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Development authority promotes county globally
Virtual summit is first of its kind in north Georgia
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Dawson County entered the global market Oct. 11 during north Georgia's first virtual summit aimed at promoting innovations in regional economic development.

Organized by the Development Authority of Dawson County, the event used high-tech systems in Atlanta, Dawsonville and Cornelia to join panelists with online participants from across Georgia and the nation.

"Some people thought this was just going to be another Webinar," said Charlie Auvermann, the development authority's executive director. "In fact, this is two full generations past that technology and will soon be another generation past what we did today."

Powered and broadcasted using North Georgia Network's high-speed fiber optics, the inaugural Beyond Connections summit featured government and business leaders from the Dawson area, including Georgia Speaker of the House David Ralston, who praised organizers for looking toward the future.

"The Development Authority of Dawson County has long recognized that just having a world-class network is not enough," Ralston said. "This group had the conviction and the vision to understand that to bring high tech companies to north Georgia a high-capacity, high-speed fiber backbone was needed in the region."

Developed in a partnership with the development authority and Atlanta-based Globalspeak Com Inc., the event was designed to show that local firms have the capability to reach the global masses.

"As the [North Georgia Network] neared completion, we knew we now had the local technology to join with powerful partners like Globalspeak," Auvermann said. "The development authority and Globalspeak proved today that the technology will work in suburban and rural areas.

"This event was a major move forward for north Georgia, and Dawson County took the lead to make this happen."

Dawson is among eight counties that will benefit from the network, a cooperative designed to attract technology-reliant businesses and jobs to the region.

The recently completed $42 million grant project began in 2009 and consists of a 260-mile fiber optic ring that connects Dawson, Forsyth, Habersham, Lumpkin, Rabun, Towns, Union and White counties, areas where high-speed service had previously been affected by the mountains.

Funded through the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the technology offers the same broadband speeds as cities such as Hong Kong, London and New York.

According to Auvermann, the system has already spurred economic growth, helping existing businesses expand their use of technology and drawing interest from new businesses.

The next Beyond Connections event is tentatively set for early 2013.