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Shannon Turner (left) utilizes Meridian's new public wifi at Dumont Plaza while Mayor Cheri Barry, Leonard Wyatt of MegaGate and John McClure of the Alliance for Downtown Meridian make the announcement.

    For Meridian Web junkies, Dumont Plaza has a whole new world of potential.

    Meridian Main Street in partnership with the City of Meridian, Comcast and MegaGate Broadband of Hattiesburg have sponsored a new wifi area in the plaza, giving anyone with a computer free access to the Internet.

    "It's going to build interest in downtown Meridian." said Mayor Cheri Barry. "People are going to be able to do their work, their studies.

    "It's a great day for Meridian."

    The mayor added that the service will help "bring Meridian into the 21st century and to be one of the first cities in Mississippi to offer public wifi."

    City officials, local business representatives and other citizens came together for the announcement of the new wifi area Friday at 3:15 p.m. on the third floor of the MSU Riley Center.

    Barry said that the new wifi area will be open 24 hours a day, and that its realization is the product of partnerships.

    In addition to the new wireless Internet zone, Meridian Main Street held the first Nexus Hero, a workshop designed to promote Internet entrepreneurship for area businesses, John McClure executive director of the Alliance for Downtown Meridian said. He added that the name comes from the idea of networking combined with prominent, local businesspeople.

    "Meridian Main Street is hosting (Nexus Hero) with help from the Montgomery Institute's (Workforce Innovation Regional Economic Development) grant," McClure said. "If we can grow regionally, it's going to be good for Meridian as well.

    "These surrounding communities ... we want them to grow and prosper."

    McClure said that the WIRED grant that helped make Nexus Hero possible came from the Department of Labor, and that it was designed to help communities in East Mississippi and West Alabama.

    About 70 men and women from East Mississippi and the surrounding area came to the workshop, McClure said, which boasted several local speakers as well as entrepreneurs from around the state and country.

    Noah Everett, 25, founder of the Web site twitpic.com, also spoke on a panel and during a luncheon at Nexus Hero. Twitpic provides more than 10 million users the ability to upload pictures to their Twitter accounts.

    Everett said that his basic business model for starting Twitpic was "building something that I found useful myself, getting it out there as quickly as possible... (and) getting people using it."

    Everett started his company from scratch, and over the next few weeks it was thrust to success as more and more users of the social networking Web site Twitter opted to post pictures with Twitpic.

    Usage of the Internet is critical if businesses want to thrive in the current economy, Everett said.

    "You can reach so many more people via the Internet with less resources... less cost," he said. "Everything is going that way."

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