Local Business Receives Rural Development Support of $12.8 Million from USDA

At the podium is Barry Adair the EVP/GM/CEO for Wabash Communications CO-OP/Wabash Communications/Illinois Fiber Connect located in Louisville; seated (l-r) are Bill Northey, USDA Under Secretary for Farm Production & Conservation and Douglas Wilson, Illinois State Director for USDA Rural Development.

State Rep. Darren Bailey (R-Xenia), joined state and federal officials on Wednesday for the announcement of a $12.8 million investment with Wabash Communications in Louisville for high-speed broadband infrastructure. Wabash Telephone Cooperative, Inc. will use this 50 percent loan-grant combination to lay out 298 miles of fiber-optic cable in unserved areas of Wayne and Jefferson counties. This investment is expected to reach 1,684 households, 31 farms, 29 businesses, nine educational facilities, two critical community facilities and one health care center.

Photo (l-r): State Rep. Darren Bailey (109th Dist)., Bill Northey, Under Secretary, Farm Production & Conservation with the US Dept. of Agriculture, and State Rep. Terri Bryant (115th Dist.)

“This is an amazing program for our area and will have a long-lasting impact on families, as well as help our economy with providing support for agriculture, education, public safety and businesses in our ever-growing technological world,” commented Rep. Bailey. “This is one of those public-private partnerships that I encourage that doesn’t just take from taxpayers to fund a good program. I encourage other communities to look into these opportunities around our region.”

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Under Secretary for Farm Production and Conservation (FPAC) Bill Northey announced the USDA has invested these dollars in high-speed broadband infrastructure that will create or improve e-Connectivity for more than 1,650 homes in rural Illinois. This is just one of several funding announcements in the first round of USDA’s ReConnect Pilot Program investments.

“We know that rural communities need robust, modern infrastructure to thrive, and that includes having access to broadband e-Connectivity,” Northey said. “Broadband is no longer an amenity. It is essential for education, health care and public safety. I’m excited about the tremendous benefits broadband will have for farmers here in Illinois. USDA is committed to being a strong partner to rural communities in deploying this critical infrastructure, because we know when rural America thrives, all of America thrives.”

In April 2017, President Donald J. Trump established the Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity to identify legislative, regulatory and policy changes that could promote agriculture and prosperity in rural communities. In January 2018 the Task Force’s findings were presented to President Trump and included 31 recommendations to align the federal government with state and local governments to take advantage of opportunities that exist in rural America. Increasing investments in rural infrastructure is a key recommendation of the task force.

USDA Rural Development provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunities and create jobs in rural areas. This assistance supports infrastructure improvements; business development; housing; community facilities such as schools, public safety and health care; and high-speed internet access in rural areas. For more information, visit www.rd.usda.gov.