Does The Internet Pass Thru Your Town?
I was recently visiting a very small Tennessee Town to attend a 40th birthday party when I decide to walk down in to the actual village which was about ¼ a mile from where the party was.
I love visiting small towns (both in the South and in my homeland of Australia) – they intrigue the daylights out of me and they bring a sense of history that is just so attractive to my imagination. Like many small old towns of the past there were mostly empty buildings in the village area – at lot were dilapidated but it wasn’t hard to imagine a bustling village back in the 1950’s. Maybe it was a town just like Mayberry.
What made the bustling Town Die?
Aghhhh – this is Interview with a Webmaster – so I guess it’s a valid question.
Though I won’t name the town it is on the Cumberland Plateau (may also be considered East Tennessee) – but either way there was a big “logging” industry operating between the early 1900’s up to the 1950’s when the town began to decline. The folks and family I know from this area ultimately could not maintain work and moved up North to work in the Automotive & Steel Industry (which I am sure happened in more rural states than just Tennessee). Walking thru the Town I found the old bank now closed with weeds growing in the building. There was a very large building that looked like the towns hotel and restaurant and then quite a few other buildings mostly boarder up and run down. After a quick walk thru the township I headed back to the party. While heading back to the party I heard a train whistle which appeared to be very close by.
So the Town Was Built on a Railway Line?
Evidently so! I happened to meet an esteemed 90 year old town resident at the birthday party and she confirmed that the railway line was the primary form of transportation and people were riding trains to and from the town extensively in the 1930’s. Of course many towns like this one actually started slowly down when the “interstate system” started to become the primary method of transportation (and the commuter trains slowly went away). I remember the Andy Griffith show that had a new interstate system planned to come thru Mayberry . The town was all abuz (you could just imagine Barny running around excited) and the thought of skyscrapers one day being built in down town Mayberry. Ultimately for whatever reason the interstate bypassed Mayberry and went thru Mount Pilot on its route to the big city “Raleigh”.
What on earth does this have to with Websites?
Ok so I like telling a story! Pretty much most small towns that were not on the interstate systems probably continued to spiral down in terms of commerce and activity. In the town I was visiting with the industry all but gone, no major interstate system to be found, and the commuter train nothing but a carriage of ghosts from the past. There really doesn’t seem like anything can bring this town back to life.
That is unless the “Internet” happens to pass thru this town…
That’s right – the Internet! With the world wide web now a primary route of commerce that is capable of bringing more business traffic than any physical road or interstate for that matter. And the internet does not CARE where you are – so long as you have a professional website and services and products that an internet consumer will purchase. Imagine the old bank is turned in to a retail crafts store that specializes in regional “Cumberland Quilts” – that are now purchased by people from all over the world. Their website – let’s call it http://www.cumberlandquilts.com/ grows at a rapid rate – visitors buying product directly from the website.
The retail side of business doesn’t start booming initially but more and more people are starting to hear about this store especially online so people start popping by and product is now selling directly on the floor. Word spreads among the quilt makers in the Appalachians – people who have tremendous craft that has been passed down thru the ages – but had never really had the supply and demand of the internet. The quilt store establishes relationships with as many quilt makers to ensure quality remains constant as demand increases. A few extra folks from town start working in the store part time to help with the business as it grows.
One Store Leads To Another
Being a beautiful old town it doesn’t take long for a local antiques store to become part of the scenery. Today many people will browse online looking for antiques and then if they find themselves close to an antiques dealer they will make a trip to that dealer. If they are not within driving distance they may very well just buy online if it is that item they just have to have. The Internet and their website fuels interest but also this type of store will bring lots of people to town. And what is more lovely than a beautiful old antique store in an historical old town. It doesn’t matter which building the antique store picks – they all suite the look and feel of antiques.
So now our town has 2 business operating and as important 2 busy websites. The Antiques store – http://www.plateauantiques.com/ really captures the imagination of antique buffs – and a full catalog online on with every product the store carries – calls are soon coming in from as far away as Maine to Michigan. And our famous little post office just seems to get busier and busier. Of course the shipping module of the online shop has shipping costs tied into their products so shipping is calculated during the purchase. The antique shop owner can even print the shipping labels thru his website.
And with this small town being on the Cumberland Plateau there is a plethora of antiques to be found as well as dealers and novices. Soon the first Saturday of each month becomes known as “Antiques Swap” and the sleepy little town starts to become a “zoo” every Saturday morning. Everyone has an antique they think is worth something!
As traffic to Internet grows – so does this town!
OK – pretty basic concept – but then more business moves into town. With the advent of “activity” that Cumberland Quilts and Plateau Antiques have created the G’Day Café has now opened which cleverly includes the small town library and is fitted with Wi-Fi for all its patrons. With the local high school within walking distance of the town over 500 students now have an option for after school studying combined with some sociality. Of course their parents might also find the café cakes very alluring. There is also a line of computers that are linked to the internet that allow folks that don’t have a laptop to be able to come and spend an hour on the internet.
The café serves coffee, cappuccinos and cokes. The local towns folks are now providing the café with all the cakes and sweets (that their patrons can gobble up) and with the café having pick of the crop of the old buildings downtown the café is located in a wonderful two story building that has the café down stairs the towns official “Webmaster and Technologist” is now operating from upstairs. Providing the township with a professional website developer helps make the town competitive with any other town in the world and I hear they will be offering Internet classes as part of a “continuing” education movement – funded by the local country government. The webmaster is not just a service provider but he is a production shop for internet traffic. Every website that goes online for a business or organization in the township is in essence more traffic coming to this little town.
And then the Webmaster Gets Busy
With the township now coming to life and a great community park within the village limits its time to get a website online that promotes the town as a great “summer picnic” choice – and the CVB website is born. With a professionally designed website and an online photo album the choice to visit this town is made easy. The website of course is now running banner ads for Cumberland Quilts, Plateau Antiques and G’Day Café so a visitor to town may very well be a prospective customer for each business.
The county mayor’s office takes full advantage of having a webmaster in town – and the local government website begins to build many services online. A strategic meeting is held to plan out the purchase of domain names that will bring internet traffic to the town not only today but in the future. The town now has a domain strategy! And as this little town now fully understands – domain names bring traffic – great domain names bring large amounts of traffic – and traffic brings commerce and people.
And the county mayor’s office is not only focusing on the township but many rural residents that are now getting connecting. Connecting online today makes sense – in a rural community with long distances between towns combined with $4.00 a gallon of gas – NO THANKS – they will check it out online before they drive anywhere!
Our little town now has all kinds of business’s vying for office space and positions. There’s the Beauty Salon, the Flower Shop, Several Real Estate Agents and several Lawyers. Needless to say G’Day Café has now become the center of the town’s activity but how can a little town drink that much coffee? Of course these same folks are all connecting with the town Webmaster knowing that the backbone of this town in technology. Everyone recognizes that traffic will come to this town in two methods – by road (I hope by rail again one day) and by the information highway.
A Walkable Town that immediately becomes Green
And with the latest technology promoting our little village it doesn’t take long for our “green” webmaster to start to incorporate the green aspects of the village into our websites and marketing literature. Why – because GREEN SELLS!. But in this old town you can walk from one end to another on sidewalks and greenways. There’s even talk of some more greenways to run along the river that runs thru downtown. And with the local farmers and their fresh produce a farmers market and a website that promotes “Buy Local” really ties into the basis of being green.
Maybe this green little town becomes a twenty first century Mayberry. A place that is deep in our hearts and a place where so many of us want to live and work if we can sustain ourselves. The advantages and quality of life of a small town are hard to beat. A town where a mother can walk a child to the town center in a stroller on a pretty spring day. A town where the local history from the early 20th century becomes an inspiration for the current town fathers and is shared online for the whole world to enjoy.
And a town that competes and wins in the global economy by the use of technology and by using a thing that passes thru their town every second of every day – a thing called the Internet.
But what about Floyd the Barber? Seems like the Towns got everything else?
Well I must admit an Internet Kiosk would fit right in the corner of Floyd’s Barber shop (so long as it didn’t interfere with the old men playing checkers) but of course when Floyd was cutting hair Al Gore was just a kid and we all know that the Internet was not yet passing thru Mayberry…
Peter Beare – Webmaster
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Peter Beare is CEO of BeareWare, a Website Design & Development Company located just outside of Nashville, Tennessee. Since building his first website for a local sports club in 1998 Peter has been a webmaster. Over the years Peter’s duties with BeareWare have included strategic website planning, design and development, website marketing and sales, as well as database application programming & project management. But when all is said and done, Peter is still primarily a webmaster. And this is “Interview with a Webmaster.”