Wilson, North Carolina, is a city of approximately 50,000 situated 40 miles east of Raleigh and 100 miles west of the Atlantic coast. Once known as “The World’s Greatest Tobacco Market,” Wilson is rooted in industry and innovation. In Wilson, residents enjoy small-town charms like little league and community arts, yet also have access to metropolitan-level services and amenities.
In 2008, the City of Wilson launched Greenlight Community Broadband to give citizens necessary access to high-speed internet. Greenlight was the first community-owned, symmetrical gigabit, fiber-to-the home-network in the state, giving Wilson the nick-name, “North Carolina’s Gigabit City.” Since then, Greenlight has not only provided state-of-the-art broadband but has also implemented programs and services to close the digital divide.
The city of Wilson and Greenlight’s newest project is Gig East, a hub for local entrepreneurs and business start-ups. In late 2020, the Gig East Exchange opened to provide a physical space for members to work and collaborate.
The Exchange provides coworking space, office space, dedicated desks, and virtual memberships to entrepreneurs who want to build a thriving business and enjoy a high quality of life. Gig East also offers programming, community events, and networking opportunities focused on economic development, technology and innovation that establish Wilson as an epicenter for innovation locally and across the region.
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Today, these local leaders are focused on educating and training local residents in digital skills (especially those traditionally excluded from the tech industry), employing them in new economy jobs, and empowering them to launch startups that will drive a prosperous 21st-century economy. Diverse in geography, economic origin, and demographics, these communities represent the full spectrum of rural America.