May 1, 2013 By Sarah Rich
When Nick Budidharma wanted to launch a business based on his idea for an online gaming server, he didn’t head to California’s Silicon Valley or another traditional tech hot spot. Instead he set out for Kansas City, taking advantage of super-fast fiber connectivity being installed by Google and new local programs designed to build companies around those broadband resources.
Budidharma, an 18-year-old high school graduate from Hilton Head Island, S.C., moved into a five-bedroom “hacker home” last winter, sharing the space with several other aspiring entrepreneurs. After spending three months rent-free in the house, Budidharma launched his company, LeetNode. Now he plans to spend another year in the area — living in another entrepreneurial test tube environment called the KC Startup Community — while working on a second Internet-based startup.
Budidharma’s experience may have been just what Kansas City leaders had in mind when they made a bid for Google Fiber several years ago. Kansas City, Kan., Mayor and CEO Joe Reardon led efforts to become a test bed for Google’s gigabit fiber-to-the-home Internet service. Kansas City, Mo., Mayor Sly James then partnered with Reardon to extend the network across the state line. The region was among more than 1,000 communities competing for a chance to become home to the super-fast network. Google chose Kansas City for the project in 2011 and began installing the fiber network last year.
Kansas City, Mo., and Kansas City, Kan., stand to benefit from Google Fiber.
Reardon says he quickly realized that the fiber project would achieve a “deeper level of success” as a regional initiative. Reardon added that he and James had been in talks about the fiber project before James was elected in 2011. The partnership meant that the cities could work together to achieve the same goal.
All over the country, community leaders are looking to boost economic development through various initiatives. One key element in many of those initiatives is the use of information technology. When local governments build IT infrastructure, create e-government applications, assist high-tech startups or otherwise focus on technology, they create conditions that draw businesses to their communities and help retain skilled workers. This paper discusses and provides examples of these various ways local government can use technology to ultimately make a community more attractive to businesses, visitors and residents.