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Posted: Wednesday, August 13th 2014 at 10:35am

Officials seeking grant for fiber optics in Helen

By Dean Dyer, WRWH
EMAIL STORY CONTACT EDITOR PRINT
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Nancy Smallwood of the Georgia Mountains Regional Commission explains the grant application process. (Photo/Dean Dyer)
CLEVELAND - Helen and its residents could benefit if the action by the White County Development Authority proves to be successful.

The development authority met in called session Tuesday and approved moving forward with applying for a grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission that, if approved, would provide funding for the city to receive fiber optic service.

The city of Helen is one area of the county, with a concentration of people, that is not served by fiber. The reason given was the higher cost involved with getting the fiber lines through the downtown area.

Nancy Smallwood, economic development representative with the Georgia Mountains Regional Commission, will be working with the development authority on the grant application. The authority will use the creation of jobs by a family business - construction of a new Holiday Inn Express and conference center in Helen - as the catalyst for the grant.

Tom O'Bryant, White County economic development director and chairman of the development authority, explained.

"It's important that they [Helen] connect to the rest of the world, connect to the hospitality community, that people who are there visiting stay connected and have the capacity to be able to use their devices, whether it be a smart phone or actually a more complex digital device."

The authority has until the end of August to submit a pre-application. If it gets the governor's approval it will be sent on ARC for approval. The process could take a year.

The grant, in the amount of $423,500, would require a 30-percent local match. The development authority will be seeking help, possibly from the City of Helen and other areas, to meet the local match.

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