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05/18/2011
Poll Shows Broadband Important for Drawing Jobs

by George Hohmann
Daily Mail Business Editor

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - A new poll shows that on a 10-point scale, economic development professionals across the state rate broadband as slightly more important in attracting high-paying jobs than sewer and water infrastructure or road improvements.

The poll was conducted for Citynet, whose president and chief executive officer, Jim Martin, has been a vocal critic of the state's broadband deployment plan. The poll was conducted by Jack Canfield Limited Liability Co. of Charleston.

Those surveyed were asked if they consider the broadband service available to businesses in their region, when compared to areas of the country they compete with for jobs, as very good, adequate, or not very good. Only 26 percent replied "very good." Thirty-three percent said "adequate." Nearly 41 percent said "not very good."

Martin said in a prepared statement, "78 percent of the respondents say it's been their experience that businesses considering locating in their areas place high priority on access to affordable, high-speed Internet when evaluating site selections. And 66 percent say cost and capacity of broadband service are factors more than half of the time when discussing new business prospects."

One of the survey questions asked, "How important do you, personally, believe a modern reasonably priced broadband Internet infrastructure is to attracting jobs in your area when competing against other locations?" Fifty-two percent of respondents said it is extremely important; 26 percent said it is very important.

Of respondents, 59 percent said they are very or somewhat familiar with broadband expansion programs being implemented in neighboring states. Nearly 41 percent said they believe large-capacity broadband service in West Virginia costs more.

Martin said in a prepared statement, "West Virginia's technology infrastructure deficit must be addressed by our state's policymakers. As a West Virginia resident, I am concerned about future job creation if we do not aggressively deal with the lack of affordable broadband infrastructure suitable for economic development."

Although the poll was not scientific, "it gives you a sense of what is out there," said Tom Susman, whose Charleston firm, TSG Consulting, represents Citynet.

"We did the poll to validate our thoughts about broadband - that it is important for economic development," Susman said. "We're trying to say the state needs broadband, however you develop it, to compete for jobs."

The online survey was conducted between April 26 and May 3. A questionnaire was emailed to 57 state professionals with economic development responsibilities. The professionals were listed on the state Department of Commerce website. Twenty-eight of the 57 responded, a response rate of 49 percent.

Susman said the poll results are being sent to state government and business leaders and will be posted on the Internet. Go to www.citynet.com, click on "News" and then click on "Economic Development Leader Survey Results."

Contact writer George Hohmann at business@dailymail.com or 304-348-4836.

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