IB083016geneseetechplanAugust 31, 2016

Connect Michigan applauds the efforts of Genesee County, Michigan, for achieving certification under Connected Nation’s Connected Community Engagement Program. Today, Connect Michigan presented Genesee County’s certification and its Technology Action Plan before the Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce, University of Michigan-Flint representatives, Genesee County Board of Commissioners and community stakeholders.

The release of this plan follows months of extensive analysis of the community’s broadband and technology standing and understanding its technology goals for the future. The Technology Action Plan gives step-by-step action items to ensure Genesee County reaches those technology goals.

Genesee County has been working with Connect Michigan, a program of Connected Nation, on the Connected Community Engagement Program. This initiative assesses the local broadband landscape, identifies connectivity gaps, and establishes technology-driven goals and objectives to increase broadband access, adoption, and use for families, organizations, and businesses throughout the community. Genesee County joins more than 50 communities throughout the Great Lakes State that are engaged in the Connected program.

“Technology, including broadband Internet accessibility, plays a pivotal role in how businesses operate, the type of service consumers expect, how institutions provide services, and where consumers choose to live, work, and play” said Tim Herman, CEO of the Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce. “That’s why this distinction is so important for our region and why the Chamber has been actively involved in the certification process. It’s another important indicator to show that Flint & Genesee is open for business.”

UM-Flint led the broadband connectivity project’s research efforts, which assessed our community’s access to high-speed internet. A team of university faculty and three students led the project to survey community senior centers, libraries and other public resources as part of the certification project.

“We all know that this certification does not mean our work is done, but it does mean we’ve taken an important step forward in ensuring our community has access to functional, necessary technology," said UM-Flint Chancellor Susan E. Borrego. "The University of Michigan-Flint is proud to have been a partner in this project by providing research assistance — while also giving our students an opportunity to learn and deliver a meaningful service to our community.”

The Genesee County Technology Action Plan sets general, community-wide broadband connectivity goals to work toward that will support and further enhance economic development and residential quality of life. Genesee County’s top goals from the new plan include:

• Work with local municipalities, especially more rural townships, and with broadband providers to improve broadband access • Pursue business and community development opportunities by marketing the areas significant broadband infrastructure • Expand community literacy programs to include digital literacy training • Form a technology consortium to provide shared technology services for community nonprofit organizations • Assess the need for additional public computer centers • Establish an entrepreneurial and technology hub to support the community • Develop an online interactive map of community resources

The plan encompasses support for future broadband programs that will ensure the community continues to advance its technology standing in the digital economy. Other recommended action items include Internet safety classes, a broadband training program for small and medium-sized businesses, creating local jobs through teleworking opportunities, and promoting telemedicine initiatives in remote areas.

“Our assessment results show that Genesee County has extensive broadband infrastructure already in place, with fiber optic cable and multiple broadband providers in many areas of the county,” said Eric Frederick, Executive Director of Connect Michigan and Vice President of Community Affairs for Connected Nation. “This provides a solid foundation to expand broadband to underserved areas of the county. Additionally, robust infrastructure allows for future technology growth and a quick launch for programs to fuel improved digital literacy, small business technology use, and entrepreneurial centers.

“The digital economy opens innumerable opportunities for families, communities, and businesses.”