XENIA — Eric Henry wasn’t bashful when talking about the broadband expansion in Greene County.
“It’s huge,” the county’s development director said. “It’s one of the, if not the biggest infrastructure projects of its kind.”
The multi-million dollar project leads what is shaping up to be an active year for Henry and his team.
The broadband expansion will bring reliable internet service to nearly 10,000 residences, which will be served for the first time. An additional 30,000 residences will have another provider from which to choose, Henry said.
While it’s being provided by a private entity to mainly eastern and southern portions of the county, the project is being “gap financed” by the county, using $9.6 million in ARPA funds, Henry said.
“There wasn’t a strong ROI (return on investment) to provide service to rural areas,” Henry said, adding that the county acted as a gap financier to make it make sense to have a “strong ROI for these companies.”
“Otherwise no one else would build out there until there was some form of assistance,” he said.
Henry said there are myriad reasons why broadband hasn’t been available, including hilly, forested areas and lack of density. In Xenia, with a higher density of houses, it would be easy to make a case to extend the fiber to bring 10 houses online in a city block, Henry said.
In Jamestown, a company may get one house for the same investment, according to Henry.
The county will have more ARPA money to spend as well and Henry is counting on creative spending by county leaders.
“I’m very excited what the county may do with these ARPA funds,” he said.
There’s lots of other work being done as well.
Henry said Wright-Patterson Air Force Base acquired a space force mission and is constructing a new NASIC building.
“They’re just doing fantastic stuff,” Henry said.
Development — economic or community — will also be spurred by year two of the community investment grant program. County commissioners created the program in which all jurisdictions can apply for and receive funds to help extend utilities, improve main streets, basically anything that may help a community grow in some way.
Henry said there is more than $1 million available this year.
The county is also making progress through subtraction. Henry said the county is applying for money from the state, about $500,000, to demolish some blighted sites. Of the nine or 10 targeted, three are commercial buildings including some space in Xenia Towne Square.
“We’re really excited about that,” he said. “It’s a huge mental reset and I think it invites more development into areas.”
Speaking of Towne Square, while the development of the downtown shopping center is city led, Henry said the county has been able to be involved in some conversations.
“I know we’ve been good partners,” Henry said. “Mainly it’s been dialogue. I’m sure there’s some space for maybe different levels of contribution going forward.”
Henry said the county has “strong relationships” with all jurisdictions and they constantly speak.