Officials with the Economic Growth Connection of Westmoreland County, Pa., say the region is on track for growth in the coming year, with the expansion of high-speed Internet access a top priority.
(TNS) — Officials with the Economic Growth Connection of
Connection President and CEO
"We're facing widespread problems across the county. ... At some spots, access isn't much better than dial up," Smith said.
State Senate Majority Leader
Help can't come too soon, Smith said.
He said officials with the
In other areas, service is robust. Smith said one of the biggest problems has been learning just where weak spots exist in a market place where providers consider their service maps confidential information and are reluctant to share, Smith said.
Officials knew there were weak spots in the far eastern reaches of the county. But Smith said as demand has grown with an increase in at-home work and school demands during the pandemic, weak spots have surfaced in many communities, even as business and industry place an added priority on high-speed internet as critical infrastructure for growth.
Indeed, it will be integral to the Connection's biggest ever project, the $5 million Digital Foundry in
"High-speed internet is no longer a luxury," Ward said, equating it to critical infrastructure services such as water and sewer service.
Smith said it may be even more important.
Ward said the good news is that it appears stimulus package will include money for capital projects such as broadband expansion.
"That will help elevate this issue," Ward said, vowing to use her position in the
The prospect for such projects follows a year in which local economic growth slowed, with the Economic Growth Connection reporting that investments in projects it helped shepherd declined from $39.2 million in 2019 to $11.3 million last year. Smith said the good news is that companies that shelved investment plans last year or put expansion plans on hold are beginning to move forward this year.
"There were projects in mid year that were canceled because contractors couldn't get out," he said.
And even during the shutdown, Smith said the organizations was about to help local businesses secure $25 to $30 million in assistance both through traditional and nontraditional avenues which opened up to help keep businesses operating through the pandemic.
"We are proud of our role, working to help keep the lights on," Smith said.
The organization has partnered with state and local officials in that effort, including the
Kertes said the grants that will be capped at $20,000 will be awarded on a first come-first served basis with an emphasis put on assisting businesses that have received no prior assistance or had such funding forgiven. He said more there are more than 1,200 businesses countywide in the hospitality sector, which includes food and beverage purveyors and those who provide overnight accommodations.
He said the program will be handled strictly online through a secure county website, with no paper applications. Additional information will be posted on the county website as information becomes available.
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