10-14-2020 – Grant could fund fast internet

Posted on: October 14th, 2020 by admin

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October 14, 2020

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By Kara Fohner
kfohner@newstopicnews.com

Oct 13, 2020 6:16 PM

 

Blue Ridge Energy has applied for a grant to help pay for bringing high-speed internet to parts of northern Caldwell County.

 

The Caldwell County Board of Commissioners approved $100,000 in matching funds for the North Carolina Growing Rural Economies with Access to Technology Grant application, money that would be used only if Blue Ridge Energy is awarded the grant.

 

If the grant is awarded, communities near N.C. 268 from Indian Grave Road east towards Ferguson could receive the high-speed internet service, Renee Whitener, director of public relations for Blue Ridge Energy, said in an email.

 

The infrastructure would affect 412 places on multiple roads including Indian Grave Road, Buffalo Cove Road, Yadkin Lane, Laytown Road and Nubbin Creek Road, among others, Whitener said.

 

If the grant is awarded, Blue Ridge Energy intends to build the “fiber-optic backbone infrastructure” and to partner with SkyBest Communications, a telecommunications cooperative based in West Jefferson, to provide the internet access.

 

Construction would take about two years. The work would be done in sections, “so service will become available community by community,” Whitener said.

 

The N.C. GREAT Grant Program was established by the N.C. Department of Information Technology’s Broadband Infrastructure Office to help bring high-speed internet to economically distressed counties in North Carolina that do not have access to adequate internet service.

 

Blue Ridge Energy intends to continue working with SkyBest Communications to pursue additional state or federal grants for other parts of northern Caldwell County that do not have broadband service.

 

“This may take some years to achieve, because it all depends on being selected to receive a grant in a very competitive process,” Whitener said. “This is very rugged terrain with sparse population, and the cost of delivering high-quality internet service to this area is extremely expensive, which is why we must have state or federal grant assistance to make the economics work.”

 

In other business, Deborah Murray, the executive director of the Economic Development Commission, asked the commissioners to approve offering incentives to several companies considering expanding their operations in Caldwell County.

 

One company, which Murray did not identify except as Project Drumstick, was approved a year ago for local jobs incentives and has since doubled in size. It now plans to move to a larger facility and create 15 new jobs.

 

Murray said that the EDC is in the process of working with the company on an application for a state building reuse grant.

 

The incentives requested for two companies are related because the two intend to share a facility, Murray said.

 

One, identified publicly only as Project M&M, is an Ohio company that manufactures textiles. Murray said the company expects to create 12 jobs.

 

“They want to be here because they believe we have a rich textile history and they can bring some modernization to that process as well as bring new jobs to Caldwell County,” Murray said.

 

The other, identified only as Project Toucan, is an industrial printer that prints designs, labels and insignias on many products, including some of those created by Project M&M. The company expects to create eight new jobs.

 

The commissioners approved job-creation incentives of $2,000 for each new job created. The incentives would be paid to the companies only after the companies provided documentation of jobs being filled and maintained for a specified period.

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