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Reshaping the Richest Hill into a Cyber Village

by George Everett
Butte, Montana is the home of the second largest National Historic Landmark District in the country with nearly 5,000 historic structures within its boundaries. Some of these buildings are high-rise commercial buildings built when the nation was young and Butte was a booming copper metropolis.

Now the local economic development organization, the
Butte Local Development Corporation (BLDC) has proposed to retrofit a few of these older buildings to make room for a "cyber village" inhabited with businesses working in the expanding Internet economy.

The Executive Director of the BLDC, Evan Barrett explains, "A "Silicon Valley' business does not have to be in California or Oregon or Washington to compete on the Internet. ASiMI, for one, has proven that." ASiMI is Advanced Silicon Materials, Inc., a corporation that built a $500 million dollar silicon processing plant near Butte in 1998 on land that still sells for $2,000 an acre.

The idea is to take advantage of ample available office space in a 30-block area and transform them to serve high-tech companies who may want to move their physical operations to a new location. The heart of the "cyber village" idea is to place two "fiber hotels," -- clean room facilities that can house delicate computer equipment required to power many Internet-based businesses.

Butte has thousands of square feet of office space available in historical buildings that could be retrofitted to accommodate high-tech businesses. Also, the available space is built close together making it easier to link the buildings by cable connections that allow them to work together.

The available space, even after being retrofitted, would be much less expensive than what businesses pay elsewhere in the region or even in other parts of Montana.

While it might appear at first glance like a long stretch, Butte has already welcomed high-tech companies such as ASiMI and the rapidly expanding telecommunications company, Touch America, which owns thousands of miles of fiber optic cable throughout the West

Companies that take a close look may be attracted by what they don't see. They won't find traffic jams, or a high cost of living while they will find uncrowded skiing, hiking, and other outdoor recreational opportunities while being able to take advantage of the Internet economy.

For more details about the Cyber Village in Butte, Montana, visit their web site at
http://www.cybervillagebutte.com or call the BLDC at (406) 723-4349.
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© 2002 by George Everett. All rights reserved.
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