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Life in a small town and the knowledge economy

By now, if you've looked over more than two pages on CanadianISP, you will probably have deduced that I live in Beachburg, Ontario. Many, if not most of you have asked where the heck is Beachburg ? That's okay if you did: A common joke around here is that you have to turn the map of Ontario over to find our little farming village of nine hundred people.

Given I grew up in Ottawa and spent a good part of my sales, marketing and Internet career in both Montreal and Toronto, many ask - Why a village of 900, more than an hour and a half from Ottawa and four and half hour drive from Toronto ?

There were two reasons, initially, though after nearly nine years, now, that list of reasons has grown a lot. Initially, however, it was: Cost of living and family. We moved here after our third child was born because Toronto was insanely expensive to live in and the thought of our children playing outside, unsupervised, without armed guards and an attack helicopter hovering overhead gave us the willies.

When looking for a new home, we hadn't even heard of Beachburg: Our methodology was to take a piece of string that represented 200km and trace a two hour circle around Ottawa. (We still hadn't heard of Beachburg at that point) - When looking at homes in Renfrew, Arnprior, Carleton Place, Almonte, Calebogie (all places we both knew about and had spent time in), the real estate agent said "I'd like to show you a couple of places in Pembroke and Beachburg".
Pembroke ? I'd seen the city name on the sign for the westbound 417, but that was about it. Beach - what ?!? A long drive later, we found a house and property we fell in love with. The price was right, the neighbourhood was amazing, school literally steps away and - best of all - 6 megabit DSL with a switching station (Heck, the actual telco itself) about 800 meters from the house.

SOLD

Some may think that two hours from Ottawa is too far to live from major shopping (Though Pembroke, a town of 14,000, is less than 20 minutes from here), but really, how long do you spend in rush hour in Toronto or Ottawa ? (Two hours in rush hour in Toronto ? That's an *amazing* time! Ottawa is certainly creeping up there, but is still no where close to T.O.)
With broadband to the home, a business like mine (InternAlysis, a virtual marketing director is my 'real' company) in the knowledge economy is a no brainer in a setting like this. As the global economy becomes more, well, global, cost of living is becoming an important factor for an awful lot of people. Before I started CanadianISP, the bulk of my work was in perl CGI scripting, MySQL application design and emarketing consulting. I charged $100 / hour and had *no* problem filling my billable hours. (In fact, I was middle-of-the-road in terms of rates. I knew - and learned from - some absolutely *brilliant* coders in T.O. who charged $350/hour with an eight hour minimum and they still had to turn clients away for lack of time)

Nowadays, however, you can get some extremely talented coders from Russia, Pakistan and India for as little as US $10/hour for their work. Why compete in what was once a unique and specialized area that had become commoditized ? This is especially true if living in a city like Toronto: Supporting a family of five on ten dollars an hour simply is not possible.

So, from my home in our little community of Beachburg, where, compared to my parents' place in Ottawa, I literally have ten times the property size, twice the square footage in the house, I pay less than a fifth of their property taxes, water rates and insurance costs. Yes, meeting up with the family or old friends takes a little more planning (Especially when one child with Angelman Syndrome is in a wheelchair), but overall, it is massively worth it.

If you run your own business and it does not rely on a lot of face-to-face on a regular basis with your clients, you may want to ask yourself if you really need to be living in the high priced urban areas.
Before we moved here, financially, we were making it happen, but things got tight from time to time. After the second month here in Beachburg, after the bills had a chance to come in, there was a ton of money left over in the bank account. Suddenly, luxuries we hadn't thought of were possible. We took our first trip to the Carribean. Our children have gone to Nova Scotia and Florida, amongst other places. Our kids can play outside and not have to worry about muggers, drug dealers, rapists or pedophiles.

Small town living ? Oh heck yeah!

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