CARBONDALE -- Carbondale leaders have begun working hard to win a contest that could help insure the town's future. They'll compete in a "Shark Tank" sort of presentation that could land the town millions of dollars for improvements.
Stephen Mitchell, of Connect SI, wants to transform Carbondale and breathe new life into the town not only to make it more livable, but to bring more business here.
"We're focusing on things like entrepreneurship, making the environment more feasible to start your own business and we want to focus on technology companies to do that," he said.
He says so-called high-speed "gigabit" internet will help make that possible.
It's part of Carbondale's playbook to win $3 million in the America's Best Cities competition.
The town already made the first cut, something Allen Latimer, the Mayor of Horn Lake, Mississippi knows all about.
"We were really, really hoping to get it, to use it as a tool in our efforts to increase our business areas", said Latimer.
His city made the first cut in a "gigabit" competition sponsored by high-tech company CSpire.
During the process, Mayor Latimer learned about the many benefits faster internet can bring.
"It really helps attract larger businesses, corporate headquarters," he said.
And that's not lost on Carbondale, which has its sights set on nearby big cities with enterprises Mitchell and others might lure to Southern Illinois.
"It Also focuses on innovation and attempting to reach out to businesses in other markets. Nashville, St. Louis, Memphis, those places," said Mitchell.
Latimer says it can change a sleepy town into a thriving city.
"It changes the image of your city in a big, positive manner. It's just like a big magnet," he said.
That's why Mitchell and Carbondale leaders plan to put all the effort they can muster into winning the 'best cities' competition.
"If we win that grand prize, the $3 million, it's almost unimaginable what could be done with that," he said.
He says it all begins with business.
Carbondale's next step in the competition could bring the city $100,000, but it must compete with 50 others in the hunt for the $3 million.