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Cutbacks cost Fibrant marketing chief his job

By Emily Ford
eford@salisburypost.com
SALISBURY ó The cityís new high-speed Internet provider, Fibrant, no longer has a marketing director.
Len Clark lost his job last week in city layoffs, along with two employees from Salisbury-Rowan Utilities and one from Parks and Recreation.
Fibrant faces stiff competition as the city tries to wrest a one-third market share from mega-corporations like Time Warner Cable and AT&T. The city began selling Internet, cable TV and phone services in December.
Since Clarkís departure, the city has created a Fibrant marketing team of six people, according to Mike Miller, owner of Miller Davis, the marketing firm that created Fibrantís website.
According to Miller, the new marketing team is made up of six current city employees well-versed in public relations, sales and information technology.
ěThis team that is there is very capable and very strong,î Miller said. ěThey are going to push Fibrant where it needs to go.î
Marketing is critical to Fibrantís success, Miller said.
ěTime Warner and AT&T, they are the giants,î he said.
Cable companies have slashed prices and increased Internet speeds since the city launched Fibrant. The cable lobby backs a proposed law that would restrict municipal broadband networks like Fibrant, although Salisbury is exempt from the current version of the bill.
Salisbury stacks up well against private providers, Miller said.
ěThey have done very well with their initial start-up,î he said.
As an organization, the city is smaller and ěmore pliableî than the large corporations, Miller said.
ěThey can make much quicker decisions than the big boys can,î he said.
Miller Davis hasnít switched to Fibrant Internet yet, Miller said, although the firm is using Fibrant video. He said heís waiting for the city to complete testing and ěroll out their full-blown commercial side.î
City officials did not return phone calls or emails from the Post about the future of marketing for Fibrant.
Clark did not return a phone call from the Post.
The city faces the toughest budget year in a quarter-century. The layoffs came as officials attempt to close a revenue gap.
Cutting four positions will save the city about $200,000, officials said.
ěWe value the service of these employees, and they have lost their job through no fault of their own,î City Manager David Treme said in a press release. ěWe wish we did not have to take these actions, but given the reality of todayís economy, these steps were necessary.î
Treme will recommend other actions to balance the cityís budget at the May 3 City Council meeting.
ěAs you know, the nation has gone through a significant recession over the last several years,î he said in the statement. ěTo meet the reduced revenue levels, it has been necessary to realign our city organization.î
To balance the 2011-12 budget, the city must reduce employment levels, he said.
To lessen impact on current employees, the city has not filled vacant positions, utilized transfers, provided incentives for early retirement and implemented the reduction in force policy, Treme said.
The policy uses the criteria of ěexperience, performance and essentialityî as policy guidelines, he said.
Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.

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