By MICHAEL FORSTER ROTHBART • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
ONEONTA — A blue and white sign stands in the grass at the entrance to Southside Mall in the town of Oneonta: “JOBS! Cooperstown All-Star Village APPLY NOW.” In either direction, along the mile-long commercial strip from Wal-Mart to Home Depot, at least eight stores advertise available positions.
Outside Home Depot, in the afternoon Monday, May 17, two employees in masks help an older customer with curbside pickup, loading 2×4 boards over the passenger seat into his Buick sedan. The store has more than 70 employees and is now hiring people for eight positions, mostly part-time.
“We’re short six people, now that the college students just left,” said the older employee, who declined to be identified.
Otsego Electric’s Broadband initiative wasn’t mentioned in last week’s editorial on entrepreneurism in arts organizations – it’s an electric cooperative, not a dance troupe.
Still, it’s worth a separate nod.
While local governments and the citizenry at large were crying out to Albany and Washington for universal Broadband, CEO Tim Johnson and the Hartwick-based, non-profit rural-electrification entity simply did it.
As reported last week, in the past three years, Otsego Electric has strung 700 miles of wire in the 23 towns it serves, past 5,000 locations; 2,900 subscribed to its high-speed Internet service.
It’s a non-profit, so why bother?
“We could see the handwriting on the wall,” said Johnson. “We could see … the lack of opportunities to work in rural areas. We saw the possibility that this” – Broadband – “would stabilize our customer base.”
And that’s what happened.
During the Pandemic Year, when the world moved onto Zoom, there could have been a mass exodus. There wasn’t, and there won’t be.