The promise of expanded broadband is the opportunity for economic development

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One of the many promises of expanded broadband is the opportunity for economic development. One of the many ways better broadband can contribute to economic development is through workforce development. We’d like to highlight the efforts one southern Oregon broadband provider has undertaken to proactively contribute to workforce development.

Beacon Broadband is a new broadband provider in Coos and Curry Counties on the beautiful southern Oregon coast. Beacon Broadband’s mission is to bring the high-speed fiber experience where no one else will go. That doesn’t only mean up the southern coast’s wild rivers but also into the lives of the coast’s residents and into the businesses that help the region thrive. As part of this mission, Beacon Broadband strives to contribute to the development of a highly skilled workforce drawn from local residents.

This philosophy began in action early in the project. When Beacon Broadband was first conceived, they recognized they may have a negative impact on some of the existing businesses. One such business is Southern Sky. At the time, Southern Sky installed satellite dishes for internet and television service. Beacon Broadband feared that the all-fiber network being deployed through most of Southern Sky’s territory would have a significant impact on business. Beacon Broadband and Southern Sky met and decided that they could work together to help Southern Sky retool and retrain to complete fiber drop installs.

As construction got under way, Beacon Broadband sought ways to bring more of the construction dollars and job training back to the south coast. They were fortunate to meet with Key Line Construction. Key Line Construction (a local company out of Myrtle Point) focusses primarily on electric builds. However, they started doing make ready work for the Beacon Broadband project and through that experience determined they could build capacity to complete full implementation of fiber networks. Key Line entered into an agreement with the IBEW to build fiber networks using young men and women from the area who were hoping to get electric lineman apprenticeships. Key Line trains these young men and women and helps them gain experience that makes them more appealing lineman apprenticeship candidates.

Building and supporting an all-fiber network requires significant skillsets not readily available on the south coast. Beacon Broadband has been able to take advantage of the services of the Southwestern Oregon Workforce Investment Board to help otherwise excellent candidates gain the skills needed to support the project.

Helping young people gain workforce skills brings value to Beacon Broadband. To support young men and women interested in technology fields Beacon Broadband has created two programs. First, they have a paid internship program for recent high school graduates. These interns provide support to Beacon broadband’s teams and are exposed to a wide variety of technical tasks. Second, Beacon Broadband teaches an IT Essentials class at the Brookings-Harbor High School. This class helps introduce high school students to the skills needed to provide IT support and lays the foundation for more in depth technology-oriented opportunities.

Southern Oregon’s broadband providers not only believe broadband can contribute to economic development, they are directly engaged in making it happen.

By Paul Recanzone

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