City of Sanford Awarded $769,209 EDA Grant for SanfordNet Fiber Project

October 4, 2016

The City of Sanford has been awarded an Economic Development Administration grant for $769,209 to help support the construction of SanfordNet Fiber, an open access non-discriminatory municipal fiber-to-the-premises network in Sanford, Maine. The EDA announcement came one year and one day after Sanford announced it would be building the 45-mile fiber network that will serve its historic Mill Yard complex, its 600-acre industrial parks, and more than 80 other sites including Southern Maine Health Care's Sanford Campus. All City facilities and schools – including the new integrated high school and technical center currently under construction – will be part of the network.

“Notice of the EDA grant award for SanfordNet Fiber is great news and the culmination of years of work behind-the-scenes to prepare the community for future economic growth by finally building the information highway Sanford has long deserved," said Sanford Regional Economic Growth Council Executive Director Jim Nimon. “This project is essentially making Maine’s existing Three Ring Binder a 'Four' Ring Binder.”

The project, which will cost just over $1.5 million to construct, will support entrepreneurship within the community, improve the city's commercial and industrial competitiveness, and offer residents the chance to take advantage of more competitive rates on internet products as more internet service providers use the network to offer services. The project is initially expected to create more than 140 jobs and leverage more than $1 million in private investment. The EDA grant will pay for one-half of the project cost, and the City will fund the remainder through proceeds from the sale of the former Emerson School and other city-owned property.

“Access to the Internet is a vital resource that can connect Maine people to the information and opportunities they need to succeed in today’s digital world,” said U.S. Senators Susan Collins and Angus King in a joint statement. “This funding is a significant investment in Maine broadband infrastructure and the future of the Sanford area.  We will continue to work with our partners at all levels of government and in the private sector to promote broadband expansion across Maine.”

In a note to the Sanford City Council after the announcement, City Manager Steve Buck praised the partnership between the City and Growth Council and acknowledged the role of the City Council in supporting the project. "This type of landmark initiative does not happen without foundational support and a vision that has stood the test of a collective process. Broadband can be and will be a great equalizer for Sanford."

Sanford Mayor Tom Cote reflected on the long path that Sanford has traveled to get to this point: from an initial informational meeting in 2013 hosted by Jim Nimon for Josh Broder of Tilson Technology and Steve Buck, to the creation of a broadband plan for Sanford in 2014, and the identifying of private sector partners through an extensive RFP process in 2015. “The selection of NextGen Telecom to build and GWI to operate SanfordNet Fiber has set the stage for a real public-private partnership and a critical project for our economic future," Cote said. "The sheer size and scope of this undertaking is impressive, and that’s what I love about it. It is a bold move that will make Sanford a technological standout in the Northeast, and very attractive as a place to start, modernize or move a business.”

SanfordNet Fiber is one of several precedent-setting projects underway in Sanford. The City is currently constructing Maine’s largest high school and technical center and is wrapping up plans for development of Maine’s largest solar project at Sanford Seacoast Regional Airport. “Sanford is signaling that it is well on its way to changing its identity from former mill town to cutting-edge community in the fields of technology, education and renewable energy,” Cote said. “This is a great time to be living, working and doing business in Sanford Maine."

To learn more about SanfordNet Fiber, view the FAQ Factsheet.