We’re LIVE at the BLC Annual Meeting!
In our third episode Bryan, Karen, and Micah talk about…
-The state of Ben Lomand Connect with Board President Roger Bynum (Coffee County) and Vice President Cain Rogers (White County).
-What is a Biz Box?
-The latest at Channel 6, and area events.
and much more!
Transcripts have been lightly edited for clarity and readability.
Bryan Kell: Welcome to the BLC Connection podcast. I’m Brian Kell.
Karen Wilson: I’m Karen Wilson.
Micah Lawrence: And I’m Micah Lawrence.
All Hosts: Let’s get connected.
Bryan Kell: We are here at the Ben Lomand Connect Annual Meeting, celebrating 68 years of Ben Lomand Connect/Ben Lomand Telephone. Karen, Micah, we’re out of the studio.
Karen Wilson: We are. This is exciting.
Micah Lawrence: And we’re out of the wind, too. I like it.
Bryan Kell: We are out of the wind. This is this is Saturday. What’s today’s date? I just know it’s Saturday.
Karen Wilson: 19th?
Bryan Kell: 19, 19. And so we are going to be having fun outside of Ben Lomand Connect today, as we are inside the Biz Box. Micah, we’re going to talk more about that later on, right?
Micah Lawrence: Absolutely.
Bryan Kell: All right. And then, Karen, lots of stuff happening around the Channel Six shows and all the stuff that’s going on there plus around the area as well too.
Karen Wilson: Yeah, spring is bringing people out. We’ve got lots of fun things going on in all our service territory and lots of activity going on at Channel Six, some new programs rolling out. So we’re excited to bring spring in and give new content.
Bryan Kell: Absolutely. And you know, Micah, we are here at the Ben Lomand Connect Annual Meeting. Not our first rodeo, but this one’s outdoors.
Micah Lawrence: That’s right. That’s right. We’re allowing people to drive-through, do their vote, and then get the prize, and then head on about their way until the annual meeting starts.
Bryan Kell: Yeah, the annual meeting starts. We’re recording this a couple of hours before the annual meeting. Karen, out of the three of us here, you’ve been to the most of these. And so you go back to like the old high school?
Karen Wilson: No, I don’t go back that far. Are you kidding me? No. (laughs)
Bryan Kell: So, you did not do the middle school?
Karen Wilson: The Civic Center. Okay.
Bryan Kell: All right.
Karen Wilson: Civic Center. And yes, it’s changed a lot over the years, but hey, we’re changing with the times. So. But, yeah, going back to the Civic Center. It has been a year or two, though.
Bryan Kell: It has. And I don’t know if we mentioned this or not. We’re outside in the parking lot area of Warren County High School. And so we’ll be talking more about this in just a bit. But up next, we have got the president in the building. The president is in the building. So Board President Roger Bynum will be joining us right after this. It is the third episode of the BLC Connection Podcast.
Bryan Kell: We are back here on the BLC Connection podcast, Karen Wilson, Micah Lawrence, myself, Bryan Kell. But we are joined by the president, board president and straight out of Coffee County, Mr. Roger Bynum. Mr. Bynum, welcome to the podcast.
Roger Bynum: Thank you. Proud to be here.
Bryan Kell: You are the first of the board members to jump on here with us, so we appreciate you so much for coming on here with us on this.
Roger Bynum: Okay, thank you for having me.
Bryan Kell: All right, another annual meeting is underway, and you’ve experienced quite a few of these over the years. Talk about maybe some of the early memories you have of the annual meeting and what it means to you today.
Roger Bynum: Oh, it means so much. It’s exciting times. I mean, of course, I’ve been on the board since ’95. I’m telling off pretty, pretty hard on myself here, but seen a whole lot of change. You know, the crowd, of course, the younger crowd is what we’re trying to have to draw now. You know, the older crowd has kind of dwindled, down, passed and whatever. You know, it’s kind of a little bit more complicated. And we do what we can to get a crowd here. And we love having people because that’s what our company is all about. And, you know, we’re a member-owned company and that’s what, you know, that’s where we are and that’s what we got to be. And we put a lot into this and all the employees, and I’m really proud to be here with y’all three folks. Y’all are super. And that’s why we’re so strong with employees like we have with y’all.
Bryan Kell: Cool.
Karen Wilson: Mr. Bynum, you said you’d been on the board since ’95. Tell us a little bit. Most people from Coffee County probably know you, but those from the other territories, tell us about yourself.
Roger Bynum: Okay. I was born and raised in Coffee County. I live in Hillsboro, been there all my life. And, of course, I’m a third generation farmer and that’s all I’ve ever done. Graduated in ’79, and I’ve been farming ever since. And included in a whole lot of different things. I’m a member of the Methodist Church there. I’ve been on a lot of boards there and Farm Bureau, Board, Co-op, you just name it. I’ve tried to be involved, but now that I’m getting older, it seems like my heart, my heart’s always been with Ben Lomand, but it’s I’ve kind of slacked up on the other things, and it’s Ben Lomand all the way. Now, being president requires a little more time, and that’s okay. I love that. And I just like being here. And I’m just proud.
Karen Wilson: Yes. So you’ve got your farm. Has it been that same land, has that been for three generations now?
Roger Bynum: Yes, ma’am. It sure has. It has. And my son, I have one son, and he’s a CPA in Murfreesboro. And he’s very involved in the farm, too when he can be. Especially in the fall, he’s a little slower in his job. He helps me harvest. But, you know, it’s been in the farm. I mean, it’s been in the family a long time.
Karen Wilson: Yeah. And we need future farmers, so keep his hand to the plow when he’s not crunching numbers.
Roger Bynum: I’m going to do my best.
Micah Lawrence: So, Roger, we know you’re a farmer. And what I’d like to do is, I want you to talk about some positive things and maybe some challenging that you’ve faced in the farming industry. And you know what part Ben Lomand has played helping local farmers in our service territory.
Roger Bynum: Okay, That’s you know, that’s something I can probably talk about a half a day because it has changed so much. You know, now with technology and all of what we have and of course, the Internet and all that, you know, we’re able to get on our phones or go to our shop or in the house and get on our Internet and order parts. That might be hard to get and save a lot of money, and they can be delivered to your door. And that technology has changed, and of course, we can do it by phone. And the big technology is the autosteer and all that’s set up on the tractors now and everything. And, that’s all, you know, that’s technology all the way. And it’s been a great big help for farmers. But, you know, I’m kind of getting outdated. It’s a young man’s game. I have to have a lot of help sometimes in their crazy questions. But it has helped us. Ben Lomand has been a great asset for farming, in those ways for sure, in other ways, too. I mean, you know, it does a lot for the community. We’re small. We’re Hillsboro. And Ben Lomand is just like part of it. And it’s been involved in several ways. And Ben Lomand has helped us through the years. We got a park started there and in the Hillsboro, and they’ve been very good about hooking us up and supporting us and, and we’ll support them too in the future. So it’s been a good, it’s a good ride.
Micah Lawrence: It’s great.
Bryan Kell: A lot’s changed in a year. I mean, since we were here last time. I mean, it’s a different world in a lot of ways. Ben Lomand’s had some major highs under under your watch over the last year. You know the Manchester office opening up. Gig/gig for $57.95. We kind of did a little bit of breaking news on that on this last episode that we ended up doing. But there’s also been challenges, too. You got the global supply chain issue that we’ve had to deal with and you all as a board I’m sure in working with Greg that that’s been a major topic for y’all. Talk about the last year in those highs and challenges and everything.
Roger Bynum: Oh yeah. It’s been of course, you know, Greg just took over 12 months ago or whatever, and it’s been a pretty hard time for him to take over. And he’s handled it so, so well. Of course, he’s been at the company out pretty much all his life. But anyway, yes, we have had a lots and lots of highs, and we’ve had to take some different avenues. You talked about the supply chain. You know, we were starting to get lower, and we were getting low on a whole lot of our cards, whatever you want to call all this stuff. Y’all understand it a lot more than I do. But having to go to other vendors and, you know, make sure that all that’s going to be compatible so people that you haven’t dealt with, that’s been a pretty big challenge for Greg. But the thing that we’re high on down is we’re getting way down the line on getting our territory narrowed down on fiber. But our ups and downs, we’ve had those. And this last year has been, of course, COVID having to deal with the employees, you know, and that’s something that we can’t help. And Greg would keep us posted, you know. Well, I got seven out right now and, you know, all this stuff. And it’s been a big deal. And not only for Greg, I know I’ve mentioned him a lot, but for everyone. Every department head has had stress from being short of supply, COVID. But we’ve handled it very well. We’ve handled it good, and we’re excited. Got some ventures coming down the road and Crossville is one of them. That can be as big as a co-op on its own.
Bryan Kell: You and your fellow Coffee County Board member Joe Roper. It has to be a great sense of pride for you guys on that Manchester office because that’s getting close to being one year, I guess, on that. That’s got to be big.
Roger Bynum: Oh, yeah. I’m glad you brought it up because I skipped it. I probably got more compliments over that. People are ecstatic. They love it. And we’re growing in Coffee County and boy, they like it. I didn’t realize there was such a need. There’s a need there. Boy, they love that Manchester office, and that’s going to be a big thing. That’s good.
Karen Wilson: Roger, tell us, I guess, any stories that you have of seeing BLC in action, whether it’s former employees or board members that made an impact on you either before you started serving as a board member, or just any of it.
Roger Bynum: Yeah, well, you can imagine when I came on the board, I was 34. And we had some board members on here, Mr. Bill Hickey, Bob Jones, Janie Ruth Price. They were, and they were just so good to me. They just took me around. I didn’t know what anything was. All these acronyms they were throwing out at us. I didn’t know nothing.
Karen Wilson: Not Telecom. Surely not.
Roger Bynum: Yeah, you better believe it. But we, you know, of course, we had Judge Dempster, and he’s a smart man and very smart. And that’s one of the things I remember the most. And Levoy was great to me, and I was, you know, I was one of the youngest board members in the state.
Bryan Kell: Wow.
Roger Bynum: Oh, yeah. It’s just unheard of to be my age. And I took over from Mr. Bramnick, which was a fine fellow, a good man. But the adventures that I’ve been on, and it’s been so good to me. I’ll tell you one thing, when I was 34, I couldn’t get in front of this microphone.
Karen Wilson: You’ve come a long way, haven’t you?
Roger Bynum: This is my second time to be president since I’ve been on the board. This is my second time, and it’s been so good to me. I can even get up in church now and do something. Say something. I couldn’t do that at 34.
Karen Wilson: So, yeah. A young man from the farm, being thrust into a leadership role, was that I guess a bit intimidating?
Roger Bynum: Yes, but I made my mind up I could do it. But I had so many good people that I could talk to and ask questions, dumb questions. But they said, no, they’re not dumb. Just ask them. And it’s been good. It’s been, you know, I love seeing the company grow from what we’ve done. And we didn’t even have a fiber TV or Internet TV or anything in ’95. And they started throwing all these things about you, Oh, you got to have triple play. You’re not going to be able to make it. You got to sell everything and TV and all that. And it’s been an experience, but boy, it’s been a good one. I wouldn’t take anything for it. It’s in my blood, and it always will be.
Karen Wilson: Yeah, that was about when dialup was starting to come in, so we were just entering into that.
Roger Bynum: And that was it. You’re right on it. We were starting dial up, and you know what that was like.
Karen Wilson: I’m sure Joe Hamby could tell us all about that.
Roger Bynum: Poor Joe. Yeah, that’s about all I can say.
Micah Lawrence: So, Roger, you’ve talked a little bit about the past, let’s talk about the future. We know we’ve got a new generation of employees coming in. We know that we’re moving forward to the future. What’s kind of your thoughts? Where do you see Ben Lomand going? What are some things that you foresee as maybe some challenges that you see going forward?
Roger Bynum: Well, there’s a lot out there, and there’s a lot going on right now. I mean, we talked Thursday night a lot about the grants that we’re out here with. And, you know, those are still kind of pending, but we feel good about them. And if they come through, you know, that’s going to be an exciting time. And Greg is energetic. He’s very energetic. He likes partnerships. And we’re in a position to do that. And the Board is very excited, and we’re pleased. But we’ve got some young talent. And Greg, he’s told us, you know, we’ve got to get off of this a little bit because this young talent coming on, they’re whippersnappers. They’re going to be able to do it. Don’t worry about it, because, you know, we were worried about our workforce being able to get the caliber of smart people. People persons, you know, that can get out here. We were concerned about that. But now, no, not really, because that’s coming on really good. We’re strong, and there’s some good guys out there, and girls very much.
Karen Wilson: Yeah. This next generation. It’s funny you should say that. I’ve always thought it’s a rare breed for someone to embrace technology and have customer service skills, but I think we’re finding them.
Roger Bynum: Yeah, I think so too. And you know, the way they’re starting out and growing and deciding whether they want to be in the company or not is a great thing. And it’s working. And we’ve got other things going on, and we are — just skipping back — we are excited about the future.
Micah Lawrence: Awesome.
Roger Bynum: With our networ we’ve got built out, we’re going to be able to do more things, than we thought we could do. We got the best fiber out there.
Karen Wilson: Okay, so you’ve got another year as board president. What can we expect during this year, or future years to come from Ben Lomand Connect?
Roger Bynum: Oh, we’re not going — when we get this fiber, but we’re not stopping. Don’t think that. There’s going to be more and more and more. But that’s our next goal. He’s wanting in 24 months, he wants to be done. Totally built out. I think we’re like at 70% right now?
Bryan Kell: 75. Yeah, over 75.
Roger Bynum: Okay, we got some holes that we’re going to do with our guys and then he’s got his contractors doing bigger jobs. But, you know, we’re going to be hot in Crossville. There’s almost 8,000 people that we can jump on pretty quick. That’s that size of three co-ops from the Midwest, you know. So we’re going to be doing things and partnering more. It’s exciting for Ben Lomand because telephone business has changed. It changes all the time. Just about time you think you’ve got the best, here comes something better. And it’s pretty hard, but exciting. It’s exciting to me to see us bringing on new people, everybody stepping up. When I pulled in the parking lot, I got cold chills because y’all are here volunteering, and it’s just a good feeling to know it’s a family, and that’s why we’re so strong. It’s really simple, but we’re like a big family. And as long as it stays like that, we’ll just get stronger.
Karen Wilson: Well, and you mentioned taking fiber to Crossville. Of course, that’s totally we want to be 100% pretty much built out into our original service territory, and then adding new territories to make the cooperative stronger.
Roger Bynum: Right. Well, yes, I should have said more about that. Now, our existing territory that we have now comes first. We’re going to concentrate on that, and then these other things will come. But, yes, our folks are first.
Bryan Kell: Final question for you. What are you growing or grazing in 2022 as a farmer? What’s on tap for you as a farmer this year?
Roger Bynum: Oh, I’ve made my mind up. I’m going all soybeans.
Bryan Kell: Okay.
Roger Bynum: Because of fertilizer, prices are almost three times what I paid for them last year. I paid 420, and they’re 980 a ton. And I’ve got my ground in the condition to where I can grow beans for less than half of what acre of corn costs. And I’m just going to kind of do a cheapo route this time, I guess if you want to call it cheapo. It’s not cheapo, but I’m going to grow all beans. Of course, I got my cows on some ground I can’t farm. But I’m just kind of going to do that because I’m getting to the age that I don’t want to go out on a limb too far. You know, we’ve had rain here for seven years. I know you don’t keep up with the weather like I do.
Bryan Kell: I’m sure.
Roger Bynum: We’ve had rain for seven years. We’re due a drought. I don’t want it, but I hope it never comes. But I’ve been farming so long it will come. Usually one out of five.
Karen Wilson: I know I was at Costco the other day, and a beef tenderloin was like $120. So it’s amazing. It’s so nice to have that, you know, you’re growing your own beef, and then selling as well.
Roger Bynum: Yeah, you know, it makes me sick to go there because cows are the same price as they were two years ago. I took some off the other day, same price. In the grocery store …
Karen Wilson: For what you get. The farmer gets.
Roger Bynum: I got $1.35 for a £600 steer. That’s what he was two years ago. Well, look what your beef tenderloin cost you two years ago and what it costs today. We’re not getting that. It’s not the farmers. It’s that guy in the middle: packers, truckers, whoever. And the truckers are not getting anything because they’re paying $5 for diesel. I feel sorry for those guys, but yeah, that’s kind of where we are. I mean, I hate it, but folks are going to pay more for groceries, and it’s not the farmer’s fault.
Bryan Kell: Well, we’ve talked a lot. We’ve talked a lot about just recently now, and in your answers with that, on the growth and growing things. Thank you for being a major part of helping grow Ben Lomand. So on behalf of all the employees here, thank you for your support. Thank you for your work because you and your fellow board members, that’s an important part to play. So thank you.
Roger Bynum: Thank you. I’m sure proud to be here. I’m proud of you all.
Bryan Kell: Well, we’re going to go let you do your board president work. I know you all going to be meeting here in a bit. So again, thanks to board president, the pride of Hillsboro, Roger Bynum, as he joined us first. And up next, we’ll bring in, straight out of White County, Mr. Cain Rogers next here on the BLC Connection Podcast.
Bryan Kell: We’re back here on the BLC Connection Podcast, a live to tape version in which we’re outside the main office. Karen Wilson. Micah Lawrence. Bryan Kell. And while we are probably about an hour and a half away from our meeting, we’ve been able to snag the VP, the vice president of the board straight out of White County, Mr. Cain Rogers. Welcome, sir.
Cain Rogers: Thank you. Good to join you here this morning before we kick off our annual meeting. So, it’s a pleasure to be here. A little cool outside, but that’s all right.
Bryan Kell: A little windy too. You were wrangling a tent, I think, right before you came on here with us.
Cain Rogers: Yes, I was getting ready to eat my biscuit, and then I turned around and looked, and a tent was coming for the car, so I had to jump on that.
Bryan Kell: We thank you for that.
Karen Wilson: Little Wizard of Oz action going on, right?
Bryan Kell: Another annual meeting is underway. You’ve been to a few of these. Tell us about what’s going through your mind here at another celebration of Ben Lomand Connect.
Cain Rogers: Well, you know, each year and especially before COVID and having to do the meetings like we do now, it’s our big event. You know, it means a lot to me, and it means a lot to all of us. And, you know, it’s really, as far as the cooperative, it’s where we get the shine. You know, our members get to come. It’s a democratic process as far as the voting and then the, you know, memberships get to take care of their business as far as the co-op business. And it’s just a good time for all of us to get together. You know, we as board members get to visit with you guys employees, and we get to join and, you know, have time with our members. And it’s just a big event for us.
Micah Lawrence: So, Cain, tell us a little bit about who you are, and what you do, what are some things that are special to you?
Cain Rogers: Well, I’m a born, and raised White Countian and, you know, I still live in White County. My family and I, of course, we’re raising our children there in White County. I grew up kind of in the car dealership business. And I’ve actually I switched over from the car dealership business about a decade ago to banking. And since then, I work at First National Bank there in Sparta as a loan officer, and I’ve been there doing that for about a decade now. So as far as outside of work and everything else that I do, family and I, we enjoy traveling. And we also, especially in the summers, enjoy our time on Center Hill Lake. That’s just very special to me and my family, and we love it there.
Micah Lawrence: Great.
Karen Wilson: So you started serving on the board about seven years ago, you said. When it comes to that service, was there a learning curve, or things that your eyes were open to about how Ben Lomand works?
Cain Rogers: You know, any job, it seems like, it takes about two years before you really know what you’re doing. And for this, you know, you’re only meeting 12 to 15 times a year. And we have a couple other trips and so forth we do learning from. But I mean, it really, it takes a while to really grasp what’s going on with Ben Lomand and the technology. And, you know, it takes, you know, outside of the meetings, I mean, you have to self teach, and you have to put some time and make sure you know what’s going on and understanding, you know, for one, the lingo and how everything works. And I mean, you know, there’s so many acronyms. I thought banking, you know, had a lot of acronyms. But, you know, broadband companies, it’s unreal. Everything’s an acronym.
Karen Wilson: You know, Roger mentioned that exact same thing.
Micah Lawrence: I think we’re seeing a theme here.
Karen Wilson: Yes.
Cain Rogers: So, you know, that’s why having experienced board members is important to us. Because, you know, it takes a while to learn what’s going on with the cooperative and to understand the business. So I think that’s why experience matters.
Micah Lawrence: So we know you’re in banking. Do you feel like that field of work helped you prepare to serve on Ben Lomand’s board?
Cain Rogers: Probably, definitely with the number part of it. I’m actually an accounting major. And so, you know, the numbers part of it is something and understanding the budgets and also from, you know, cash flow and looking at, you know, balance sheets and income statements and all that stuff, it just comes naturally to me. And that’s a big part of what we do. And so that definitely helped. And then, you know, from a banking and especially lending, I get to look at, you know, various ways that companies make money and how they’re structured and things of that nature. So just that general business background and understanding the numbers part of it, and I definitely think that does help me.
Micah Lawrence: Sure. So what are some positive things, or maybe even some challenges that are happening in the banking industry today that, you know, Ben Lomand Connect helps you and the businesses, how does it help them in like the financial sector, you know for our service territories?
Cain Rogers: Well, you’ve seen like a lot of the systems that we use, you know, instead of being an in-house kind of, you know, standardized systems, a lot of the things that we’re using now are web based, you know, banking systems. And so a reliable, fast Internet and broadband is critical to what we do. From our system, our platforms are, we use that. We’ve got to have that connection and that consistent good broadband. And, you know, we’re fortunate to have it there where I am in Sparta.
Karen Wilson: I guess money moves electronically now more so than handing someone money. And I can’t imagine just how critical that broadband connection is for the movement of money these days.
Cain Rogers: Yes. And you think about the mobile apps that people use at home. And, you know, we’re all connected to our banking and our lives are connected on the Internet. And, you know, banking is just one aspect it’s critical for.
Bryan Kell: You said that you’ve been on this board close to seven years, something along those lines. Do you have any stories of like seeing Ben Lomand Connect in action, former employees, or board members that made an impact with you before you started serving?
Cain Rogers: You know, before I got on the board, my perception of Ben Lomand,. I knew they had, you know, quality service as far as the services and Internet at that time phone everything was kind of. But it was the people that, you know, we work with these people. We go to church with these people. They’re part of our community. They’re family. They’re friends. And there’s just, with Ben Lomand, the people is probably the biggest difference. You just trust the company. I mean, there are so many people in a small town that we connect with. And, you know, it was just, in general, it’s hard to name any certain individuals that because, you know, so many. I mean, this is just a real community-based cooperative and company. And, you know, even now, even the retirees, I have a good relationship with old Hootie Turner. He’s somebody as far as that retiree. I get to visit with him often, and he keeps me in the loop as far as, you know, what’s going on. He’s in Ben Lomand more than I am now, you know, so and he’s retired.
Bryan Kell: You even you followed a true pioneer in the telecom industry with Janie Ruth Price. I mean, I’ve always heard — Karen maybe can speak to that a little bit more, too — but one of the first, if not the first, female board members in telco history. So following in her footsteps and that White County pride and bringing that to the table at Ben Lomand.
Cain Rogers: Yeah, yeah, following in her footsteps was a big deal. And, you know, I still see people out in the community and, you know, a lot of them understand that I took that role on, and that’s important to me. So, you know, I just really wanted to, you know, fill her shoes, take the legacy and continue on and represent our area. And Ben Lomand as a whole, you know the best I can.
Karen Wilson: Yeah, so White County has always been a pivotal county to Ben Lomand Connect’s success. What are you seeing and hearing about how BLC is making an impact in the quality of life for White Countians?
Cain Rogers: Well, you know, I’m connected to local government. And of course, being part of the business community there in White County, I hear it quite often about how important and fortunate we are in White County to offer the services that we have. I mean, if you think about how well built out White County is, we’re so fortunate. And to be able to offer a gig speeds up and down for $57.95 to our fiber folks. I mean, it’s amazing, and we’re very fortunate and from a economic development it’s important. You know, you hear it from our real estate agents, our county executive, you know, all county leaders and, you know, even our chamber president, Marvin Bullock, he…
Bryan Kell: I was going to say, huge.
Cain Rogers: He always recognizes how important it is because that’s one of the main things people want to know when they’re moving to our area. And we all have a lot of these people moving. And I think, you know, the access to high speed broadband is a big deal. And we’re just fortunate to have Ben Lomand and to be, you know, spread out through the county and built out through the county like we are, it’s important.
Karen Wilson: Well, if you think about it, you are right next to two more metropolitan areas, Cookeville and Crossville. And from what I hear, you know, from the public, they’re kind of jealous of what people in Sparta have.
Cain Rogers: I agree. And, you know, we’re making efforts in Cumberland County. We’re trying to bring them, you know, build that county out. So we’ve got some things in the works. So we’re hopeful to bring it to our neighbors.
Micah Lawrence: So Bryan mentioned earlier that you’re our vice president. Looks like you’ve got about another year as the board vice president. What can we expect during the next coming year and, you know, the future of Ben Lomand?
Cain Rogers: I definitely think that our main focus right now is continuing to expand and build out our network. Right now, there’s the governments. There’s a once in a lifetime opportunities with the funding opportunities, as far as grants and things of that nature coming from both state and federal levels, to grow our network into these underserved areas. I think you’ll continue to see a major push for us to expand our network and grow it. And also to to go back over our existing network because, you know, for the most part, we’re built out in fiber, but we still have some copper folks out there. And we’re going to try to get to those as we can and get everybody converted over to the fiber. So that’s our main focus for the next couple of years is build out fiber and take care of our existing network and our members.
Bryan Kell: On a last question, this is kind of off the script a little bit. You’re in banking, and it’s been a wild year as we’ve seen. Any kind of thoughts as far as where we’re heading from a banking and investment standpoint from where you see?
Cain Rogers: I definitely think, you know, as far as the rate side of it, I definitely think we’ll see rates continue to increase. This inflation is pretty rampant. And, you know, there’s a lot going on in the world. It’s so unpredictable. If you just look back two years ago and then, you know, to where we are now with COVID and everything else that’s going on, it’s just we’re in somewhat of a scary time with, and you have to think that rates will probably increase to try to tamp down this inflation. And, you know, I just, you know, asset prices from real estate cars, a lot of times rates and the prices of things like that have an inverse relationship. So I don’t know. I just hope we have a soft landing on some of this stuff and it’s not a ’08 or ’09 type deal. So, you know, but hopefully, uh, hopefully we can get this thing to cool off, inflation. I think rates is a big part of it.
Bryan Kell: Fingers crossed, right? Everybody’s got their fingers crossed on that. Well, you talked a lot about investing, and on behalf of all the employees here at Ben Lomand Connect, thank you for investing in Ben Lomand. You played a major part, you and your fellow board members of where we are today and where we’re going. So thank you Cain Rogers.
Cain Rogers: Thank you. Enjoyed getting to spend the time with you, and looking forward to a good annual meeting.
Bryan Kell: Absolutely. We have been talking with Mr. White County, Cain Rogers, who reminded us, Karen, before we got on here, that he has been on TV. So he’s been our first guest as a TV doing parade probably six years ago, something like that maybe for White County?
Karen Wilson: Yes, he was one of our hosts several years ago. We’d like to have you back in that role again anytime.
Cain Rogers: I’d love to.
Bryan Kell: So he’s TV star, podcast star. He’s checking off boxes left and right.
Karen Wilson: He’s a man about town.
Bryan Kell: He’s Cain Rogers, and he’s our board vice president. And so thank you for spending time with us.
Cain Rogers: Thank you.
Bryan Kell: We’re going to take a quick break, be back with more as to what all is happening in and around Ben Lomand right after this.
Micah Lawrence: Welcome back to Connect with BLC. Karen, what’s the latest on the Channel Six News?
Karen Wilson: Well, Channel Six continues to be very busy with election preparation. We’re going to try to cover every county that we provide service to, including Cumberland and Coffee counties. Of course…
Bryan Kell: Breaking news right there. Total breaking news right there.
Karen Wilson: And all of the counties are having a change in county commissioners. So it’s going to be a huge race. Lots of work on our end to make sure the graphics and the reporting is accurate. And so that’s hot and heavy. We’ve also filmed several interesting Soul of Warren Counties. We’ve got K’Rojhn Calbert, who’s going to be a guest soon. That kid, boy, young man is awesome and such a wonderful person to be from Warren County and a sense of pride for our county. So I look forward to that episode coming out.
Micah Lawrence: So Karen, I’m just curious if anybody has an idea for something to be on Channel six, what’s the best way for them to communicate an idea to Ben Lomand?
Karen Wilson: Well, they can always call us, reach out to us on social media. We get things. People leave us messages on Messenger. They’ll just, if you see us out, tell us those ideas. Call us. Email us or message us on social media because we are always in need of good ideas for content.
Micah Lawrence: Awesome. Cool. So, Bryan, I know we’re having some Tennessee weather here. It’s getting warm, it’s getting cold, and then it’s getting windy. What kind of events could we see around our service area in April?
Bryan Kell: In the past eight days, we have experienced a lot of snow, a lot of rain, and a lot of sun. Welcome to Tennessee. And wind and wind today. But yeah, still not a lot of things taking place outside, so we kind of focus a little bit on things taking place inside in April. “Happy Days: The Musical.” I’m a big fan of Happy Days. That’s kind of wheelhouse for me. And then that’s going on April 8th through the 16th at Warren Arch, which is located on Manchester Highway. Cumberland County Playhouse, “Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express.” April 15th through May 31, going on at the Playhouse in Cumberland County. Park Theater in McMinnville. Comedian TC Cope, born in New York, but raised in McMinnville. And so comedian, you can catch him on April 9th at the Park Theater in McMinnville. The Caverns in Pelham, “BlackBerry Smoke,” a very popular band around not only in this area, but just around the country, April 15th and 16th, two dates at the Caverns. And then the Palace Theater in Crossville has got a guy that’s had 25 top 40 country hits, Sammy Kershaw, is going to be playing there April 7th, his lone number one. “She Don’t Know She’s Beautiful.”
Micah Lawrence: Awesome. Great. So let’s take some time here, and let’s talk about this contraption where I am here.
Bryan Kell: It is a contraption.
Micah Lawrence: Because the best I guess I got to set it up a second.
Bryan Kell: Yes a second or two.
Micah Lawrence: Bryan, you know, we’ve talked about we’re here inside the Biz Box. What is the biz box?
Bryan Kell: Biz box, what is it? It’s an expandable trailer kind of thing that’s got a porch on it. When you expand it out, and like you said, it just takes a second or two to put it together. Right? But it is an area that we can do several things in. And Karen’s going to talk about the thing, but it’s a nice area to escape the wind, like what’s going on right now. But we can be able to showcase items here, both on the porch and also inside. It’s got a glass front to it and on the side here as well. Can’t wait for folks to be able to check it out. For folks that are coming to the annual meeting, they can catch it here today. But it is a place for us to do business out of, to greet people and to be able to have a fun time, a staging area, if you will. But if I talk more about it, it’s going to eat into what Karen’s got to say and how we use this thing.
Micah Lawrence: Yeah. So, Karen, so we’ve got this thing set up. We’ve got it all fancy gussied up here. What are our plans with this? What where can people see this the most?
Karen Wilson: Well, as it functions in the capacity of like a mobile office, we will be taking it to grant areas where we’re trying to receive grants to get fiber. So it’s a place where people can come sign the papers, showing their support for grant, sign up for service. Say, for instance, we’re going to a certain community in Cumberland County, but we don’t have an office close to that location. We’re going to bring this biz box there, set up our office and function as a working office for everybody who’s interested in fiber. But it can also be for fun. We’ve got lots of community events that we participate in, including county fairs where we function out of a tent right now. Well, when the weather’s unpredictable, you need a mobile event place to to host guests and things like that. Come in, give promo items, say hello. So we’ll be taking it out in the communities to function in that capacity for us.
Micah Lawrence: Awesome. Well, I hope you guys get to see it. It’s really cool. It’s nice. Going to get it all fixed up with neat technology, hopefully.
Bryan Kell: Yeah.
Micah Lawrence: So it’ll be really cool. So, guess what?
Bryan Kell: (laughs) What?
Karen Wilson: My favorite part!
Micah Lawrence: It’s time for Ye Olde Dictionary!
Bryan Kell: I didn’t see you had any notes, so I was thinking maybe you’d skip this episode. But no, you’ve got it in the brain, in your brain.
Micah Lawrence: So we have a fellow coworker that has given me a word. It is Padora. She is in the network support services, and she has the word bussin.
Bryan Kell: Bussin, can you spell that?
Micah Lawrence: I’m assuming it’s B-U-S-S-I-N. Bussin.
Karen Wilson: Is that like taking a group of people somewhere? Like you’ve got a whole posse that you’re going to take bussin to…
Bryan Kell: I like the fact that Karen said “posse.” Wherever your posse is going. I would agree. I’ll stick with you on that.
Micah Lawrence: So from what I can tell, it is when something tastes great or tastes awesome, it is bussin.
Karen Wilson: Wow. And what that connection is to bussin, I do not know.
Micah Lawrence: What’s the connection for any of these words he brings in all these things. You never know.
Micah Lawrence: Actually, I think it comes from a song. So I had to go look some of that up to understand myself.
Bryan Kell: We struck out on that one then. You got another one?
Micah Lawrence: Yeah, I do. And I think you guys will probably know this.
Bryan Kell: Okay.
Micah Lawrence: When someone is salty, what are they?
Karen Wilson: You’ve never heard anyone called salty?
Bryan Kell: No. I mean, I’m thinking that they’re in a bad mood, I would think.
Karen Wilson: Kind of, yeah, little like they’re harsh.
Bryan Kell: Smug.
Karen Wilson: Bitter. Yeah, like you said, a little harsh and bitter. They’re a little salty today. What you said was a little salty.
Micah Lawrence: Yep. You got it.
Bryan Kell: Okay.
Micah Lawrence: They’re a little angry, little frustrated. You know, their words are not very pleasant.
Karen Wilson: Yeah, I’ve been called salty by my kids a time or two, so I knew that one.
Bryan Kell: All right, so we’re two out of six so far on Ye Olde Dictionary. We’ve nailed two out of six, and two of our last four because we struck out completely, I think the first episode on getting these so.
Karen Wilson: We did so, doing a better.
Bryan Kell: Well, we have reached the end of yet another BLC Connection podcast. This one is outdoors even though we’re indoor/outdoors, right? Yeah, kind of.
Karen Wilson: This is kind of as good as it gets in a parking lot.
Bryan Kell: It really does. The biz box, and as Karen said, I hope everybody actually, Micah had said, and all of us have said, I hope you can catch this at your next event in your area. Micah, how can folks get information to us and listen?
Micah Lawrence: So please, please, please submit some questions to us. You can message us at BLC Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts. Or you can just email us at the BLCPodcast@BenLomandConnect.net. And you can find our podcast on Spotify, Apple, Google, Amazon, iHeartRadio, and there’s plenty of other ones that I’ve never heard of before, but it’s on there, so you have no excuse not to find it.
Bryan Kell: That’s right. Karen Wilson, you’ve got a couple of mini episodes that by the time this airs that will be up for folks to watch. So what is going to be an mini episode number three for you?
Karen Wilson: Our next business that we’re going to feature is the Biz Foundry. We’ve got representatives coming to talk to me about that. They’re going to walk us through their purpose and their role as a small business incubator.
Bryan Kell: Ah, incubator. We could use an incubator right now with that cold and windy out there.
Karen Wilson: My feet could use an incubator.
Bryan Kell: We’ll good deal. We’ll be listening or looking and listening out for that to come. And then in the next episode, the number four episode for us on the BLC Connection Podcast, we’re going to be talking all things Cumberland County. You heard our board members talking about how important Cumberland County is. We’re going to take you into Cumberland County with our office manager, Tommy Brown, and a sales person up there, Miss Rosa Smith. And so it’s all about Crossville. It’s all about Cumberland County, the golf capital of Tennessee. On the next episode here of the BLC Connection Podcast. Y’all ready to put a wrap on this and go get ready for a meeting?
Karen Wilson: Yeah, that sounds exciting.
Bryan Kell: All right. We appreciate being able to come to you all from the annual meeting and hopefully we’ll see some of you all out here in just a bit. And so for Micah Lawrence, for Karen Wilson, I’m Bryan Kell. Thanks for listening. Stay safe and stay connected.