March 24, 2010
Sue Blakey, Director
Hot Springs Greater Learning Foundation
In mid-February, the U.S. Department of Commerce notified of a second round of grant proposals for Broadband Technology Initiative federal stimulus money. (In the first round, we had proposed a modest technology center in an existing facility in Thermopolis; but we were not funded). Round 2 rules were markedly changed, with focus on bigger projects with more impact, more partners, and more matching funds. The deadline was 30 days — March 15 — nearly impossible for anyone without a large staff at their disposal.
Eric Decker and I drove to Cheyenne to attend a meeting with Washington consultants LinkAmerica (hired by Wyoming), Wyoming government officials and representatives of Bresnan and RT Communications. We also had lunch with Jason Hendricks, legislative liaison for RT Communications, who visited with several RT Communication employees from the Worland office. We asked point-blank whether we should even make a pass at a second-round grant. The consensus by the Wyoming government officials was that our project was sound and that we should try.
After an analysis of our support and all sources, we determined that if we were going to apply, it had to be for the technology component of the Discovery Center complex.
RT Communications’ help was invaluable. Frank Odasz, Eric Decker, Mark Whitlock, Jeb Schenck and Scott Mecca all provided letters of support and promise of significant in-kind services if the grant is approved; only with their help were we able to make the required match.
What was most significant about the process – and why it was worthwhile — is how much more positive awareness we have of the project now. The new letters of support include:
Rep. Cynthia Lummis
Wyoming Business Council
Wyoming Department of Transportation
Wyoming Resource Conservation & Development Council
Wyoming Travel & Tourism
Central Wyoming College
In addition, the process helped us put together a better picture for revising our business plan and the opportunity to learn about potential sustainable projects related to the technology component of the center. Today, a representative from LinkAmerica, hired by the state, was in Thermopolis to find out more details about the project and how it meets the broadband technology funding criteria.
I will be applying for other large grants in the next few weeks. We hope to get a letter of support from the Shoshoni and Arapahoe tribes so that we can apply for Scenic Byway planning funds this week. We will also be looking at how we can work with the Wyoming Business Council and RT Communications related to additional funding.
A special thanks to Eric Decker for all his work and support.