The Daily Item
LEWISBURG — SEDA-Council of Governments’ (SEDA-COG) four-county broadband project earned the highest POWER grant award in 12 states by the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), along with securing or partnering on two other POWER grants.
The ARC recently awarded $43.3 million across 51 projects in 12 states to support economic diversification in coal-impacted communities. More than half of these investments will support recovery-to-work efforts or strengthen broadband infrastructure.
In Pennsylvania, SEDA-COG’s project award also was the highest of 12 awarded projects.
SEDA-COG’s broadband effort was awarded $2.5 million for internet expansion to underserved areas in Clinton, Lycoming, Northumberland, and Union counties. This project will reach over 1,500 households, including over 20 businesses. Union County served as the main applicant.
Mike Fisher, SEDA-COG assistant executive director, said the grant award shows how powerful projects can happen with a regional effort.
“We are honored that our efforts earned the largest POWER grant award in the entire multi-state ARC region,” Fisher said. “This shows how vitally important it is for our counties to have better broadband service. It also demonstrates the collective power of our counties working together for the betterment of our communities and businesses.”
The grant will supplement $4 million of SEDA-COG’s revolving loan funds. The selected internet service provider will match these funds with $1.5 million of private investment funds.
SEDA-COG will provide funding through reimbursable grants and low-interest loans to incentivize an internet service provider to expand internet service into unserved and underserved rural regions of the four counties where traditional buildout is otherwise economically infeasible.
SEDA-COG also is part of a statewide broadband initiative in a separate grant and is a partner in a workforce grant.
SEDA-COG was awarded a $108,125 ARC POWER grant to expand internet service in the Snow Shoe Township area in Centre County. SEDA-COG will match the ARC POWER grant with the same amount, offering a $210,000 grant to incentivize internet service providers to provide high-speed internet in the area.
The grant is part of a statewide $1.2 million ARC broadband grant award to the seven Local Development Districts (LDDs) that serve 52 of Pennsylvania’s counties. The LDDs are organizations through which member counties share information, address common concerns, and develop regional responses to critical issues. SEDA-COG is one of the seven LDDs and serves 11 central Pennsylvania counties.
Additionally, SEDA-COG is a partner in a $1,018,500 recovery-to-work POWER grant awarded to the Central Pennsylvania Workforce Development Corporation (CPWDC) and Geisinger.
SEDA-COG and the PA CareerLink® Business Service Teams will identify employers that are “recovery friendly” and assist other businesses to become recovery friendly to increase their pool of workforce talent. To accomplish this, SEDA-COG will work with their extensive business service provider network to power this initiative through education and information. Geisinger will focus on expanding telemedicine to broaden access to specialized services, like addiction treatment, in underserved rural areas. SEDA-COG will receive $18,500 for its partnership efforts.
Betsy Lockwood, SEDA-COG grants manager, described the void the initiative fills.
“Removing barriers to recovery has been a longstanding issue for people, and workforce issues have plagued businesses. Employers need staff and people need jobs, especially with the effects of the pandemic. By expanding the workforce toward those in recovery, we fill a valuable workforce need while providing someone in recovery a job that can help them remain in recovery,” Lockwood said.
SEDA-COG Board President Rich Ridgway said as an 11-county community and economic development agency, SEDA-COG is recognizing and meeting needs.
“We know the hardships our residents and businesses are facing. We are working hard to alleviate the most acute pressure throughout our counties, particularly with high-speed internet access,” Ridgway said.
As a community and economic development agency, SEDA-COG enhances the quality of life and economic advantage for residents and businesses in 11 central Pennsylvania counties through its vital partnerships and initiatives. SEDA-COG also is an advocate for the interests of its communities at the state and federal levels. For more information, visit www.seda-cog.org.