Earlier this week, the Southern Ohio Port Authority (SOPA) was informed that they received a federal grant aimed at bringing enhanced technology and public Wi-Fi hot spots to downtown Portsmouth.
The Cool and Collective Communities Grant was awarded from the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) to SOPA and its partners. The goal of the Cool and Connected planing assistance program is to innovate initiative to help people use broadband service for downtown revitalization and economic development.
SOPA wrote the grant in partnership with the city of Portsmouth, the Portsmouth Area Chamber of Commerce, Main Street Portsmouth and the Portsmouth Scioto County Visitor’s Bureau.
Similar grants were awarded to nine other communities in six states.
According to released information, “Through Cool & Connected, partner communities will receive direct technical assistance from a team of experts to develop strategies and an action plan for using expected or existing broadband service to create connected economically vibrant main streets and small-town neighborhoods. By combining broadband service with other local assets, such as cultural and recreational amenities, communities can attract and retain investment and people, revitalize downtowns and diversify local economies. Cool & Connected also protects the environment by encouraging the reuse of existing infrastructure and by improving walkability.”
“Cool & Connected (grants) will help create vibrant, thriving places to live, work, and play,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy in a released statement. “We’re excited to be working with these local leaders and use broadband service as a creative strategy to improve the environment and public health in Appalachian communities.”
Jason Kester, executive director of SOPA said the grant will allow for a plan to implement public Wi-Fi Hotspots within the city of Portsmouth, to be developed.
SOPA planned to use historic and commercial districts’ broadband and public Wi-Fi capabilities to increase the number of people who walk and open businesses. The plan will also connect downtown amenities to recreation areas by using information kiosks and QR Code/smart phone technology.
Kester said the plan is to set up a portion of downtown from Portsmouth High School to the Portsmouth Public Library to Shawnee State University and to the Scioto County Welcome Center as public Wi-Fi hotspot.
“We will not have Wi-Fi the entire way, but we’ll set up hotspots in that area. They (EPA Experts) will help us with planing to determine where the right spots should be and how to implement it,” Kester said.
He said once a plan for public Wi-Fi is completed, the local organizations involved in the grant will have to seek additional funds to implement the plan.
An additional part of the grant will involve adding a technology aspect to planned directional signs in downtown Portsmouth.
Kester said that aspect of the grant could result in the creation of a smart phone application and new ways to bring more tourism downtown.
He said ultimate goal of the grant, is to drive more people to the river front and downtown.
There have been conversations with Frontier Communications and Cienia to see how they can help. Frontier Communications and Cienia helped Portsmouth in the America’s Best Communities Competition in the past.
Kester said he hopes to have the planning completed by the end of the year.
For more information about SOPA programs and activities visit them on Facebook or www.sohpa.org.
Wayne Allen can be reached at 740-353-3101 ext. 1933
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