High Speed Social Fiber

It was late when I got home. I had a bunch of pictures to upload for my blog post and a couple hundred new unread emails. When I did get a chance to check some of my other social media, I saw this message on Twitter

jcnork - @ahynes1 can u go? -New Haven Mayor Destefano joins business & community leaders in promoting #GoogleHaven 100 Campaign http://bit.ly/crRR6o

Twitter can be terse and cryptic if you don’t have the context, but in this case, I know what my friend Jack was talking about. He, and a bunch of other friends have been working on a project to get Google to select New Haven as a location to roll out their gigabit Internet. I knew it would be a busy day, but that it would also be an event that I would want to be at.

The press conference was taking place at Fair Haven Furniture, 72 Blatchley Avenue. Fairhaven, with its lovely views of the Pearl Harbor Memorial Bridge, more commonly known as the Q bridge crossing the mouth of the Quinnipiac river, and the looming oil tanks of the Port of New Haven, has never been high on my list of New Haven tourist attractions. As I passed companies like Independent Pipe and Supply, Lynn Ladder and Scaffolding, and New Haven Awning, I wondered what sort of place Fair Haven Furniture would be like. Would it be a struggling furniture manufacturer, trying to hold on to the glories of yesterday when there were many more manufacturing companies in New Haven? Would it be one of those ‘to the trade’ type stores selling credenzas and other office furniture? Maybe it would be a new citizen to our country, trying to make a go of it here in America selling painted cribs imported from China at a really low price.

Since the mayor was there, as well as several news outlets, it was hard to find a good parking place, so I parked in front of a closed gate next to an abandoned building and hoped I wouldn’t get towed. I walked around the corner and found the door leading to Fair Haven Furniture. I was totally unprepared for what I found inside. (If I had of had time to look at the website ahead of time, I probably wouldn’t have been surprised). Fair Haven Furniture is a hidden gem. Since I was there for the press conference, I only had time to look at part of one of the three floors the company has.

The press conference itself wasn’t anything all that special. Mayor DeStefano talked a little bit about the history of New Haven with its port and railroads which fueled the growth of the city. He noted that high speed internet is our generation’s version of ports and railroads and he hoped that Google would choose New Haven as a test bed and that the infrastructure would help lift New Haven out of recession. He noted the importance of the initiative being led by people from the community and embraced by businesses, instead of being a project led primarily by the city.

Andre Yap, Founder and CEO of Ripple 100 also spoke about his hopes that Google would choose New Haven and bring considerable collateral growth. Kerry Triffin, owner of Fair Haven Furniture expressed similar thoughts and spoke with many of the guests who were discovering his business for the first time.

Giulia Gambale Gouge brought cupcakes from Claire’s Corner Copia. The GoogleHaven cupcakes were from suggestions that had been made online for cupcake frostings. Giulia had been working with Claire to help her make better use of social media, and the cupcakes illustrated the value that companies can gain by entering into conversations with their customers on social media.

While I’ve been concerned about what happens to all the energy around GoogleHaven if Google doesn’t select New Haven, I was pleased to see some concrete benefits to New Haven from the Google Haven effort. Businesses and other organizations are working together to increase public involvement in all aspects of New Haven’s social fiber. If that social fiber can ride on top of a high speed fiber network from Google, so much the better.

The Google Haven effort began by citizens stepping forward to help make New Haven better. The city joined the effort and gave it a great boost. Now, we are starting to see some of the benefits of this effort, and are eagerly hoping that Google will join with the effort to give it an even greater boost.