Delaware County, OH, Sep 06, 2012 -- Agriculture Under Secretary for Rural Development Dallas Tonsager today visited two rural utilities to help launch broadband services and to commemorate a major funding milestone and longstanding partnership with USDA.
“I am delighted to be here to see firsthand the great work that USDA Rural Development and its partners are doing to bring new economic opportunities to rural Ohioans,” said Tonsager. “The Obama Administration is committed to working with cooperatives, communities, producers and business owners to strengthen the economy of rural areas and ensure a sound future for those who continue to make rural America their first choice to live and work.”
Tonsager was on hand to help power up Consolidated Electric Cooperative’s Enlite Fiber Optic Network, which is bringing broadband service to a multi-county region in rural areas of the state. CEC is an electric distribution cooperative that provides electricity to about 16,000 members (homes and businesses) in eight counties in north central Ohio. The nearly 200 mile fiber “ring” connects customers in all or parts of Delaware, Franklin, Licking, Knox, Morrow and Richland counties to the rest of the world.
In 2010, CEC received a $1 million grant and a $1.39 million loan from USDA’s Rural Utilities Service for smart grid technology and broadband services based on an open-connectivity, fiber optic backbone network. A Rural Development Technical Assistance Grant in the amount of $200,000 followed in 2011. The availability of increased broadband speed is expected to foster economic development, create jobs and modernize connectivity for area businesses, hospitals schools, and government facilities.
Earlier in the day, Tonsager visited Del-Co Water’s upground reservoir located at the Olentangy Complex in Delaware County. The reservoir, part of the largest rural water system in the state, has been affected by this year’s severe drought conditions.
Del-Co Water was the recent recipient of an $11 million USDA Rural Development guaranteed loan. The funds will be used to refinance earlier loans and will save the company an estimated $4 million in interest. Company officials say this will allow Del-Co to pay for system improvements while holding down water system rates for users. The relationship between USDA and Del-Co water spans more than 40 years and includes a $34.5 million loan guarantee for a water treatment plant upgrade in 2004.
For more than 75 years, USDA through the Rural Utilities Service has partnered with cooperatives to provide electricity to America’s rural areas. These partnerships have been vital not only to community growth, but also to the development of new technologies.
Since taking office, the Obama Administration has taken historic steps to improve the lives of rural Americans, put people back to work and build thriving economies in rural communities. From proposing the American Jobs Act to establishing the first-ever White House Rural Council – chaired by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack – the President is committed to a smarter use of existing Federal resources to foster sustainable economic prosperity and ensure the government is a strong partner for businesses, entrepreneurs and working families in rural communities.
USDA, through its Rural Development mission area, administers and manages housing, business and community infrastructure programs through a national network of state and local offices. Rural Development has an active portfolio of more than $170 billion in loans and loan guarantees. These programs are designed to improve the economic stability of rural communities, businesses, residents, farmers and ranchers and improve the quality of life in rural America.
USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer. To file a complaint of discrimination, write: USDA, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, Office of Adjudication, 1400 Independence Ave., SW, Washington, DC 20250-9410 or call (866) 632-9992 (Toll-free Customer Service), (800) 877-8339 (Local or Federal relay), (866) 377-8642 (Relay voice users).