Eric Andrews, along with 39 other people from across all of North Caolina, is now a member of the 26th graduating class of REDI, the Rural Economic Development Initiative. His fellow classmates included hospital administrators, college professors, economic developers, ministers, and leaders of non-profits, with Eric being the sole entrepreneur of the group.
What is REDI?
REDI focuses on strengthening rural areas across the state of North Carolina by addressing some of the problems unique to them. Some of the business, services, and infrastructure that larger metropolitan areas take for granted don’t exits in smaller towns. While the total population of NC grows year after year, there are many counties where those numbers are actually falling, especially in areas where the keystone industries of manufacturing and textiles have been outsourced to other places.
Each student of REDI is responsible for developing a project intended to help a small rural comminity in need. Eric has chosen to work towards implementing free public wireless internet service throughout all of downtown Pittsboro. Many are surprised to learn that, unlike most of the densely populated areas near by, people living in the outskirts of Chatham county often don’t have access to any type of internet service at all. By making it readily available to anyone in downtown Pittsboro, the artificial barrier between Chatham county residents and a world of information and resources will fall.
Making the internet freely available to those that don’t currently have it helps everyone, including those that already do. New internet users are likely to also become new customers for online businesses, or potentially create new online business of their own, which then leads to the creation of jobs for others in the community. In areas of NC where manufacturing and textile jobs are disappearing quickly, replacing those jobs with something more sustainable is crucial.