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EC Receives $2.7 Million Grant

It's official, within approximately two years wireless broadband service will be available across a five-county area of Southwest Georgia, including Early County.

A $2.7 million OneGeorgia BRIDGE grant presented to South Georgia Regional Information Technology Authority last week in Macon by Gov. Sonny Perdue will make the project feasible. Another $1 million in federal funding will be provided by the Flint River Soil and Conservation District. The remaining funds will be provided by the participating counties.

A feasibility study funded earlier by OneGeorgia and conducted by TechSmart in 2006 revealed a great demand for high speed connectivity in Early, Baker, Calhoun, Miller and Mitchell counties.

"This is an excellent example of visionary leadership, commitment and perseverance," Gov. Purdue stated as he made the presentation. "I want to commend Lee Conner and the other members of the five-county Regional Information Technology Authority "RITA" for collaborating and partnering across five counties."

According to the Governor, the award is the first grant from the BRIDGE program for implementation of wireless broadband in rural Georgia.

While providing multiple benefits to the counties in the area of business development, tourism, education and local government efficiency, the system will allow farmers to implement precision agricultural practices increasing profits, preserving natural resources and decreasing chemical and water usage.

"The integration of broadband internet access is as vital to our economy as rails and roads were in the past," stated Conner, chairman of Regional Information Technology Authority. "Access to information builds knowledge and universal access to the internet empowers all of our citizens with the ability to succeed. This grant enables us to provide opportunity and economic security to our communities."

The wireless signal will be accessible by all of the counties' residents for a subscription fee, according to Conner. He said officials hoped to have the project completed within two years.

"Several months ago I was getting very concerned about whether the project was going to be able to go forward," stated Early County Commission chairman Richard Ward. "But, I'm very excited about it now."

"The OneGeorgia Authority is a valuable resource for rural Georgia," said Perdue. "The investments we are making today will pay dividends by retaining and creating jobs, stimulating private investment and enhancing regional competitiveness."

There were a total of 23 OneGeorgia grants totaling $17.5 million presented at the meeting. The Clay County Board of Commissioners received a $320,700 Equity grant towards a $519,349 project to develop a Frontier Country Store Museum in Fort Gaines as a tourist attraction for the entire region of Southwest Georgia.

Also, Decatur County received $437,000 in EDGE funds to assist with infrastructure for TRACO, a leading manufacturer of windows and doors, whose $12.3 million plant will provide 300 new jobs in Bainbridge.

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