11/16/12 A contingency of supports of bringing black fiber, or high-speed bandwidth to Marshall County appeared before the Marshall County Council this week.

Brent Martin, a member of the T-Squared Initiative gave a brief history and overview of the proposed project seeking financial support from Plymouth and Marshall County.

T-Squared Initiative has three primary components; the Tech Farm, Tech Village and the Fiber-optic component.  Martin did say that the new Community Resource Center is the first component of the Tech Village.  In 2009 and 2010 T-Squared applied for federal grant money to fund the project from Ireland Road on the south side of South Bend to Marshall County.  The original project included connecting all communities in Marshall County at a cost of $5 million.  In 2011 the county asked INDOT to include the cost in installation in the US 31 project.  They gave permission for the project but at the county’s expense.

Bring the Council up to date, the City and County are interested in doing the first phase of the project, from South Bend to Plymouth with a double loop around the city as a shared project between the two governmental agencies.  Martin said preliminary design work at a cost of $60,000 would give a more details cost estimate on the roughly $2.2 million project.

During the County Council meeting several business openly discussed their support for bring the Metronet to Marshall County.   Gary Miller, Regional IT Director for SJRMC explained the hospital in South Bend has been with the Metronet for the past five years and saves a quarter of a million dollars each year. He explained with expanding practices in Marshall County the data connectivity will allow quicker and easier data exchanges between the two counties.  The hospital has committed a substantial amount of money to the project.

Ron Clinger, CFO of the Niles Lankford Group and K-Trade explained they have 900 clients around the country.  They also have 50 employees with nearly half working from various locations.  Clinger said, “The internet is central to who we are.  Seventy percent of our communications are through email.”  He continued, “When the internet is bogged down, they can’t work, literally.”  He closed by saying that they are out of options in order to meet their client’s needs.

Curt Feece, owner of a small IT business said, “I’ve been an evangelist for the Metronet.  This is absolutely critical to Marshall County.”   He explained the difference between his customers in Saint Joe County how have access to the Metronet and those in Marshall County who don’t.

Others speaking is support included Jennifer Laurent, Executive Director of the Marshall County Economic Development Corporation, Marshall County IT Director Michael Marshall, Mayor Mark Senter and Commissioner Kevin Overmyer.

County Council members were not asked to commit to the project at this time, the group only wanted to bring members up to date on the project being considered.