Left to right: Harold Stanislawski, Executive Director, Fergus
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Connected Local Industries
Lake Region Healthcare
Lake Region Healthcare (LRHC) employs more than 850 people at various locations including the main Fergus Falls hospital and clinic, clinics in Ashby and Battle Lake, and a new walk-in clinic in Fergus Falls. These facilities are served by more than 45 primary care physicians. LRHC recently added a Cancer Care & Research Center, which brings world-class technology, comprehensive treatment and personalized cancer care closer to home.
In order to connect LRHC's outlying clinics, Park Region Telephone and Otter Tail Telcom were able to provide 10 Gbps metro-Ethernet connections to each facility, enabling LRHC staff and physicians to access all facilities virtually.
Fergus Falls Public Schools
To serve the needs of its students and administrators, Fergus Falls Public Schools, required a single network to connect multiple school and administration buildings. Park Region Telephone and Otter Tail Telcom began testing and deployment of a rudimentary application in the late 1990s. Now, Otter Tail Telcom provides the public schools with a high-capacity connection between the various school buildings located throughout the city of Fergus Falls. This allows staff to access and share files seamlessly across the network. The school also uses this network to support iQ Academy Minnesota, which is an accredited public school program offering Minnesota students in grades K-12 an innovative, high-quality alternative to the traditional learning experience.
When the Fergus Falls Public Schools decided they wanted to air various community and sports events live on TV to area residents, they approached Otter Tail Telcom once again and developed a strategic partnership. Otter Tail Telcom had recently launched a new local origination channel for its IPTV system. The Park Region TV (PRTV) channel was then airing four local weekly shows to its customers. In order to fulfill this request, PRTV purchased the equipment needed for filming live sporting events. After purchasing cameras, sound equipment, switchers and a scheduling system, PRTV worked with the school to train students in filming and editing as part of a new class curriculum. PRTV then hired select students on a part-time basis to film live events. These student-produced events were sent back to the Otter Tail Telcom offices over a public Internet connection and inserted onto the service provider's IPTV system as well as streamed live over the Internet for fans who live outside of the area to enjoy. The students have learned a great deal through their employment with Otter Tail Telcom. In addition to filming, switching between multiple live shots, inserting local ads, working with on-air announcers, and using/caring for technical equipment and rendering recordings, they have learned how to troubleshoot issues that arise, while also building personal and professional skills that are needed later in life.
Smart Work: Forward Fergus Falls Telework Initiative
Since 2010, Park Region Telephone and Otter Tail Telcom have been involved in the Forward Fergus Falls Telework Initiative. Park Region Telephone and Otter Tail Telcom were approached initially by Forward Fergus Falls to discuss the broadband needs of the community; these conversations evolved to promote telework in the area.
Otter Tail County, home to more than 10% of Minnesota's 10,000 lakes, has a significant seasonal population. Telework was settled upon by Forward Fergus Falls as an important "destiny driver" required to move the community toward a more economically viable, inclusive, sustainable and livable city. Telework had the potential to provide high-paying jobs to workers wishing to reside in Otter Tail County for its abundance of natural resources, but who would be unable to do so under traditional brick-and-mortar employment scenarios.
With the creation of the telework destiny driver, Forward Fergus Falls, Park Region Telephone and Otter Tail Telcom set out to create awareness in the Fergus Falls area of the potential benefits and economic development opportunities that telework could provide. This effort culminated in the first Telework Summit held in Fergus Falls on March 16, 2011, with more than 80 registered attendees. This initial event featured presentations by representatives from Microsoft and Blue Cross/Blue Shield of North Dakota, as well as other online companies offering telework positions. A follow up Telework Summit was held in 2012 and featured the launch of a new Telework Hotel and Business Incubator in Fergus Falls, which offers a range of targeted solutions to meet the growing needs of businesses in the area. Businesses can choose from private office space to community workstations, in order to support temporary workers or additional full-time telework staff. Customers have access to basic business systems such as phone, Internet, fax and copying facilities, as well as meeting and training rooms.
The Forward Fergus Falls Telework initiative also has been active in helping area residents find telework employment by listing opportunities on its website and advertising these opportunities through more traditional channels such as radio, newspapers and email announcements. These media outlets provide the "Telework Minute," a weekly advertisement that highlights specific telework opportunities while keeping a spotlight on this new area for job growth. A billboard also was placed along Interstate Highway 94 near Fergus Falls promoting the area as a telework-ready community.
Smart Grid: Lake Region Electric Cooperative
Park Region Telephone is collaborating with Lake Region Electric Cooperative, a local rural electric cooperative, on smart grid and smart home opportunities. This evolving collaboration utilizes joint technical expertise to develop new offerings that allow the consumer to control his or her real-time electrical consumption from anywhere with a broadband connection. Smart grid infrastructure can communicate real time pricing, network maintenance, storm damage and repair progress. These efforts are an attempt to lower operating costs while also providing the most robust offerings from both industries.
Smart Business: Lake Region Community Partners
Lake Region Community Partners is composed of business, city and county leaders from all aspects within Otter Tail County. Monthly meetings are held to discuss issues facing members' sectors and how we can assist each other. Broadband adoption and growth are a regular topic as community leaders see the value in a robust broadband network throughout Otter Tail County.