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Richmond, VA – Dec. 15, 2006 – Imagine being able to hire the best employees for your company, and not caring where they live.

Karen Jackson, Director of the Virginia Office of Telework Promotion and Broadband assistance, asked the central Virginia technology sector to picture that scenario as she spoke to the Greater Richmond Technology Council at its monthly breakfast on Dec. 14.

Ms. Jackson, who heads up the new Commonwealth initiative created by Gov. Tim Kaine at the Commonwealth of Virginia Innovative Technology Symposium (COVITS) in September 2006, is tasked with addressing workforce, transportation and economic development issues in the Commonwealth by leveraging and expanding Virginia’s broadband infrastructure.

Identified as a key success factor in the Virginia economy, state-wide broadband connectivity will allow businesses across the state equal access to highly skilled workers and reduce traffic congestion. Broadband access will also spur economic development, particularly in areas hard-hit by the decline in Virginia’s manufacturing sector.

During her presentation, Ms. Jackson illustrated the power of broadband in economic development with this example: in Galax, a southwest Virginia community with high unemployment after the closing of several furniture manufacturing plants, access to broadband allowed Galax residents to learn clinical coding, giving them opportunities to telework, coding medical diagnoses for clinical studies, medical insurers and medical billing. These jobs paid up to $30,000 per year, a significant increase over jobs available in local businesses.

The Commonwealth has asked that companies state-wide sign a telework pledge in support of the goal of having 20% of Virginia’s workforce teleworking by 2010. The state has committed to that goal, which will mean that 19,000 of its 95,000 workforce will telecommute by 2009, one year ahead of the deadline for private enterprise.

In addition to the economic benefits brought by broadband access and telework opportunities, particularly in rural areas, the telework program also addresses traffic congestion in the  Commonwealth, which is legendary in northern Virginia and Tidewater, and the demand for work/life balance that is frequently the deciding factor for highly-skilled knowledge workers when choosing where to market their skills.

The goals of Gov. Tim Kaine and Secy. of Technology Aneesh Chopra in expanding broadband access and telework reflect the legislative agenda of the GRTC, which calls on the Legislature to encourage the use of telework as a strategy in the Commonwealth’s efforts to increase the potential employment pool, reduce traffic congestion, enhance disaster recovery/continuation of operations plans, avoid productivity loss from inclement weather days, and improve employee satisfaction levels.

The GRTC’s December breakfast was sponsored by the Center for Innovative Technology (CIT). CIT is a nonprofit corporation that accelerates the next generation of technology and technology companies, creating new technology companies through capital formation, market development and revenue generation services. To facilitate national innovation leadership and accelerate the rate of technology adoption, CIT creates partnerships between innovative technology start-up companies and advanced technology consumers.

The Greater Richmond Technology Council is an association of businesses and organizations working together to promote the success of technology companies, and the growth of the technology sector of the central Virginia economy.

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