Virtually everything has changed in the internet age. There were times when people flocked to cities for work. Lured by the opportunity for prosperity, people moved to major cities, driving massive population growth. During the Industrial Revolution, people moved to places such as Detroit to work on the assembly lines of automotive manufacturers, and in the tech boom, professionals flocked to Austin, Boston and Silicon Valley. Now these metro areas are bursting at the seams. Though a major city can be attractive for professional, educational or social reasons, rural communities are equally attractive and full of opportunities – but only if they have the great equalizer: access to high-speed internet. The internet boom – the current era – introduced the idea of “knowledge workers.” Today, instead of moving to a city to pursue a specific field of work, knowledge workers can work from anywhere in the country for major companies. Instead of moving to San Jose to work at a technology company headquarters, a knowledge worker can deliver that same work, remotely, from a town in the Sierras or the middle of Wisconsin. With high-speed internet access, small towns have the opportunity to offer “big city jobs.”
* * *
The social case that enables transformation from labor to knowledge work is arguably greater in magnitude. The combination of new levels of consumption and productivity changes the lives of individuals, families and entire communities. This combined opportunity has true potential for industrial diversification and economic growth that also improves the quality of life for people who use the network to not only consume but also to deliver their work.
PORTLAND, Maine — A new nonprofit has an idea for getting more companies, large and small, to locate in Maine: Don’t try for the whole company.On Monday, the group Work in Place will officially launch in Portland, during the third annual Maine Startup and Create Week, with plans to host a national conference in Maine’s largest city next spring to bring location-independent workers together.As they learn more about people who have a boss but not necessarily a fixed office, they want to provide a professional network and support, too.“We’re not evangelizing remote work, and we don’t need to at this point in time — it’s already happening,” said Misty McLaughlin, who co-founded the group with her husband, Michael Erard.The group aims to host events centered on that growing segment of the workforce, in part to help policymakers and economic development officials consider new approaches in a far-flung place such as Maine, which Erard wrote should be “low-hanging fruit.”
More evidence the decentralization of knowledge work and its dispersal across the United States is starting to gain momentum.
It’s no wonder knowledge workers are seeking alternatives to costly, congested metro areas. There’s really no need to work in them now that information and communications technology has matured to the point that knowledge work can be performed independent of location.
To facilitate this megashift in where people work and live, there is an essential infrastructure component that’s needed, especially in poorly connected states like Maine: Universal, affordable fiber to the premise (FTTP) telecommunications infrastructure.