Last Thursday, two more blessings were heaped upon us. First, we had U.S.
Vice President Joe Biden and Governor Sonny Perdue come to Dawson County to announce that our efforts to receive stimulus money for a high-speed, broadband fiber optics network had paid off. The total amount dedicated to this enterprise from the federal, state and local governments is about $42 million, and the network will have some 260 miles of fiber running through eight counties including Dawson, Forsyth and Lumpkin.
Lumpkin County’s Development Authority has been the lead agent for the last two years in coordinating this project with the state and federal government, other county development authorities and the EMCs involved. Our thanks go out to Bruce Abraham, executive director of Lumpkin County’s Development Authority, and his right-hand person and grant writer, Lee Ann Roy for helping pull off our long-term miracle. As Chairman of the House Science and Technology Committee, I have worked closely with Bruce and Lee Ann from the state level to assist in this project. I know how important they have been to the process.
This is the beginning of a new era for North Georgia. Generally speaking, jobs created by companies that use high-speed broadband have a much higher average wage scale than otherwise. With our economy in the pits, home foreclosures, bank failures and unemployment at an all time high, we are ready for some of those higher paying jobs.
Governments at all levels need to plan for this high-tech future. The new technology will bring more growth in the population and a need for a better-educated workforce. This will place a heavier burden on the K-12 school systems, North Georgia and Lanier Technical Colleges, Gainesville College and North Georgia College & State University.
Fortunately for those responsible for meeting the needs of this growth, there is time. This network and the companies who will use it will not be here tomorrow or even the year after, but when the network nears completion, there will be a snowball effect. Nothing breeds success like success. As high technology companies arrive, so will the need for support structure, including better transportation and power systems.
In years gone by, roads, telephone and power lines tended to follow the railroads. Today, that railroad is high-speed, broadband fiber cables. Through these cables will flow your data, calls and HDTV. Students will have access to subjects and teachers as never before. Education will be crafted to meet the individual needs of the students, and new horizons for the truly gifted students will not have artificial barriers to learning.
Don’t misunderstand. Broadband technology is not an end in itself. What counts is how we use it, and that is where planning will pay off.
The second great thing to happen on Thursday was the selection of Representative David Ralston to be the Republican nominee for Speaker of the House. The actual election will occur when the whole House meets on Jan. 11, 2010. Since the Republicans have a majority in the House, this selection is tantamount to his election.
Representative Ralston lives in Blue Ridge and represents House District 7, which includes a portion of Dawson County. Because we share representation responsibilities for the same county (Dawson) we have worked closely together for several years. Ralston is the first Speaker from the Mountains in the modern era and his selection could not have come at a better time for North Georgia.
Our area is poised for new growth to replace the old industries that have closed, and having the Speaker of the House living here will help attract new businesses to the area.
Ralston was born and raised in Gilmer County and is a graduate of North Georgia College & State University, as are a couple of his brothers whom I taught. Ralston promises he won’t hold that against me. His father Willard was a long-time Clerk of the Superior Court, whom I met when I represented Gilmer County. His brother Steve served for a while as a Gilmer County Commissioner.
In addition to selecting Representative Ralston to be our nominee for Speaker of the House, we chose Representative Jan Jones from Alpharetta to be Speaker Pro Tem. She will become the first women ever to hold that post.
Replacing Jones as Whip will be Representative Ed Lindsey of Atlanta.
Folks, not since Governor Zell Miller have we had so much political representation north of I-20. Along with the new House leadership team, we have Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and much of the Senate leadership from north of Atlanta. This can’t help but increase the attraction to our area. It also carries a greater responsibility to deliver results to our constituents and the rest of the state. After the celebration is over, the heavy lifting of our economy out of its current malaise begins.
Rep. Amos Amerson can be reached at 689 N. Chestatee Street, Dahlonega, GA 30533; (706) 864-6589; E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Or, contact Gerald Lewy at (706) 344-7788.