Monday, May 20 UW Professor Andy Lewis, Broadband & Economic Development Specialist at the Center for Community Technology Solutions, UW-Extension, led a group visiting the facilities at Uplands Cheese north of Dodgeville, Wisconsin. The group included three members of the Parliament of Victoria, Australia, who are members of the Rural and Regional Committee. They were Mr Paul Wellner (Chair), Mr Geoff Howard MP, and Mr Andrew Katos MP. They were accompanied by Lilian Topic, Executive Officer of the Rural and Regional Committee. I was privileged to participate in this event. Mike Gingrich of Uplands Cheese graciously acted as tour guide. He was a wealth of information and ended the tour with a tasting of the multiple-award winning Pleasant Ridge Reserve cheese.
The Rural and Regional Committee members were in the United States as part of their Inquiry into the Opportunities to Use Telecommuting and E-Business in Rural and Regional Victoria. After touring Uplands Cheese, the members of the committee, Andy, and I continued with discussion of the pros and cons of telecommuting and remote working. We also discussed entrepreneurship challenges in rural areas, including broadband access and costs. I related my experience of bootstrapping a small business and over seventeen years of running WebWise Design & Marketing in a small community in southwest Wisconsin. We discussed how a committee of dedicated members (including Andy and me) helped establish local dial-up Internet service availability in 1997 to nearly everyone in Grant County, WI. That local access grew from the city of Platteville only to covering nearly everywhere in Grant County in approximately six month’s time.
We concluded the day with a bit of a hike to a rocky point with a panoramic view overlooking Wyoming Valley, followed by dinner at a local restaurant, where our Australian visitors enjoyed their first taste of fried Wisconsin cheese curds. Thanks to Andy and Mike for making this wonderful exchange of conversation, information, and ideas possible.