Will Moore worked for the largest global commercial real estate firm in Washington, D.C., and a private equity firm in Boston. Then, he says, he was ready for the “big career change.”
The Washington and Lee University grad moved back home to Lexington, Virginia: population 7,262.
“Lexington has everything: hiking, hunting, fishing, scenery,” says Moore, 31, seated in a coffee shop next door to his family real estate firm in the cozy downtown that’s dotted with eateries and shops. “I wanted the community.”
Yet he notes the glaring dearth of young families and career options.
“My contemporaries say they would move here in a heartbeat if there were just the jobs,” he says.
That, he believes, will change once BARC Connects delivers fiber-to-the-home internet service. Lexington is outside BARC Electric’s service territory, but the Millboro-based co-op’s broadband subsidiary will provide internet, TV, and phone services inside the city and will compete with existing providers.
“We’re seeing a trend towards working remotely. Without BARC’s fiber project, this is not possible,” says Moore, a past board member of the Lexington Rockbridge Chamber of Commerce. “I talk with people every day interested in the area, but the question always comes up, ‘What is the internet service like? Many potential buyers are turned off because they need high-speed internet for their work and lifestyle.
“It is really nice to be able to pitch this [BARC] project.”
About 20 miles north in Raphine, fellow millennial Parke Rouse is the assistant winemaker at Rockbridge Vineyard, a former dairy farm his parents turned into a winery in 1988. The original barn serves as a spacious room for tasting and barreling. Grapevines cascading down a hill make for a luscious wedding backdrop.
But Rouse says visitors’ experiences are stunted by the lack of high-speed internet which inhibits social media posting. The winery has satellite service with data caps that stalls in cloudy weather. Free Wi-Fi for guests is “off the table with the current internet service,” he says.
“People love to share what they’re doing, where they are, [but] we barely get cellphone reception,” he says. “The more people are able to share their experience, the more fun they have. People would stay longer, enjoy themselves, and come back more often.”
Without reliable broadband, the business suffers as well. Wineries, especially in rural areas where grapes grow, require a lot of equipment orders, business relations, transactions, and deliveries that need to be handled quickly to save time and money, he says.
“If the internet isn’t working, we can’t do it,” he says.
Rouse had no experience with BARC Electric before his high-speed internet quest began. His winery and home get power from an investor-owned utility. Last year in frustration, he googled “internet Rockbridge.”
BARC’s crowdsourcing campaign to generate interest in the project popped up. Rouse immediately tried to sign up for service, but it turned out his mom already had.
“BARC Electric must be doing something right for it to show up as high [in Google] as it did,” Rouse says, adding that being local, the co-op is “going to care about maintaining a good relationship.”