Hello from St. Paul,
Western Minnesota was the big winner in Minnesota's recent broadband grant selection process.
The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) announced that it has awarded $4.95 million to Federated Telephone Cooperative for a project that will deliver high speed Internet service to Swift County, and another $808,000 to MVTV Wireless Middle Mile for a plan that will benefit many counties in the southern and western portions of the state.
Minnesota had $11 million available for broadband grants statewide, and our Minnesota House district is going to receive more than half of that amount. I congratulate the Federated and MVTV Wireless representatives and the local officials who worked hard and made a strong and compelling case for this funding.
The Federated project will deliver high-speed Internet service to 600 households, 425 businesses and 75 community institutions. The project area includes De Graff, Swift Falls and rural parts of eastern Swift County. The project touches 13 of the county’s 21 townships. Total project costs are $12.5 million, with the remaining $7.5 million (60 percent local match) being covered by a loan from Swift County to Federated.
DEED noted that the project will help support job creation and economic prosperity throughout the county as more than 500 jobs are expected to be created over the next few years, related to farming, home-based startups, commercial expansions and more. Nearly half of the county’s 800 farms are in the project area.
The MVTV Wireless project will improve services to 6,000 households and businesses that are MVTV customers in 20 southwestern Minnesota counties, with leverage possibilities for another 29,000 customers. This includes Chippewa, Kandiyohi, Swift, Yellow Medicine and Renville counties.
Last session I joined a bipartisan group of lawmakers in approving the $11 million dedicated to the Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant Program, and I'm hopeful that amount is simply a starting point for the Legislature.
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle recognize that reliable broadband technology is one of the top ways to enhance economic development in Greater Minnesota. We also recognize the need to better address this issue in 2016, because schools, homes and businesses shouldn't be forced to deal with unreliable internet access because they live in rural areas.
Also this week, I was pleased to join the Minnesota Senate Capital Investment Committee for a tour of bonding proposals in our region. Included were stops for Pioneer Public Television, the prison in Appleton, the Twin Cities and Western Rail Line, and the potential site for a Veterans home in Montevideo.
More than 100 residents from four counties stood in the rain and greeted the committee with enthusiasm. The Senate committee was extremely impressed by their passion for this plan, and as the chief author of the Montevideo Veterans Home proposal in the Minnesota House, I am hoping for similar project excitement from the House bonding committee.
Finally, following the recent violence in Paris, where at least one of the attackers reportedly posed as a refugee to enter Europe, many are questioning if the United States – and specifically Minnesota – should be welcoming refugees at this time.
Because of this, I am joining other lawmakers in urging Governor Dayton to ask President Obama to suspend the relocation program until the Department of Homeland Security has determined if our refugee screening process is adequate.
Despite the fact that it is a federal issue, I have received countless emails and phone calls on the topic. People are concerned that our nation's security protocol is far too lax when it comes to accepting refugees. I think that in light of the Paris attacks, we should begin a thorough review of our screening process and ensure that we are keeping terrorists out of this country. Our top priority must always be the safety of American citizens, and we must make certain that terrorists are not entering the country alongside innocent refugees.
Have a good weekend,