The city of Elizabethton and Carter County lie about as far east as you can go in Tennessee. Situated right up against the Appalachian mountains that ripple throughout the region, their location and somewhat small size puts these local governments at a disadvantage. So, you would assume that the communities would have trouble trying to attract new businesses to relocate there.

But Elizabethton and Carter County have something that puts them right up with the rest of the nation's cities, counties and states all vying for economic opportunities: A home page on the World Wide Web . In fact, the Elizabethton/ Carter County Economic Development Commission, a public-private agency that operates and maintains the economic development Web site, has more than 130 Web pages, bristling with data on business and commercial sites, labor, utilities, taxes, education, health care and other information that Net surfers can browse.

And the Elizabethton/Carter County economic development home page generates leads. Recently, a business executive browsed the home page, read about the free 100-page community profile binder the Commission has written, and clicked on the order button. Commission director Keith Mulligan received the request in his electronic mail and by 4 p.m. the same day, sent the binder on its way via Federal Express.

The next day, Mulligan used the overnight delivery company's Internet-based package tracking software to make sure the binder had been delivered, and then called the executive to see whether he needed any further assistance. "The guy couldn't believe how quickly we responded," recalled Mulligan. He added: "The Web allows us to move swiftly in presenting information and to communicate with businessmen from around the globe."

POWERFUL MARKETING TOOL

The Elizabethton/Carter County Economic Development Commission is hardly alone when it comes to using the Web to attract and keep businesses. Type the keywords, "economic development" and "government" into any one of the several search tools available on the Web and you will call up literally hundreds of Web sites throughout the country. The reason is simple. The Web provides governments of every size a low-cost, effective means for reaching millions of people and businesses around the world, each one a potential prospect. "The Web is a very powerful marketing tool," said Tom Kneeshaw, project manager for the Washington State Economic Development Network (EDN), an Internet initiative sponsored by Washington's economic development councils . "Home pages are a form of advertising for people who might be interested in relocating themselves or their businesses."

The growth of the Web on the Internet has been phenomenal in the past few years. Estimates on the number of users range from 15 million to 30 million and are climbing.

The Web is an international network of computer servers that contain information in the form of text and graphics assembled into pages. Computer users with special software known as browsers can locate these pages and view the text and graphics. Each page can also contain links to other sources of information located on other servers. By simply clicking on highlighted words, graphics or "hot" buttons, users can pursue more detailed information or related resources according to their interest. Unlike a local or wide area network, which requires users to have compatible operating systems to access files, the Web isn't restricted, so anyone with a Windows PC, Macintosh, OS/2 or UNIX-based computer can leaf through the same pages with their browser.

And creating a Web page doesn't require any special programming knowledge. With a little bit of training, any economic development office, no matter how small, can have a site on the Web that looks as impressive as something from agencies with plenty of resources.

Elizabethton/Carter County has an enormous amount of information available at their Web site, yet the Commission is staffed