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South Shore of Bull Shoals Lake, Arkansas
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Northern Arkansas Telco's Motto Could Be 'Community Service R Us'
TeleTimes magazine recognizes NATCO.
February 2001


If Northern Arkansas Telephone Company had a second motto, it would, no doubt, highlight the company's community service. Perhaps it would be "Community Service R Us." Combining NATCO's community activities with its push to bring "Tomorrow's Technology...Today" to its traditional telco and ISP customers gives a clear picture of the company today. 

 

NATCO, a small, independent, rural Ozark telco and ISP, has its own charitable foundation. The South Shore Foundation, created in 1996, awards grants of approximately $60,000 annually to nonprofit organizations, including schools and municipalities. Its mission is community betterment with an emphasis upon using telecommunications technology to reach the goal. 


NATCO hosts a fall Open House, treating customers to prizes, refreshments and a chance to talk to NATCO technicians and customer reps face to face. Distance learning is a case in point. One of the foundation's earliest projects (1997 funding) involved setting up distance learning classrooms in rural Arkansas high schools within the NATCO service area. In these schools, such as Omaha and Lead Hill, limited enrollment and funding kept course offerings to the basics. But, wired and equipped with distance learning classrooms, up to four schools could pool students interested in advanced topics, hold classes by video and share teachers. Courses offered included Advanced Placement English, foreign language - Spanish and German - advanced math and social studies.

A 1999 project, the South Shore Memory Project, also enhances the community through technology. South Shore Memory Project is a technologically savvy local history, created solely for Internet use and archiving. Junior/senior high school students interview senior citizens about their personal history in the community, then record the oral history on the Internet in modern digital formats, reproducing voices and scanning personal photographs. Access the project on the Web at www.ozarkhistory.com

Junior and senior high school students in Flippin, AR gain skills in building Web pages as they work on the South Shore Memory Project.Students who participate are learning not only traditional history and communications skills, but also telecommunications skills such as building Web pages and operating graphics programs. Spearheading this project are library media specialists from Arkansas State University-Mountain Home and one high school in the service area, Flippin High School.

At an unveiling of the project in 1999, NATCO President Steven G. Sanders praised the project and invited more like it. He saw the value in training students to do the Web page construction after they did the research for the content. "Jobs in telecommunications that relate technology to the human aspect are in high demand," Dr. Sanders said. Benefits from the South Shore Memory Project accrue to the students for its broad educational value and to the community itself which now has a local history in a modern format.
 
In line with its stated goal, South Shore Foundation has funded Internet service for the public to use at three libraries and at the Bull Shoals Chamber of Commerce office. Marion County's (Arkansas) Literacy Council receives complimentary Internet service through NATCO's foundation, and the foundation helped a local elementary school connect to a school-wide network.

The South Shore Foundation sometimes fulfills other needs which it considers important - mostly educational and safety needs. South Shore Foundation has been a consistent supporter of environmental education through a local chapter of the National Audubon Society. Eight rural fire departments have received grants for emergency medical equipment for use in the rural areas which are sometimes 20 to 30 miles away from a hospital. The foundation has also contributed to expansion of a county airport in the name of economic development.

NATCO began funding one $1,000 scholarship to a graduating senior in the company's home town in 1994; today, the South Shore Foundation awards six scholarships of $1,000 each to graduating seniors at six area high schools based on strictly academic criteria. 

The South Shore Foundation is an outgrowth of an extensive effort to serve the community through creation of a new marketing identity. South Shore was chosen as the marking identity name because all the towns in the NATCO service area are located on or near the south shore of a popular fishing and boating lake, Bull Shoals Lake. 

NATCO began to promote the area as a pollution-free, trout-fishing and boating mecca, unique because it is equipped with modern telecommunications technology to draw business and jobs, executive vacationers and business retreats.

To help increase tourism to the area, NATCO commissioned the design of a custom map of the forested, mostly rural South Shore of Bull Shoals Lake, Arkansas; NATCO's President, Dr. Sanders, wrote copy to guide a driver through the area. In the last three years, NATCO has distributed over 200,000 of the driving tour maps to residents and visitors locally, as well as through statewide and national distribution services. Business owners say this map is practically the only detailed area map ever created. The four-color map is updated every year or two. An extensive publicity campaign announced the South Shore Driving Tour Map's debut.
 
Support of tourism is a consistent outlet for NATCO's community service expenditures. The company purchases advertisements in regional and state travel guides, chambers of commerce guides, and the seasonal newspaper inserts produced for the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism. Many of NATCO's business customers are tourism businesses which in turn support NATCO.

Community service on the Internet
Not only is NATCO and its charitable foundation helping others to acquire and use today's digital technology, but NATCO created an award-winning South Shore Foundation Web site plus community pages that promote economic development. At www.southshore.com, Internet users can virtually visit the area of Bull Shoals Lake and White River on this tourism-centered Web site. Weather information from local to international can be accessed as can information about area schools, businesses, local Web sites, and travel news from the state Department of Parks and Tourism.

Each town in the South Shore community has its own page with photos and a mayor's message to aid in economic development. Mayors of the towns are delighted with the pages and consider them a valuable contribution from NATCO. Each page meets the requirements of the Development Information Network of Arkansas (DINA) by including official U.S. Census data, labor market information, social statistics and income statistics. Also required are local contacts for industrial development and facts about utilities and real estate available in the communities.

NATCO's community services are not exclusively high-tech. More down to earth is the new South Shore Soccer Association. With NATCO's support, about 200 young soccer players are organized into teams and have coaches to teach them the finer points of controlling a soccer ball. And, Plant Manager Steven Sanders Jr. has acquired quite a bit of experience in community service working as president of the Flippin Chamber of Commerce and coordinating such events as fishing tournaments.

For more information about NATCO, its work in the community, and its South Shore Foundation, visit their Web sites at www.natconet.com or www.southshore.com. Or, call 1-800-775-6682 or send for a South Shore Driving Tour brochure at Northern Arkansas Telephone Company, 301 E. Main St., Flippin, Arkansas 72634.
 
 
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South Shore • 301 East Main Street • P.O. Box 209 • Flippin, AR 72634
Phone: (870) 453-8800 • Toll Free: 1-800-775-6682

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South Shore was founded by and is fully supported by NATCO
(Northern Arkansas Telephone Company).

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