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The business scene in Georgia’s Third District continues to thrive thanks to increased access to the internet. For this rural town, expanded internet access allows a local art museum, a bike shop, a catering company, and a brewery to build relationships with customers and drive growth with the local community.

Congressman Drew Ferguson (R-GA) and representatives from Internet Association member companies, including Amazon and Facebook, traveled to LaGrange, Georgia in August to learn more about how expanded access to the internet has empowered the business community. LaGrange Art Museum, Golden’s Bike Shop, Tulla White Cuisine & Catering, and Wild Leap Brew Co. all represent local businesses and community organizations that rely on the internet to engage with the community.

LaGrange demonstrates just how important the internet is for businesses and community organizations on main street. Today we’re going to see how expanded access to the internet empowered the entire LaGrange community. I’d like to thank Rep. Ferguson for his participation in today’s event, and look forward to finding new ways to empower American small businesses in Georgia and nationwide.

Internet Association President & CEO Michael Beckerman

The internet helps main street businesses and organizations create jobs, connect with consumers, and compete worldwide. IA’s Internet Community Crawls showcase the ways the internet drives economic growth and jobs in communities across the country. Watch what main street business and their elected representatives had to say about the importance of the internet to their local economy in IA’s Connected video series.

Broadband opens up a whole new world of educational and career opportunities and is critical to ensuring folks in Georgia’s Third district have access to the same opportunities as the rest of the country. By providing all residents access to broadband, the LaGrange community has been at the forefront. I am proud to see the progress of local businesses and I will continue to fight for the widespread expansion of broadband.

Congressman Drew Ferguson

LaGrange Art Museum 

The first stop on the crawl was LaGrange Art Museum, a nonprofit displaying local, regional, and international work. Executive Director Laura Jennings explained that the internet allows her to connect with artists around the world and secure more donations through online payment systems. Registration for classes, events, and summer camps are now accessible to the community through the museum’s website. Laura also mentioned that the museum regularly posts on Facebook and Instagram to connect with the community they are so committed to serving. Expanded access to the internet helps the museum preserve its mission to support lifelong learning that reflects the value of diversity and contributes to the growth of the community.

We also use email marketing to target members, donors and we also want them to know about our exhibitions and all of our events. We use our website so children can sign up for classes and then we also use social media to show our programming. We have audience development and engagement through that.

Laura Albert, Deputy Director of LaGrange Art Museum

Golden’s Bike Shop

Next up was Golden’s Bike Shop, a business dedicated to connecting the community through events, rides, and partnerships. The full inventory of the shop is listed on Golden’s website, so customers can shop online and check the availability of items before they arrive. Owner Rick Brock explained how he uses Facebook Live to interact with his followers and promote special events and group rides.

Pretty much anything I do gets put on Facebook. I like to create a dialogue using Facebook to make a social environment … Everything I order is through the internet where I am connected with five or six suppliers. I do a lot of live Facebook posts and have a wide charismatic personality.

Rick Brock, Owner of Golden’s Bike Shop

Tulla White Cuisine and Catering

Then we met with with Tulla White’s Manager, Teresa Dutton, who spoke about the recent improvements made to the company’s website. Teresa explained that updating Tulla’s website has improved the company’s competitive edge with other local caterers, and she added that it was well worth the cost. Catering is a business that works hand-and-hand with the internet. One of Tulla’s top priorities is replying to inquiries online with quick, professional responses. The staff also regularly updates Tulla White’s Facebook and Instagram pages, providing a visual aspect to the work that goes into the services they provide.

We saw an increased amount of people come to us. They can search the internet and see us. Our commercial events and catering come from people doing searches and seeing photos and us.

Tulla White Manager Teresa Dutton

Wild Leap Brew Co.

Our final stop on the crawl was Wild Leap Brew Co., where we met with co-owner and head brewer Rob Goldstein. Rob mentioned that Wild Leap’s social media presence on Facebook and Instagram has allowed the company to enhance brand awareness. The staff also frequently responds to guest reviews online to demonstrate their customer service values and commitment to expanding the Wild Leap community. On the Wild Leap website, you can book tours, secure event space, and purchase brand merchandise. The internet has allowed Wild Leap to focus on marketing its brand to new customers as the first brewery in LaGrange.

Marketing and branding need to be just as important the liquid in the can. It’s not about us, it is about the quality of passion doing what you love.

Rob Goldstein, Co-owner of Wild Leap Brewing Co.

Fun Fact: The internet economy in Georgia supports nearly 189,000 jobs and adds more than $67 billion to the state’s economy.

Want to read more about the LaGrange crawl? Check out local coverage from Valley Times.