The rapid pace of technology, along with global competition from China, Korea, India, South Vietnam and others affects the American economy even in Gregg County. This competition from abroad and even our neighbors in surrounding states and counties exacts a toll, putting our citizens at risk for immediate and future losses in jobs, education, health and economic security.
For example, our western neighbors in Tyler and Smith County enjoy a lead in 5G wireless infrastructure development, while here at home, Gregg County leaders continue to pursue spending $9 million dollars to build a parking garage.
We often hear about a “Digital Divide” separating those who understand or use the internet and software and those who do not. This divide is not only a matter of age or education for many rural Texans have little or no access to broadband internet service where they live. So, during this pandemic, they cannot see their doctor online. Their kids cannot participate in live-streamed classes.
And for those thinking COVID-19 is an anomaly, it is best to recall SARS, MERS, H1N1 and other infectious challenges of recent history. One would be careless to believe the future doesn’t hold additional challenges requiring social distancing in some form.
In the future, more and more new businesses and people looking for a place to operate, live or retire will not consider an area without 5G and other advanced services. Literally nobody inquires with any Chamber of Commerce if there is “ample parking” at the courthouse. Evidence is abundant in many areas of Texas that promoting government-sponsored or supported broadband development is a priority.
We should be doing our part, too. It is accepted policy that when money is taken from us in the form of taxes, a portion should be wisely invested in ways that return benefits back to us. Gregg County could be offering tax breaks, interest-free loans, grants and other incentives to ensure systems that drive stay-at- home business activity, live-stream education, online health options and law enforcement services that would benefit us and our children for the next 50 years. The communities who offer incentives will acquire these important services. Those who do not may be waiting a long time for them.
While yesterday’s “brick and mortar” will retain a valuable but reduced space within our economy, failure of leadership to support the technological infrastructure needs of today and our future could condemn local taxpayers to a diminished status in a matter of a few years. And we can do better than that.
The “Parking Garage” era is behind us. The digital age is here. Let’s embrace it and become part of it.