Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Preservation Bytes

Written by Jason Yots, President and CEO of Preservation Studios

The former Duffy Silk Factory at 1210 Broadway,
located near the Belt Line
The New York Times recently featured Chattanooga, Tennessee in its Business Day section, describing it as possible model for the resurgence of former industrial centers (Note #1).  More specifically, the article discusses the connection between Chattanooga’s investment in ultra-high-speed fiber-optic infrastructure and a recent surge in capital and professional talent flowing into the city.  Known as “The Gig” locally, the taxpayer-owned fiber-optic system is considered by some to be the fastest system in the United States.  How fast?  How about one gigabyte per second (or about 33 seconds to download a two-hour high-definition movie)?  That’s 50 times faster than average the “high speed” internet available to American homes.  For less than $70 per month.

But folks aren’t moving to Chattanooga because they can download movies faster; they’re moving there for the jobs that have emerged from the businesses that have started or expanded there to access The Gig.  Here’s a bit of the article:

“Since the fiber-optic network switched on four years ago, the signs of growth in Chattanooga are unmistakable.  Former factory buildings on Main Street and Warehouse Row on Market Street have been converted to loft apartments, open-space offices, restaurants and shops.  The city has welcomed the new population of computer programmers, entrepreneurs and investors.  Lengthy sideburns and scruffy hipster beards – not the norm in eastern Tennessee – are de rigueur for the under-30 set.”

Former factory buildings?  Scruffy hipster beards?  We have a few of those in Western New York, don’t we?  If Chattanooga launched The Gig only four years ago, we aren’t that far behind.  In fact, this reminds me of a local effort from the late-1990s encouragingly called the “Buffalo Byte Belt” that focused on attracting technology companies to the trunk of Main Street downtown (Note #2).  I don’t know if the Buffalo Byte Belt took off downtown but it might be something that Buffalonians should reconsider, perhaps along the re-emerging Belt Line (no relation).

Note #1 - “A City Wired For Growth”, Edward Wyatt, February 4, 2014

Note #2 - See, for example, this 2001 Business First article -

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