Two Economic Development Lessons from Danville, VA’s Fiber Network

Danville’s City Manager Joe King is one of the speakers on a panel session about broadband’s impact on local economies I’m leading tomorrow at the Intl Economic Development Council annual conference. Some of the following story to give session attendees valuable insights to take back to their communities.

Danville, VA ’s public utility company (Danville Utilities) started its nDanville fiber network in 2004 to connect municipal and utility buildings, the K-12 schools, and then went commercial in 2006. nDanville now has 135 miles of fiber that passes more than 1000 business locations including five business parks. 100 Mbps is available to most commercial customers, and 1 gigabit and 10 gigabit services are available upon request.

nDanville was born as a last-ditch effort to save a town on Economic Death’s doorstep. As tobacco farming died out in the state, towns shrunk with the vanishing employment opportunities. Those in the workforce who remained faced serious challenges using their skillsets in other industries.

One of two important lessons to learn from nDanville stems from the question, is economic development helped best by using broadband to first attract new businesses, or do you work with your existing businesses first. Danville used the latter approach to facilitate the former.

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