Plymouth Mayor Mark Senter and Kevin Overmyer, president of the Marshall County Board of Commissioners, announced two important developments:
· Engineering firms have been asked to develop proposals and cost estimates to extend the St. Joe Valley Metronet into Marshall County and the Plymouth area, and
· Hoosier Racing Tire has become the second capital contributor to commit private funding to support the project.
St. Joe Valley Metronet is a dark fiber network serving more than 100 government, education, medical, business and industrial subscribers with more than 100 miles of fiber in South Bend, Mishawaka and St. Joseph County. The Marshall County/Plymouth extension will run south along the current U.S. 31 corridor and Michigan Road through and around the Plymouth area and include more than 30 miles of underground conduit to carry fiber optic cable.
Plymouth architect Brent Martin, a member of the Technology Squared (T-2) Initiative, said Marshall County’s deficit in access to high-speed, high-capacity and economical telecommunications services is one of the concerns the initiative was launched to address in 2005. The group determined that a dark fiber network, which allows subscribers to choose among service providers, was the best solution.
St. Joe Valley Metronet Inc. launched in 2006 as a unique public-private partnership. Reciprocal agreements with the City of South Bend, St. Joseph County and the City of Mishawaka allow access to government-owned infrastructure, including underground conduit, through which the nonprofit Metronet runs its fiber optic cables. In exchange, the governmental agencies have access to dedicated strands of fiber for use in their operations.
Similar reciprocal agreements will be used to build the Marshall County/Plymouth extension.
The Marshall County/Plymouth extension will give Marshall County subscribers direct access to national fiber networks that converge at Union Station in South Bend and also will allow businesses with operations in both counties to connect them directly with fiber that provides virtually unlimited bandwidth.
Late last month, Hoosier Racing Tire became the second such organization to commit to support the expansion as a capital contributor. St. Joseph Regional Medical Center was the first.
Capital contributors agree to pay in advance for a specified number of years of subscription fees to support the initial fiber installation. Public funding largely pays for the conduit and other infrastructure that houses the fiber.
In announcing its commitment to the Marshall County Metronet extension, Hoosier Racing Tire pointed out that limited connectivity currently restricts communications between its facilities in the two counties. This telecommunications bottleneck delays operations, which must be scheduled as communications capacity permits. Metronet’s virtually unlimited bandwidth will relieve those bottlenecks.
“I truly appreciate St. Joseph Regional Medical Center and Hoosier Racing Tire getting on board as capital contributors to bring St. Joe Valley Metronet to Plymouth and Marshall County, said Mayor Senter. “This will be a big boon for our community’s economic development and overall job creation. I look forward to working with Marshall County throughout this process.”
Commissioner Overmyer noted that the Technology Squared (T-2) Initiative was organized to determine what would be needed to make sure Marshall County is prepared to support technology-driven jobs of the future. “The commitment from these capital contributors demonstrate their belief that the Metronet extension will be a necessary piece of the infrastructure needed for long-term economic growth of the county,” Overmyer said.
Marshall County and the Plymouth area already are well-prepared to take advantage of the extension. Through the work of the Technology Squared (T-2) Initiative, master plans for urban redevelopment call for a technology village and the county’s technology business park already has fiber optic cable in place ready to be connected to Metronet.
For more than four years, the T-2 committee studied various options for high-speed, broadband connectivity and concluded that a partnership with St. Joe Valley Metronet offers the best solution in terms of management, cost, capacity, and flexibility for the Marshall County business community.
The Plymouth Redevelopment Commission and Marshall County officials issued the Request For Proposals (RFP) on May 20 inviting interested engineering firms to submit preliminary designs and cost estimates to construct the conduit infrastructure. Proposals are due June 12.
Funding for preliminary design and detailed budgeting has already been approved by the Plymouth Redevelopment Commission and Marshall County Commissioners.
Once the initial design and cost estimating are complete, Plymouth and Marshall County will review the reciprocal agreement with St. Joe Valley Metronet as well as the funding required and make a decision on moving forward with construction. Those decisions are expected later this summer.