Last week, community leaders come together to celebrate Statesboro making it to the first round of the America's Best Communities, a $10 million prize competition sponsored by Frontier Communications, DISH Network, Co-bank and The Weather Channel. The ultimate goal of the competition is to inspire the revitalization of small town America and harness the power of community collaboration and innovation for the greater good.
"350 communities in 28 states signed up to compete for a chance at the total prize package worth $10 million," said Greg Stephens, president for the Midwest Region of Frontier Communications. "Frontier hired an outside company to do the judging. They selected 50 special projects to advance to the quarterfinals. Each of these communities received $50,000, a mentor and a GoPro camera to document their journey. I am thrilled that Statesboro was selected. What the judges liked about Statesboro was that they had a shovel-ready project that had been in the works already. This impressed the judges because it was not simply an idea or project developed specifically for the competition.
"We gave each of the 300 communities that did not make the first cut $5,000 each in hopes that they will continue on with the projects they presented as well."
"The America's Best Communities approach to engaging small towns and cities across America through a contest is unique, as the communities involved will become a center for change through an incentive and reward structure," said Jaclyn Cason, general manager for Frontier in Statesboro. "In addition, the prize competition provides a framework for new rural investment by both local government and businesses. Great communities just don't happen, they are a result of people coming together and working toward a common goal.
"America's Best Communities challenges small towns and communities to create master plans that will drive economic development and innovative growth. Greg is second to none in his focus on customer satisfaction and commitment to the communities we serve. know he's proud Frontier is considered a ‘A defender of rural America' and that providing high-quality communication services to those who live and work outside metro areas are necessary for communities to survive and thrive. His visit to Statesboro shows how excited he is that we made it to the quarterfinalist round and an indication of how strong our project is."
Statesboro, along with the other 49 quarterfinalist communities, has six months to complete a comprehensive Community Revitalization Plans and compete for additional investment dollars. In early 2016, 15 semifinalists will be selected to attend the America's Best Communities summit to present their strategies and eight finalists will be awarded another $100,000 to continue implementation of their plans.
In April 2017, America's Best Communities will name its three competition winners - those communities best able to dream big and deliver on those dreams. The winning community will be awarded $3 million, with $2 million for second place and $1 million for third place.
"We feel that this competition sets a good benchmark for corporate America," Stephens said. "What we are doing is not just writing a check but creating an opportunity to build excitement in rural communities throughout America. Through the process, we are learning a lot as a company, as well. We have seen great examples of efficiency, best practices, cooperation, motivation and excitement in these communities. Each of these cities are situated for success.
"One of the most surprising things that has come from this is seeing how our local Frontier teams have taken ownership in their community's projects. Our teams are genuinely excited to be part of this and look forward to helping get their community to the next round."
Another area that surprised Stephens was the number of vendors and other corporate partners who wanted to be a part of the effort. In addition to the prize money, one of the most incredible gifts of this competition is connecting cities with high level management from Fortune 500 companies.
Statesboro's mentor is Tom Aldon, a senior vice president with Anixter, an Illinois-based Fortune 500 company that supplies communications, security products, electronic wires and other small components. He was also in Statesboro meeting with the Statesboro team.
"Participating in the competition as a mentor opens up a whole new avenue of stewardship for Anixter," he said. "As Statesboro's mentor company we are looking inside our organization and partnerships to see what we can bring to the table to help move the ball forward. We are in it to win it and look forward to working with the Statesboro team and this exciting project."
This celebration helped capture the excitement for our community and exemplifies how incredible of an achievement it is to have made to make it this far.
With the team Statesboro has in place, partnered with Anixter and the excitement of the local Frontier Communications team, we all are optimistic Statesboro will advance to the next round. Regardless, the exposure our community has received already and the spotlight on the incredible "Blue Mile" project to significantly improve South Main Street has positioned our community for continued and enthusiastic development of this vital project.