Every once in a while there is a crossing of seemingly unrelated news stories where the connection is not as immediately obvious as it could be yet should create an “A-ha!” moment. One hopes the headhunters at the Greater Rome Chamber of Commerce saw the same thing.
The first piece was an update in our paper on how the new high-speed broadband network being put into Northwest Georgia and nearby Alabama points was coming along — which is very well and quickly indeed. This is a fiber-optic pathway, the sort with the speeds and huge capacity that really large users and intensive applications require.
By the end of summer it is possible that the first sections could be up and running in what’s known as the Appalachian Valley Fiber Network and will eventually involve lacing the region with 500 miles of nearby hookup potential.
Parker FiberNet of Summerville is the main player in this with the central hub for this operation in Rome ... on Broad Street, in fact. It is largely being made possible with a local match to a $21 million federal stimulus package grant.
Boy, is this community ever ready to be stimulated!
WHICH BRINGS in the second news report, this one in the New York Times and about how Wall Street outfits are moving their nuts-and-bolts operations out of the Big Apple in a major cost-cutting move. It’s a trend known as “near-shoring” and, as contrasted with “off-shoring,” keeps the jobs in this country but at a much lower cost to the employer.
New York City has, in comparison to most places and certainly Greater Rome, a ghastly high cost of living and personal taxation.
As the head of no less than Goldman Sachs recently explained, moving the middle- and lower-tier jobs out of New York could save 40 to 75 percent on job-related expenses. That’s not only salaries but also real-estate (offices) and attractively lower tax burdens in many states, such as Georgia.
Wall Street is now into the equivalent of coupon clipping and bargain shopping, just as the rank-and-file of Americans and their businesses have been doing for some time.
One example given was of a trading middleman whose $100,000 job was moved to Utah where the going salary was going to be $60,000 for doing the identical thing.
THE JOBS involved are not those of the high-and-mighty decision makers with jaw-dropping salaries and bonuses but rather all the “mechanics” that keep the financial sector going: accounting, trading, legal support, regulatory nit-picking, customer-service call centers and so forth.
This movement is apparently already well underway with currently favored relocation sites being not only Utah but also North Carolina (the Golden Triangle), some of Texas and Jacksonville, Fla.
What all those have, besides not being New York, is already being part of the superspeed fiber network. Pushing what amounts to paper around really requires only one thing: computers able to instantly do what they are told at the place, even a thousand miles away, where it needs to get done.
That’s what Rome, and quite a few other places in the vicinity, are about to also have. And we’re already not New York.
Indeed, while the new network extends to such distant points as Marietta and Paulding County and Gadsden, looking at the “routes” being put into the ground it is clear that Rome is the hub of a wheel with its immediate county environs being the spokes. Grand Central Station, if you will.
NOT ONLY that but Greater Rome already has a lower cost of living than many of the current choices (particularly as regards housing and taxation), has long been selling its lifestyle amenities, has recreation and climate and even educational, medical and cultural assets not normally found atop fiber-optic pipelines.
Yes, there’s a lot yet “missing” here compared to places like Manhattan and Silicon Valley but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Or, looking at it another way, it is nothing that a sudden infusion of about 10,000 jobs shuffling money around with salaries of $60,000 wouldn’t cure in one heck of a hurry.
A lot of the emerging places already “plugged into” super-fast technology are apparently making the circuit in Wall Street selling themselves. One hopes that Greater Rome and Northwest Georgia are as well. Opportunity may be knocking.
However, the larger point that needs to be understood more widely is that this region in on the verge of something really, really big as far as its economic vitality is concerned. Not everything moves by truck and superhighways.
As David Parker, who heads up Parker FiberNet, put it: “One of our goals is (for the expanding network) to be a catalyst and a community asset for job creation, and to enhance this region’s ability to compete for jobs in the technology, manufacturing and medical sectors.”
OR THE WALL Street sector. Or to become the ideal, hooked-in place to put the East Coast yet lower cost in a pleasant place regional headquarters for a Microsoft or Apple. Or to handle some of Google’s action, or that of Amazon, or any of the myriad enterprises and even government functions that now depend entirely on one main thing: Getting transactions done fast and at the lowest possible cost in order to maximize both profit and investment potential.
Hey, we’ll take what we can get but the second step, after the infrastructure, is to let the world know where the better mousetrap can be found.