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8 Benefits of a Local Chamber of Commerce

CEO Todd Foje leading the Nebraska Chamber’s 2019 Annual Meeting on February 7, 2019.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is the world’s largest business organization representing the interests of more than 3 million businesses of all sizes, sectors and regions. Members range from mom-and-pop shops to large corporations.

As a member of your local Chamber of Commerce, you gain valuable advantages and access to business-building resources such as these:

  1. Added credibility to your business – You can increase positive perception among consumers and business owners when you’re identified as a Chamber of Commerce member. Research shows that people are more likely to buy products or services from businesses who are members of their local chamber.
  2. Increased visibility in the community – New members are listed in chamber publications such as newsletters and featured in social media. Your local Chamber of Commerce may also promote your grand opening or ribbon-cutting ceremony and assist with public relations efforts.
  3. Many networking opportunities – From serving on chamber committees to attending chamber events such as after-hours mixers, you’ll find plenty of enjoyable opportunities to connect with other local professionals and meet potential customers, vendors and colleagues.
  4. A voice in government – Chambers of Commerce take on the tough issues and speak up for the interests of local businesses when faced with new regulations, taxes, fees or assessments.
  5. Local business updates – Newsletters sent to members typically include new member information, important local information about operating a business, articles about developments in the area, a community calendar and details about upcoming chamber events.
  6. Customer referrals – Every day, local chambers receive calls from individuals and businesses looking for potential vendors, and chamber members typically recommend other chamber members.
  7. Promotion and publicity – With a chamber membership, you can reach potential customers through member-exclusive advertising and opportunities for business-to-business advertising and publicity.
  8. Member-to-member deals – These differ from chamber to chamber but could include special discounts or offerings provided to members by members as a way of supporting each other.

Great Plains Communications is actively involved in many local chambers in our state, including the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce & Industry. On February 7, our CEO Todd Foje began his official duties as chairman of the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce & Industry for 2019. We encourage your business to make the most of the valuable resources local and regional Chamber of Commerce have to offer.

Telemedicine and Sidney Regional Medical Center

Great Plains Communications is proud to highlight our business customers, Sidney Regional Medical Center (SRMC) based in Sidney, NE.

Sidney Regional Medical Center (SRMC) is a Critical Access Hospital in Sidney that serves a seven-county area in the southern Nebraska Panhandle. Together with its partners, SRMC provides a wide array of services including some not traditionally found in a rural community.

Patients have access to Acute Care, Critical Care, 24-hour Emergency Room, Physicians Clinic, Walk-in Clinic, Surgical Services, Home Health and Hospice, Extended Care, Assisted Living and more. SRMC currently has over 390 employees, and its medical staff includes four family practice physicians, two general surgeons, a urologist, a hospitalist, 10 certified physician assistants and nearly 20 visiting providers who specialize in areas such as ENT, cardiology, gastroenterology, orthopedic surgery, pain management and podiatry.

Internet Technology Benefits Patients and Staff

As is true for hospitals across the county, Internet technology is helping SRMC improve the quality and efficiency of health care. To facilitate this, Great Plains Communications currently provides SRMC with:

  • Connections to Fort Collins for imaging
  • Connections to SRMC’s Chappell clinic
  • Redundant fiber routes in and out of Sidney for Direct
  • Internet Access
  • Backup for their RNHN (Rural Nebraska Healthcare
  • Network) route

Jennifer Brockhaus, Chief Information Officer, says, “There are many examples of how our high-speed Internet connections are enhancing health care. We can send radiology images more quickly to our radiologist due to the direct fiber connection to Fort Collins. Providers at our satellite facility in Chappell can access patient charts more efficiently and document in real time. SRMC is also able to electronically fill prescriptions including those for controlled substances.”

Another example is the Patient Portal offered by SRMC. It’s part of the national initiative for patients and providers to use electronic health records (EHR) in order to improve communication and quality of care as well as ensure the information is secure and accessible at any time. Not only can patients access their health records electronically via the Patient Portal, they can also schedule appointments, pre-register, pay for services, see tests results and send or receive communication to their health care provider.

Pleased With Great Plains Communications

“Having our own dedicated fiber line from Great Plains Communications that connects all of our facilities is a huge factor for SRMC. It allows us to have one data center and equips us to work more efficiently. You have no idea how amazing this piece is to overall performance,” Brockhaus notes.

She adds, “What we appreciate most about Great Plains Communications is the minimal downtime. I can count on one hand how many times we’ve been down, and it’s usually just for a matter of minutes. I also appreciate that Great Plains Communications is always ready to assist SRMC when we need to expand our Internet services. We get calls from other health care facilities asking who we use for our dedicated fiber line, and we enthusiastically refer them to Great Plains Communications.”

Telemedicine is Coming

What does Brockhaus expect “the next big thing” in technology to be for SRMC? She replies, “It will be telemedicine. SRMC is working on getting remote sites set up in the small towns around Sidney so patients will be able to go to these towns and ‘visit’ a primary care provider through the Internet. We’re also working on providing patients with the ability to stay at home and interact with a provider via their phone, tablet or computer. The ultimate goal is to enable patients to use telemedicine as an alternative to having to travel to a large city for specialty services. When patients see their local primary care provider, we’ll be able to block out an extra amount of time, have web cameras in the exam room, and include both the primary care provider and the specialist on a video call. Telemedicine is more convenient for the patient and expands access to specialty services.”

Launch of Cloud Communications Offers Many Voice Benefits

Your business now has a powerful new option in voice services — Cloud Communications from Great Plains Communications.

Cam Ewoldt, Manager of Transport and Voice Networks, explains Cloud Communications this way: “Cloud Communications is an OTT (over-the-top) offering which utilizes the business customer’s broadband service to connect to a virtual PBX or hosted service located in the cloud. The only on-site equipment required are SIP phones and/or desktop clients.”

Key benefits of our Cloud Communications service are:
  • Cost Effective: Lower capital expenditures and long-term operating costs for hardware, maintenance and installation.
  • Scalability: Easily add additional seats as your business expands.
  • Collaboration: Potential for collaboration features such as scheduling, screen sharing and instant messaging.
  • Remote Locations: Connect branch offices and other remote locations on our 9,500-mile fiber network with minimal extra equipment needed.
  • Hosted Voice System: Contains the same features as a traditional phone system, but with less overhead costs.

According to Ewoldt, businesses of all sizes and types can be good candidates for Cloud Communications. He notes, “Any multi-line small to midsize business looking to reduce operating costs associated with on-site systems should consider this service. With Cloud Communications, there’s no longer a need to purchase and administrate an on-site PBX system. The hardware and initial cost requirements are drastically reduced since the phone system is hosted off site. Cloud Communications also offers the opportunity to employ next-generation features such as mobility, multi-party video conferencing, instant messaging, screen sharing and voicemail transcription.”

For complete details on Cloud Communications and what it can do for your business, contact Jeff Mason, Enterprise Sales Manager, at jmason@gpcom.com.

Business Highlight – Werner Enterprises, Inc.

Great Plains Communications is excited to highlight one of our business customers, Werner Enterprises, Inc.:

Werner Enterprises, Inc. (NASDAQ:WERN) is a premier transportation and logistics company with coverage throughout North America, Asia, Europe, South America, Africa and Australia. Executive Chairman Clarence L. Werner started his business in 1956 with one Ford truck in Omaha. Today, the Werner Enterprises Global Headquarters are still in Omaha, and that one-truck operation has grown to be a $2 billion company with more than 7,300 trucks, nearly 24,000 trailers and more than 11,500 associates and independent contractors.

Werner is among the five largest truckload carriers in the U.S. and received the 2017 Top 100 Trucker Award by Inbound Logistics. Its diversified portfolio of transportation services includes one-way van, dedicated, cross border Mexico and Canada, expedited, temperature controlled, freight management, brokerage, intermodal, flatbed, ocean and air, global freight forwarding, final mile and home delivery.

A Broad Range of Job Opportunities

Collectively, Werner drivers travel approximately 3 million miles each business day. However, these drivers aren’t the only members of the Werner team to keep things moving.

Stefanie Christensen, VP of Human Resources, notes, “Werner goes to career fairs across the nation, and we often hear attendees say, ‘But I don’t drive a truck.’ This is a common misconception. We want to spread the word that in addition to our driving opportunities, Werner hires people to fill a wide variety of jobs in the areas of IT, accounting, management, human resources, recruitment, sales and fleet management. We’re looking for people with all different talents, experiences and backgrounds to help us keep Werner moving forward. This is an important industry to work within since practically everything comes to you by truck.”

We Have Each Other’s Backs

Besides competitive salaries and benefits, what else makes Werner attractive to prospective associates and helps retain current ones?

Christensen replies, “While we’re a large organization, I think Werner feels like family. We rally around each other and are there for one another, despite the fact that transportation and logistics are ‘go, go, go’ businesses with demanding schedules. There’s a real sense of connectedness at Werner. We have each other’s backs. What’s more, Werner has an Employee Relief Fund, designed specifically to help our associates in times of unforeseen hardships.”

Military talent will want to take note of this: Werner was named a 2017 Military Friendly® Company by G.I. Jobs® magazine. To be selected for this honor, organizations must have a total commitment to tapping into military talent — whether as associates, students, suppliers, consumers or like-minded people in the community with like-minded missions. Werner is widely acknowledged as an industry leader in military hiring initiatives since starting the industry’s first Professional Truck Driver Apprenticeship Program in 2006. With military veterans and veteran spouses comprising approximately 20 percent of its workforce, Werner has hired more than 25,000 veterans and veteran spouses since its apprenticeship program began.

Giving Back to Communities

On a philanthropic level, Werner also cares about and is invested in the needs of communities throughout the country. For example, Werner’s Blue Brigade works with numerous organizations each year, volunteering to help lend a hand with community projects and fundraising events. Hundreds of Werner associates are active Blue Brigade members.

Natural disasters can create an urgent need for transportation and logistics services. When Hurricane Irma struck in September 2017, Werner partnered with The Home Depot and dispatched a convoy with a Florida State Patrol escort to deliver essential relief aid and supplies from Lake Park, Georgia, to southern Florida. Werner Enterprises coordinated convoy efforts with The Home Depot’s Hurricane Command Center and Florida Attorney General, Pamela Bondi. In total, Werner sent more than 100 trucks to support the hurricane relief efforts.

“I’m proud to work for a company that treats its associates, customers and communities so well,” notes Christensen.

Telehealth Solutions in Rural Healthcare

The adoption of telehealth solutions and the technology that drives them has had a highly positive impact on healthcare for the citizens and medical professionals of Rural America. Improved quality of care and quality of life, significant cost savings, and increased economic opportunities can all be achieved through the adoption of telehealth solutions powered by a reliable, high speed, fiber optic network.

The Health Resources Services Administration defines telehealth as “the use of electronic information and telecommunications technologies to support long distance clinical health care, patient and professional health-related education, public health and health administration.”

 

Improving Quality of Care and Decreasing Costs

When seconds are critical, telehealth solutions allow medical professionals to share records, diagnose, devise treatment plans, educate, and even consult during critical surgical procedures in real-time across the nation.  In addition to the strides made in healthcare quality, reliable high-speed Internet access that powers telehealth solutions has the potential to significantly decrease costs for patients and medical facilities nationwide through streamlined efficiencies and the elimination of unnecessary patient transfers.

Bringing Reliability, Scalability, and Opportunity to Rural Nebraska

Great Plains Communications is proud to bring Rural Nebraska hospitals and medical facilities the dedicated Internet access and managed Ethernet services that allow the implementation of reliable, scalable, telehealth solutions powered by our statewide, 9,500-mile fiber optic network.

What Are SIP Trunks?

There can be some confusion on the topic of SIP or SIP trunks.  If you ask four people what a SIP trunk is you may get four different answers.

 “It’s an internet line”, “A call that runs over VoIP”, “It’s a replacement for PRI”, or “It allows for free calling.”

These are all some of the typical responses. According to SSCA® Sip Training, a basic description of SIP trunking is, “Voice communications using IP based connectivity to supplement or replace traditional telephony service circuits (DS0, DS1, PRI), allowing an organizations telephone system to connect to the PSTN.”

SIP trunks are not trunks in the old telephony sense in that they are not hard wired circuits.  Instead, they use IP connections to originate or terminate telephone calls to and from the Public Switched Telephone Network.  Businesses and companies have been connecting their PBX’s to the PSTN by TDM based trunks for decades.  This is usually a traditional T1 or PRI connection containing 23 or more voice trunks.  SIP trunking is a virtual connection alternative to a service provider who then can pass calls onto the PSTN.  SIP enabled PBX’s connect to an IP based link, such as a DSL line.

 

A couple of the main benefits of SIP trunks are:

  • Lower cost – Typically 30% to 50% cheaper per trunk when utilizing a converged broadband service.  
  • Greater functionality – with no hard direct connection to deal with, the trunks can be moved easily to other locations / systems.  For example, in a disaster recovery situation.

There can be a few challenges with SIP including Quality of Service (QoS) and security. It is important to employ QoS techniques, or configurations in routers and switches that prioritize voice traffic over data traffic.  Including separating the DATA and Voice traffic on the local customer network. It is also important that the broadband line is symmetric, meaning the connection has the same upload and download speeds as both are equally utilized for voice traffic.

The popularity of SIP trunking is increasing as enterprises look for the flexibility, cost savings, and scalability that comes with the service. According to a recent Infonetics report, over ¾ of enterprises surveyed plan on using SIP trunks in the next year.