Cities vie for Google’s favor

It’s not a joke, the capital of Kansas is now Google, and it all started with a Facebook group. CivSource spoke with Jared Starkey, the man behind the name change, who says the change was a stunt, but one designed to reflect a movement. Starkey, who started the Facebook group, did so to call attention to a Google initiative that will bring the fastest high speed fiber optic network to one US city. The project, has cities clamoring for Google’s attention as well as its economic investment.

In Kansas, Starkey leads a scrappy group of passionate citizens and local businesses who want to revive the state’s capital with this project and establish the technology framework for a biomedical research corridor that includes several medical centers and universities in the surrounding metro area.

Starkey is the first to tell you, “its not about me.” Rather, the action sprang from a core group of passionate people with a mandate to follow through on their ideas. He noted that while the Facebook group has several thousand members, a fraction of that showed up to the first in-person meeting, but he recognized those who did were his go-to people, and so far they’ve delivered.

The group is working hard to find new ideas and new ways to get the attention of Google and make Topeka a better place in the process. However, they face stiff competition from other cities working just as hard to get noticed. Yesterday, Duluth, upped the ante by proclaiming each new child would be named Google and Googlette.

Aspen, Colo. is hoping that its Rural Broadband Cooperative’s current initiative to extend broadband access into the countryside will gain attention. Peoria, Ill. hopes its “Google Day” festivities will sway some votes. In this climate, the city of Madison, Wis. is revisiting its own application looking for ways to make it more creative.

Other cities are taking a more subdued angle – the towns of Chapel Hill and Carrboro are teaming up on their application with the hopes of bringing Google’s fiber into Tar Heel country. Tallahassee has also applied and is working to bring its student population on board as a way to gain favor.

The bigger question though, is what will the winning city do with the network once it has it? Starkey points to the creation of a biomedical corridor in Topeka, …er Google. As well as the creation of a completely redundant technology infrastructure in whatever city wins, a big asset to be sure. Regardless of what happens, its shaping up to be a creative battle.

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