In a press conference earlier today (March 15), U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski and local leaders announced more economic development investment in St. Joseph County. "We are in a perfect position to lead the way for future growth and innovation. Our position is to get a lot stronger. I'm here today to announce that the Economic Development Administration of the U.S. Department of Commerce has awarded St. Joseph County a $1 million grant to expand high-speed internet infrastructure at the Indiana Enterprise Center (IEC)," said Walorski.
"This fiber-optic loop will strengthen our broadband infrastructure in a rural area in the region where it is needed most. It will drive job growth and draw further private investment. It will lay the groundwork for future expansions of residential broadband for Hoosiers. It'll break down barriers to attracting businesses to build, expand and invest and hire right here in St. Joseph County," said Walorski. "We need to make it as easy as possible for companies to come here, stay here and grow here, and this project is a big step toward that goal."
The overall project is a $2 million investment, consisting of a 50/50 match from St. Joseph County, to lay 27 miles of dark fiber in the New Carlisle area.
"While water, sewer, rail and roads were key drivers of industrial areas in the past, connectivity to the internet at high speeds is the new x factor in economic development," said Bill Schalliol, executive director, Office of Economic Development for St. Joseph County. While the dark fiber loop will add to the assets of the Indiana Enterprise Center (IEC) projected development in New Carlisle, it will also benefit the Town of New Carlisle and surrounding rural areas. The enhanced connectivity will improve efficiencies at existing businesses like the Navistar Proving Grounds, which has had to download data onto a hard drive and literally ship the hard drive overnight to the customer, due to poor internet connectivity.
As St. Joseph County Commission President Andy Kostelney summed it up, "This is a game-changer."