It’s been nearly a week since Dawson County got a surprise visit from one of the nation’s highest-ranking government officials.
As news of Vice President Joe Biden’s plans spread around town, one question remained for many:
Tracie Eubanks was certainly curious as she watched a motorcade of several dozen vehicles move past the outlet mall Dec. 17.
“Of all places,” Eubanks said. “This is just incredible. I can’t believe he’s in my hometown ... why did he come here?”
Biden answered that question before a crowd of more than a hundred as he announced federal stimulus plans for local broadband Internet development.
“It’s small towns like Dawsonville that have some of the most untapped potential in America,” said Biden, who was joined by Gov. Sonny Perdue at Impulse Manufacturing in Dawson County.
“We’re using the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to spark new growth, to tap into the inventiveness ... in towns like Dawsonville, to give workers the tools they need to succeed in a new economy, and to help them build that new economy.”
Biden’s visit to the high-tech metal fabricating company last week gave him a venue to announce the award of more than $183 million in stimulus funds for broadband development in 17 states.
One of the grants will help fund the construction of hundreds of miles of fiber optic lines that will bring high-speed Internet access to rural North Georgia counties.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act will fund a $33.5 million regional project, the North Georgia Network, that will create a 260-mile regional fiber optic ring through eight North Georgia counties, including Dawson.
Rep. Amos Amerson, who is the liaison between state government and the North Georgia Network agency, said funding of the network is “the biggest thing to happen to North Georgia in several generations.”
“It will provide more opportunities for high-tech companies to locate in North Georgia and provide higher-paying jobs to people who live in North Georgia. It’s a win-win for everybody.”
According to Amerson, the federal government is providing about 75 percent of the dollars needed to fund the network.
Biden said companies like Dawson County’s Impulse Manufacturing, among others, will benefit from the network.
“Right now, Impulse is relying on slow Internet access that can’t handle customer requirements all the time,” Biden said. “E-mails bounce back to the customer.
“This forces major customers ... to look around at other businesses. They may take their business elsewhere. Well, with broadband access that’s all going to change.”
Impulse Manufacturing President Ron Baysden said the business could indeed benefit from faster and better Internet speeds.
“So much information has to be transmitted,” Baysden said Dec. 17. “We’ve got to get away from slow mail to make it happen, and there’s just so much data moving that it curtails the ability to handle the markets.”
Before finishing, Baysden added his gratitude for the vice presidential visit.
“We are so excited that we were picked for this announcement,” Baysden said. “There has been much talk about helping businesses, particularly the small, family-owned business, and here today we’re going to see some of this talk turned into some real action.”
Dawson County residents reacted differently to the vice president’s visit Dec. 17. Some weren’t too happy.
Stewart Bailey of Dawsonville stood nearby protesting “all the stimulus [funds] and all the spending money ... and what it’s going to do to our economy.”
Others saw the vice president’s visit as an opportunity to do some “tailgating” outside the outlet mall.
Brian Hoffman of Lumpkin County sat with family in the back of their Ford Explorer.
“We planned on going on in to hear Joe Biden speak, but they told us we couldn’t go near there,” Hoffman said.
Public access was not allowed at the event.
“We did see the motorcade drive by,” Hoffman said. “Somebody was waving from one of the limousines. I couldn’t tell if it was the vice president or not.
“I’ll tell you what, I bet a lot of folks here will never forget the day Joe Biden came to town.”
Staff Writer Michele Hester and Ashley Fielding of the DCN regional staff contributed to this report.