I wish to thank you for allowing me to testify on this important issue that affects the vitality of Diagnostic Hybrids and that of other businesses trying to get a start or maintain their operations and growth in the Appalachian Region.
So that I do not fail to summarize, I would like to begin at the end – operating as a business enterprise in a global marketplace means having ready access to:
1) A telecommunications infrastructure capable of delivering you to the world, and the world to you, each and every second of the day, 24/7; and
2) The necessary human resources to assist business operators with implementing productivity applications such as Enterprise Resource Programming (ERP), bar coding technology, web-enabled business applications, EDI for processing business transactions, e-mail, and internet security solutions.
Diagnostic Hybrids has been successful to date for multiple reasons. Underpinning the national recognition we received in 2004 and 2005 by being named in consecutive years to Inc. 500 Magazine’s list of the Fastest Growing Private Companies in America are our people. Our employees are dedicated, committed and talented, and we attract them from within a 50 mile radius of Athens, OH.
We invest heavily in workforce development, both inside DHI and within the community, to help us meet our projected need for talent, particularly in the specialized manufacturing and laboratory technician area. This commitment is paying off and is a great investment for our Company.
Meeting our needs at Diagnostic Hybrids for telecommunciations infrastructure is a bit more daunting task. Certainly, much progress has been made in focused areas of our region to build the telecommunications infrastructure necessary to meet the two primary needs I mentioned above. For example, The Ohio University Innovation Center, a small business incubator affiliated with Ohio University, is equipped with broadband capability. Access to the telecommunications infrastructure provided by The Innovation Center is absolutely critical to our past and future growth.
I am sure there are other good examples.
Unfortunately, I can drive 10-15 minutes in any direction from our headquarters in Athens, OH where we employ nearly 170 of the best and brightest biotech employees in the world and likely be without 1) cell phone service for lengthy stretches, 2) wireless internet access, and 3) broadband capability.
Not too surprisingly, the many areas of the Appalachian Region in which this major deficiency, or digital divide, exists are characterized by those that develop telecom infrastructure as rural and under-populated, and thus economically not feasible to establish proper infrastructure.
Perhaps even more demoralizing, both personally and professionally, is to hear “outsiders” characterize those people that live within these areas (including me) as economically and intellectually impoverished because we are “not connected” – at a minimum, we are viewed as out-of-step with today’s global economy and perhaps more fundamentally, today’s world!
The impact of this situation sooner or later ends up as a non-viable outcome for those without access. The impact is first felt with reduced educational aspirations on the part of our young people and ends with a lack of opportunity on the economic side – forcing many to “move” to somewhere that has the infrastructure and thus the opportunity.
My recommendations for you to act upon would include providing incentives or grants to communities and/or businesses to acquire:
- Towers to increase the density within the region to enable DSL and wireless connectivity.
- Underground cable to provide for greater access to broadband.
- Consulting service talent to enable implementation of important productivity IT applications to help businesses run more efficiently and cost-effectively.
In summary, telecommunications infrastructure has become a vital utility to the global educational and business community in a fashion similar to the value placed on water, sewer, and transportation infrastructure. Without immediate and aggressive attention paid to this regional need, residents of the very beautiful and scenic region known as the Appalachian Region are destined to fall behind even further.