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Help for high-tech on the way

Funding will go to study fiber optics

POSTED: December 14, 2008 5:00 a.m.
Photo/Michele Hester/

Gov. Sonny Perdue awarded Lumpkin, Dawson, Union and White counties with a $192,000 grant Monday to study the feasibility of a fiber optic communication system in the area.

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Fiber optic communication capabilities are widespread south of Dawson County and north of Union County.

  

But representatives from the underserved mountain region in between are quick to note how the lack of broadband, high-speed resources has hurt efforts to recruit technical business.

  

"We have to make it available to these businesses from day one," said Charlie Auvermann, director of the Development Authority of Dawson County.

  

The One Georgia Authority, the state panel that administers funds from the settlement with tobacco companies, met Monday at North Georgia College & State University.

  

The authority awarded Lumpkin, Dawson, White and Union counties a $192,000 grant to conduct a feasibility study for improved fiber optic communications in the mountain region.

  

The funds for the Northeast Georgia project are from the Broadband Rural Initiative to Develop Georgia's Economy or BRIDGE Fund.

  

Gov. Sonny Perdue, who chairs One Georgia, said supporting communication infrastructure in rural areas would help "level the playing field from an electronic perspective, so we can locate dependent jobs in these areas."

  

Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, who also serves on the state board, said the effort is "about jobs and economic development, particularly in rural counties."

  

"When you look at bringing in infrastructure to create jobs, that's critically important," Cagle said.

  

Auvermann said the counties will not be the only ones to benefit from the infrastructure.

  

"Businesses and universities would be able to utilize the latest technologies and communicate quickly," he said. "At the same time, we're also trying to make sure future businesses that come in have the telecommunication capabilities on day one that they need."

  

Auvermann began talks with Lumpkin County's development authority more than a year ago, after officials from both counties became aggravated trying to recruit tech business to the area without high-speed capabilities.

  

"We were both frustrated, and we also heard from many other folks about tech communications frustrations they had," said Bruce Abraham, director of the Lumpkin County Development Authority.

  

Abraham said the study will be completed by spring, and the counties involved will then likely seek more state funds to build a network, which he estimated could cost $10 million.

  

"The best thing about this is it very quickly grew into a collaborative effort between the counties and several other organizations," Auvermann said.

  

"There's an obvious need for what we are trying to do here, and I think the quickness in which that was put together just shows what that need is."

  

"Getting the One Georgia Authority grant to do a feasibility study is an important first step in realizing our dream to attract high tech business and their higher paying jobs to our community. The next step will be to get funding for phase 2 and begin building the system. I'll be working at the capital to find the money," said Rep. Amos Amerson.

  

One Georgia approved a number of other grant and loan projects statewide Monday, as well as recognized communities receiving the Entrepreneur Friendly designation.

  

Dawson County/Dawsonville received the Entrepreneur Friendly designation in April.

  

Harris Blackwood of the DCN regional staff contributed to this report.

  

E-mail Michele Hester at michele@dawsonnews.com.

 

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