The Daily Globe - Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

Iron County recognized as 'telecommuter forward community'

 

August 24, 2018

Richard Jenkins/Daily Globe

Wisconsin State Broadband Director Angie Dickison presents an award to those in Iron County responsible for helping the county become the second in the state to be designated a telecommuter forward community Thursday. Among those attending Thursday's event were, from left, GogebicRange.net's Brandon Yuchasz, county board member Opal Roberts, Dickison, local broadband committee chairman Norm McKindles, president of the Iron County Resource Development Association Dave Traczyk and Iron County Development Zone coordinator Kelly Klein.

By RICHARD JENKINS

rjenkins@yourdailyglobe.com

Hurley - Wisconsin State Broadband Director Angie Dickison visited Hurley Thursday to recognize Iron County as a "telecommuter forward community."

The telecommuter-forward designation is the latest chapter in the state's effort to expand high-speed internet access throughout the state, Dickison said.

"This provides communities another tool in their economic development tool kit; in terms of collaborating with other communities, collaborating with businesses within their communities to attract those telecommuters," she said when presenting the award. "My hope is, from the state's perspective, we can help promote these places. To say, 'Here are the areas in our state that have partners ready and willing to help telecommuters and who have the broadband infrastructure there to facilitate that.'"

Iron County is the second county in the state after Bayfield to be designated a telecommuter forward community. To achieve the status, the county had to pass a resolution expressing its commitment to telecommuting options and designate a single point of contact for those interested in telecommuting or expanding the broadband infrastructure needed to telecommute.

Iron County has successfully used several of the state's broadband expansion grants to increase internet access.

The county has received a total of $121,105 in Public Service Commission grants to expand broadband access to parts of the county in past years.

In 2015, $41,914 - along with local matching funds - went to a project to expand access in the areas around Saxon, Upson and the Gile Flowage. In 2016, a $79,101 grant went to expand access in the Pine Lake, Mercer, Saxon Harbor and Springstead areas.

The county is awaiting word on its latest grant application to continuing expanding broadband access in the Mercer area.

Norm McKindles, the chairman of the broadband committee for Iron and Gogebic counties, said none of the efforts would have been possible without the support of the county and towns.

The county's efforts are already paying off, according to Iron County Development Zone Coordinator Kelly Klein, with people who have either moved to Iron County while working elsewhere, or extending vacations longer because they can work while up here.

"Working remotely is available from companies all over the world now, and more and more they're doing it. We've seen people who are working in Milwaukee, but they're staying up here," Klein told the Daily Globe after the ceremony. "If they're staying here, they're spending money up here."

He said Thursday's designation should only help the county's efforts to draw people.

"It's going to help us market our county," Klein said.

Along with continuing to expand the county's broadband infrastructure, Klein said broadband proponents hope to put together a new survey to update the county's data.

The survey would update the one done several years ago and will hopefully help determine where coverage gaps remain and provide more information on who is telecommuting or taking advantage of the expansion effort.

 
 

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