Blackburn talks economic development

Ethan Steinquest/Macon County Times

Thursday, August 29, 2019 12:00 AM

Ethan Steinquest/Macon County Times U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn visted Macon County on Aug. 21 to meet with several local officials for a discussion on workforce development, education and other issues. Pictured are (clockwise, from left): Macon County Chamber of Commerce Director Shelly Bealor, Kristina Hibdon of State Sen. Mark Pody's office, Blackburn, Lafayette Mayor Richard Driver, Macon County Director of Schools Tony Boles and Macon County Board of Education member Bryan Nichols.

U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn visted Macon County on Aug. 21 to meet with several local officials for a discussion on workforce development, education and other issues.

Pictured are (clockwise, from left): Macon County Chamber of Commerce Director Shelly Bealor, Kristina Hibdon of State Sen. Mark Pody’s office, Blackburn, Lafayette Mayor Richard Driver, Macon County Director of Schools Tony Boles and Macon County Board of Education member Bryan Nichols.• •

U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn travelled to Lafayette last Wednesday to meet with city and county officials over lunch at Gibson’s Café.

Those gathered discussed various issues, including economic development and education.

“The best way to help (with development) is to work as a part of the team with your local state and federal-elected officials to expand that reach into rural areas,” Blackburn said. “We have to make sure these communities have access to high-speed internet and broadband, and I’ve been very aggressive in my work there to make it easier.”

According to Blackburn, the state has been making significant progress in funding internet access in rural communities, with more grants being awarded and more local co-ops offering high-speed service.

One of the ways that rural communities are seeing improved internet access is through the FirstNet initiative, a network for first responders that can also be accessed by the public for a stronger connection when not in use for emergencies.

“When you have more options and you have that competition, it really helps,” Blackburn said. “One of the things I keep the focus on is that you’re not going to have 21st century economic development, health care, education or law enforcement without access to high-speed internet, and (FirstNet) is a great example of that.”

Macon County is set to receive its own FirstNet access as AT&T continues expanding into the area, and Blackburn expects that to give a boost to law-enforcement agencies.

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