Cass County awarded $100,000 to assist in broadband expansion efforts

Published 10:51 am Thursday, April 6, 2023

CASS COUNTY — A goal to provide broadband internet throughout Cass County came one step closer to fruition this week. 

On Monday, the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development announced Cass County was among 22 entities to receive a rural development grant. The funding was dedicated to support infrastructure and sustainability of land-based industries in rural counties. Cass County’s funding will aid in developing a countywide, parcel-level, GIS-based map of broadband availability, which will be used to develop a specific, actionable plan to bring broadband infrastructure to all unserved and underserved parcels. 

“The MDARD Grant provides the County with an incredible opportunity to verify the broadband connectivity of every parcel in the County as well as completing a commonsense plan for addressing deficiencies in the future,” said Cass County Administrator Matthew Newton. “This data will guide and support our future efforts with respect to identifying key areas of possible expansion as well as supporting future grant applications to enhance connectivity throughout the County.” 

MDARD received 78 proposals with requests totaling more than $6.3 million. Of those, MDARD awarded 22 projects totaling just more than $1.8 million, leveraging a match of more than $1.6 million. 

Market Van Buren, an economic and community development firm and Cass County partner, assisted Cass County in preparing the grant request.  

“I’d like to publicly thank Sarah [Snoeyink] from Market Van Buren for her work on this grant application,” said Ryan Laylin, vice chair of the Cass County Board of Commissioners. Laylin and Trustee Roseann Marchetti also helped to complete the grant. “Getting this mapping done will greatly help in filling the gaps of internet access in the county.” 

Market Van Buren Executive Director Zach Morris pointed out that people with access to high-speed internet are able to connect to educational resources, pursue virtual employment and expanded healthcare. 

“We always say economic development is a team sport and that collaboration is important; this grant is a clear example of this idea in action,” he said. “Cass County leaders had a vision for expanding high-speed internet access for their residents, and due to the County’s investment in economic development, Market Van Buren was able to identify and write for a grant opportunity that supported their bold vision.”