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GO Virginia Expands Grant Eligibility to Include Middle Mile Broadband Projects

The GO Virginia Board met on Tuesday, September 10, for its first meeting of 2019 to approve $780,000 in competitive economic development grants to support five regional initiatives, re-elect a new chairman, and approve the use of Go Virginia funding for certain investments in Broadband, among other items. The 24-member policy Board provides oversight to the nine regional councils and manages state incentives to match with local, federal, and private funds to encourage regional economic cooperation and development.

The five proposals approved by the Board were:

  • Blockchain Ecosystem Catalyst, which involved Virginia Tech and the Counties of Montgomery, Pulaski, and Roanoke and the Towns of Blacksburg and Christiansburg, plus the City of Roanoke to develop and implement a program that will encourage development of the blockchain field with a focus on training the necessary professional workforce for this field.
  • Developing a Destination for Talent, which involved Virginia Tech and the Counties of Alleghany, Botetourt, Floyd, Franklin, Giles, Montgomery, and Roanoke, the Cities of Covington, Salem, and Radford, and the Town of Vinton to create a pipeline of talent from the University to employers in the region’s priority industry clusters.
  • Entrepreneurship and Innovation Investment Strategy, which involved all of Region 3, Mid-Atlantic Broadband and Longwood University to develop and map the entrepreneurial ecosystem for the region.
  • Project Oasis, which involved Wise County and the City of Norton to partner with the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals, and Energy (DMME) and the Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP) to evaluate sites in the region suitable to attract data centers and explore the development of tools to utilize mine-pool water reclamation for the that purpose.
  • The GIG (Gather + Innovate + Grow), which involved Accomack and Northampton Counties and the Town of Exmore to partner with the Eastern Shore Foundation to provide broadband-connected working spaces and startup business support services.

The complete list can be found here.

The Board also re-elected Tom Farrell as chairman of the GO Virginia board of directors. Mr. Farrell is also CEO of Dominion Energy and replaces John “Dubby” Wynne of Virginia Beach.

Lastly, the Board received a report from Vice-Chairman Ben Davenport, who leads the Board’s Broadband Taskforce. The Board was tasked by the General Assembly in the 2019 session to investigate how Go Virginia could best provide guidance and support to the goals of expanding access to and utilization of broadband. To that end, the Board voted to allow use of Go Virginia grant funds for projects supporting regional broadband planning efforts focused on private sector service provisions as localities prepare to use taxpayer dollars to incentivize private sector buildout. Such proposals would require a 50% local match. Additionally, Go Virginia funds may now be used for middle-mile broadband infrastructure projects. Go Virginia funds may not be used for broadband projects focused on providing direct or retail broadband (last mile) service to customers.

Since its inception, GO Virginia has approved $20.8 million in grants for 60 projects across the Commonwealth. These projects are expected to create more than 10,000 jobs.

VACo Contact: Jeremy R. Bennett

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