$1M grant will fund broadband extension to New Carlisle

Published: Mar. 15, 2019 at 5:06 PM EDT
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Efforts to create a new industrial park near New Carlisle have received a $1 million boost from the federal government.

It was announced Friday that 24.4 miles of new fiber optic cable would be extended through western St. Joseph County and by the Navistar Proving Grounds left behind by Studebaker.

“We purchased the facility in April of 2015, and when we first got here, that was one of the first things we attacked, is try to get at least a low-speed fiber line to the facility,” Navistar’s Brian Jacquay said. “It’s still not to the capacity where we need to be able to compete with all the neighboring states as well.”

Jacquay talked about doing tests for a California company that produced so much data it jammed the available information highway.

“And every night, we would download one of the hard drives in the vehicle and then ship it overnight back to California,” he said.

Jacquay and Navistar hope those days will soon be gone in time for the company to compete for work in the autonomous vehicle space.

“Even include something like a bridge overpass, right? Do you have enough clearance for the tractor trailer to clear? We’ll have a soft target on top of the track truck that allows to see if the sensors will interact to tell the truck to top,” Jacquay said.

But Navistar aside, for the most part, the new fiber will run past farm fields where the county wants to create a new industrial park called the Indiana Enterprise Center.

“This is a huge opportunity, we've missed out on prospects because we don't have the service out here,” explained Bill Schalliol, economic development director for St. Joseph County.

In a written statement, a group that opposes the Enterprise Center called the grant a way to “sugarcoat” the destruction of 22,000 acres, that will “kick generations of farmers off their land.”

The Open Space and Agricultural Alliance statement went on to read:

“Our elected officials should listen to us instead of driving development down our throats.”

“I think with anything it's difficult sometimes when things move in and it brings change, but I think when we're talking about competing for jobs, higher wages, better income, quality of life for our kids and our families of New Carlisle, I think this gives us a step at least in the right direction,” said U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski, R-2nd District.

The federal grant comes from the Economic Development Administration of the U.S. Department of Commerce. It will cover half of the $2 million project, with the other half financed through county TIF dollars.

The fiber optic cable will run down U.S. 20 west of South Bend to Timothy Road, then south to State Road 2.

The fiber optic cable will be owned by St. Joseph County, which will have a management agreement with MetroNet Zing.