Recognizing that rural communities need reliable high-speed internet services to compete in the international marketplace, officials with the city of Martin have taken steps to become Tennessee’s next gig city, providing high-speed internet services for residents, businesses, and students at the University of Tennessee at Martin as well as the other important services all communities require.
In honor of the efforts made by city officials in economic development and to bring global connectivity to their local community, the Tennessee Municipal League has presented the City of Martin with the award for Excellence in Technology and Economic Development.
The process began in 2016 when the city began looking for a better way to take more accurate readings of its water system. Officials learned one of the best ways to do this was through a fiber optic network – the same technology that would bring city internet service speeds that rival even major metropolises.
Working with cooperative WK&T Telecommunications, the city planned to wire 150 miles of fiber optic lines in the city to provide a one gigabit-per-second internet speed.
Additionally, the lines will offer broadband internet, digital television, phone and related services to communities. The city pays the cooperative $300,000 per year over 30 years to build and maintain the network, which will serve as the foundation for a further $10 million technological infrastructure investment in the area. Already, Martin estimates it will see a savings of $100,000 on its public water system through use of the network in the first year alone.
The network is also being used as a catalyst to develop a local technology park aimed at software development, incubator businesses, and tech companies who can only succeed through the use of fiber networks. The city is also working with UT Martin for innovative partnerships. A direct result is that a new software development company has plans to locate in Martin, with the hope of ultimately bringing 50 new technological jobs to the city. The announcement is forthcoming but cannot be publicly disclosed at this time.
“This is an innovative approach by a forward-thinking city,” WK&T CEO Trevor Bonnstetter said. “We commend city leaders for looking beyond the immediate challenge and forging a partnership that would not only help control their operating costs but would also make advanced telecommunications services available throughout the city.”
University of Tennessee at Martin Chancellor Dr. Keith Carver stated, “The City of Martin’s approach to technology and innovation in economic development are applauded by all of us at the University of Tennessee at Martin. Martin’s commitment to fiber networks and lightning-fast internet speed will enable us to recruit faculty and students even more broadly across the state, the region and the country. This network will allow the university to reach its fullest potential for research, outreach and public service.”
Other improvements noted in the award were sidewalk improvements, a new fire station, police station and library, as well as the announcement of an industrial operation to be installed by Dong-A USA Inc.
“Martin is seeing its investment in technology and public infrastructure pay off,” says Mayor Randy Brundige. “We have a tremendous momentum for growth in the city along with the University of Tennessee at Martin. It is an exciting time to be in Martin, and we look forward to further build connections in that trajectory.”
Each year the Tennessee Municipal League honors cities throughout the state for overall excellence, improvement, specific outstanding programs, or department accomplishments. Other award winners for 2018 include Dunlap, for Excellence in Green Leadership; Gatlinburg, for Excellence in Police Services; Jonesborough, Excellence in Community Planning and Development; Kingsport, for Excellence in Governance; Knoxville, for Excellence in Public Works; Murfreesboro, for Excellence in Fire Services; Rockwood, for Small City Progress; and Unicoi for Excellence in Entrepreneurial Leadership.
A delegation of City of Martin officials will be onsite to receive this award on June 12 in Knoxville. Those representing the city include: Mayor Randy Brundige, Alderman David Belote, Alderman Randy Edwards, Alderman Marvin Flatt, Director of Economic and Community Development Brad Thompson, City Recorder Kelly Wilson and Human Resources Director Debbie Yeager.