SkyLine and ASU Entrepreneurship Works

SkyLine and ASU Entrepreneurship Works

Ed Hinson supports ASU entrepreneurship


Equal to 1,000 Mbps (megabits per second), Gigabit service is 100 times faster than what’s currently available in many U.S. households.

SkyLine is now nationally recognized by NTCA—the Rural Broadband Association as a Certified Gig-Capable Provider. This latest milestone shatters conventional broadband speed benchmarks to enable cutting-edge technologies that drive innovation and promote economic development locally, regionally and nationally.

Edward Hinson, who oversees SkyLine’s competitive operations department, is building greater awareness of the company’s cutting-edge network and the economic potential it brings.

“With our network, this region is ripe for opportunity—the key is making connections and working collaboratively.” In addition to advancing job creation and retention through its Revolving Loan Fund, SkyLine is broadening its reach to partner with strategic-minded organizations to create economic opportunity regionwide, including Chambers of Commerce and entities representing business and public/higher education.

One such partner is Appalachian State University’s Transportation Insight Center for Entrepreneurship (TICFE), which serves as a springboard for budding entrepreneurs–students, faculty, staff and neighboring community members.

Leading TICFE’s programs and events that include one-on-one mentorship and 24/7 access to office space and resources, Managing Director Erich Schlenker brings an extensive business background, namely a successful tenure with Intel managing the market development team that launched the Intel Inside® brand campaign. He serves with Hinson on a Boone Chamber committee that encourages public/private cooperation in broadening the economic base.

Schlenker says that connectivity and the availability of broadband Internet are critical to economic development.

The opportunity to be a part of the SkyLine team has been like a dream come true. My family has spent many vacations in these mountains, and now, these mountains are home.
Erich Schlenker and Edward Hinson
Although western North Carolina is fairly isolated and generally considered a tourist destination, the availability of high-speed Internet from SkyLine/SkyBest will be the cornerstone for digital industries where connectivity is their only requirement. These business opportunities represent the future of commerce and huge growth potential for the region


That includes new business and industry, local businesses looking to expand and budding entrepreneurs, many of whom are college graduates who want to stay here to launch their professional careers. Schlenker says the entrepreneurship center currently hosts several active projects and has cultivated several successes.

Appalachia Cookie Company in Boone started as a college student’s idea to sell and deliver fresh-baked cookies to students in their dorms across campus.

Recent graduate Bailey Williams developed a therapeutic glove for children affected by poor fine motor skills. While at ASU, she earned $15,000 in an international business plan competition, filed a full patent application in April and is negotiating with contract manufacturers in the U.S. and overseas. Merrick Marquie, another 2015 graduate and triple major in economics, business and marketing, is the Center’s Entrepreneur in Residence. During a business study fellowship in Asia, Marquie devised the idea for Corner Tailors, a custom-made suiting company that creates made-to-measurement suits at prices college students and young professionals can afford. Marquie credits Schlenker and the center for guidance and practical, hands-on experience in turning an idea into a functioning enterprise.

TICFE, which is housed in Appalachian’s Walker College of Business, will host a fall Regional Entrepreneurship Summit for students and community members to meet, network and hear valuable advice from successful entrepreneurs. It also will co-host a weekend entrepreneurship camp targeting area middle school students with the GEAR UP program in three western N.C. counties that SkyLine serves. With the programs’ dual focus on economic development and youth leadership, SkyLine signed on to be among the business sponsors.