April 29, 2010 By Russell Nichols
It's not Topeka, Kan., anymore. At least it wasn't for the month of March. Under a formal proclamation issued by Mayor Bill Bunten, the capital of the Sunflower State became known as Google, Kan. - "the capital city of fiber optics."
Topeka's temporary moniker was perhaps the most offbeat publicity stunt among several U.S. cities that were angling for a spot in Google's new Fiber for Communities program. Announced in February, the Web search giant planned to pick one or more cities for its pilot project, offering an ultra-high speed, 1 GB per second network at a "competitive price." The experiment had citizens salivating at the thought of Internet speeds 100 times faster than what's available in average American households.
The idea of Topeka's name change "came pretty much out of the blue," Bunten said. "Everybody thought it was a fun idea, so we just went forward with it."
Cities had until March 26 to express their interest in Google's fiber-optic broadband test. According to Google, the winning city or cities will be announced "some time this year."
Bunten wasn't fighting for Google's attention for his own benefit. He wants faster connections in Topeka to grow jobs and show younger generations it's more than "a good place to grow potatoes," which is what the city's name means in indigenous languages.
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.