do better at school and are better prepared
for advanced education after high school,” said Patricia Cook,
manager of the Lansing Economic Development Corp. and coordinator of
the city’s IT Initiative.
At the end of the program, those participants who chose high-speed Internet
access will revert to ACD.net’s normal monthly market rate. The
IT initiative hopes to prove that high-speed Internet users will pay
the market rate for service once they see the inherent value in a high-speed
Internet connection, such as faster download times and a constant connection.
A Nov. 19 forum at the Lansing Center will offer the opportunity to
further discuss these issues, and to network with members of Lansing’s
IT community. Speakers include Bob Filka from the Michigan Broadband
Development Authority, Schoen, Christine Shopper of Innovative Business
Logistics and Vision Creative, and a speaker from RED Team, Inc.
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