Businesses: Are you successful because of broadband?

CARBONDALE – AT&T and Connect SI announced Monday an award program to recognize 12 small businesses in Southern Illinois using broadband in a unique way.

The “Smart Broadband for Small Business Awards,” as coined by Connect SI and AT&T, will focus on micro-businesses with 10 or fewer employees in the 20 southernmost Illinois counties.

The winners of one of these awards will receive $2,000 from AT&T with no requirements on how the money can be spent, AT&T Vice President of External Affairs Jim Maurer said.

Maurer, who said he is a Southern Illinois native, said the companies must be using wired or wireless broadband as a key component of their success.

“When you have a broadband network, it allows anyone who lives in the smallest town of Southern Illinois or the largest town to have the same kind of connectivity and opportunities to enter into a global market as they do in the Chicago area,” he said. “It is important to me that Southern Illinois get recognized for this.”

Executive Director of Connect SI Kathy Lively said the deadline for applications is March 2. She said the application asks for a one-page narrative about how broadband has allowed that business to be successful.

The judges will be business professionals in Southern Illinois with backgrounds in broadband, economic development, marketing and other professions, Lively said. 

State Rep. Terri Bryant, R-Murphysboro, said she is excited that micro-business are getting some help.

“I want to commit and recommit, my commitment to do everything that we can to ease the way for businesses to come into this area,” she said. “Anything we can do to encourage private businesses whether it is at the corporate level or businesses with one, two or 10 employees.”

Rex Duncan, Connect SI board of director president, said the most impressive applicants will most likely show the judges a new idea.

“We are looking for folks that are doing that unique, novel or innovative thing with broadband,” he said.

For more information or to apply for the award, contact Lively at kathylively@mantracon.org.

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