NMU's Educational Access Network (EAN) has a firmly entrenched mission of providing broadband internet service through the university's high-speed LTE wireless network to learners of all ages across the Upper Peninsula. But with COVID-19, the EAN's existing technology also helped to prevent an Iron River call center from losing valuable employees whose home internet speeds couldn't handle the demands of working remotely.
According to InvestUP, Global Response is a U.S.-based provider of call center outsourcing services that represents leading brands in such industries as retail, healthcare, insurance and automotive. When the pandemic hit Iron River, the town was already experiencing a higher-than-average unemployment rate and sluggish job growth. With the arrival of COVID-19, nearly all but essential workers had to find a way to work from home.
With online shopping at its peak, Global couldn't afford to have employees stuck collecting unemployment, unable to work because of technology limitations. So it reached out to InvestUP CEO Marty Fittante, who contacted NMU. Although the EAN is intended to provide affordable broadband access and educational resources to students, Northern was able to take the technology to Iron River and make it work for Global Resources.
“Thanks to the diligence and strategic thinking of InvestUP and the innovative minds at NMU, we were able to increase our workforce by 31 individuals, including some former employees who had not been able to work from home previously,” said Sandra Maki, managing supervisor of Global Response. “It felt great to welcome our people back to work, even if they are still working from home. This technology will allow us to add even more jobs right here in Iron River at the end of this year.”
"Funded by the MEDC under Steve Arwood's leadership, the EAN is providing access to those who would otherwise not have it. Arwood is now the strategic adviser of InvestUP, a private sector-led economic development organization," stated a press release.
Founded by the region's leading private sector businesses and U.P. universities, InvestUP's mission is to deliver business and job growth across the Upper Peninsula.
Find more information about Northern's EAN here.