It's easy today to see that cities that offered reliable electric service, clean water and modern transportation systems had an advantage as businesses decided where to locate and grow in the post-war boom years.
Most bets are that soon high-speed Internet will fall in that same must-have category.
When you think of it that way, waiting for a private company to bring this essential utility to town doesn't make much sense.
Lexington's government is thinking of it that way and, after six months of analyzing the issue, on Friday announced that it is formally asking potential partners what they can offer in terms of a high-speed fiber-optic network. Called a request for information, the idea is to cast a fairly wide net to evaluate all possibilities.
This sounds kind of early-stage and vague but the ultimate goal is for Lexington to take control of its future in a world where access to reliable, affordable high-speed Internet will drive economic growth. The poster city for this is Chattanooga, Tenn. where the publicly owned electric utility (a benefit of owning public utilities is that they can reinvest profits in the community) spent $300 million to build its fiber-optic network four years ago. Now known sometimes as Gig City, Chattanooga has the fastest and one of the least expensive high-speed Internet services in the United States.
Writing about Chattanooga's fiber-optic system last month, The New York Times reported that subscribers there have access to speeds 50 times the average for homes in the rest of the country and that match Hong Kong, which has the fastest speeds in the world.
For consumers fast speeds mean being able to download high-definition movies in seconds, not dozens of minutes, but for businesses that speed means being able to share intellectual capital rapidly with customers or partners around the world.
An NPR report earlier this month took note that several cities are being aggressive about developing high-speed Internet, unwilling to wait for private providers to offer faster speeds only when it makes economic sense for them.
We're glad Lexington is one of them.