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‘FEARLESSLY BOLD’

FD Fiber broadband project breaks ground

-Messenger photo by Kelby Wingert
Key people involved in the Fort Dodge Fiber broadband project held a groundbreaking ceremony at the City Square on Thursday afternoon. From left are Jim Schermer, of MP NexLevel; Kent Demlow of HR Green Engineering; Fort Dodge City Councilman David Flattery; Assistant City Manager Ryan Maehl; and Fort Dodge Fiber Executive Director Jeremy Pearson.

According to Troy DeJoode, executive director of the Iowa Association of Municipal Utilities, Fort Dodge is taking control of its future by building the critical services and infrastructure it needs to compete in a global economy with the Fort Dodge Fiber broadband utility project.

The project, which will bring fiber optic cable to every address in Fort Dodge, hit another milestone on Thursday afternoon with the ceremonial groundbreaking with several project stakeholders and partners at the City Square.

“This is a big deal for Fort Dodge,” said Fort Dodge City Manager David Fierke. “We strive to compete at a global level in our community, to be relevant in global competition requires first-class housing, first-class quality of life, first-class commerce, and to do that all requires great infrastructure.”

He credited Fort Dodge City Councilman Dr. Terry Moehnke for getting the ball rolling on the broadband utility back in 2018.

“And I also applaud all the current and former council members and Mayor (Matt) Bemrich for being really, fearlessly bold with big infrastructure projects,” Fierke said. “This Fort Dodge Fiber is a huge infrastructure project. Many cities would have shied away from taking on such a deal, but we did it.”

-Messenger photo by Kelby Wingert
Fort Dodge City Manager David Fierke welcomes guests to the groundbreaking ceremony for the Fort Dodge Fiber broadband project at the City Square on Thursday afternoon.

Having high-speed broadband internet utility isn’t just about being able to surf the internet or stream Netflix shows without any buffering.

“Think of everything you do in life now that requires a digital connection,” Fierke said. “It’s healthcare, it’s commerce, it’s doing your job, it’s visiting with loved ones who are far away.”

The financing for the nearly $40 million project was secured last fall. The leading lender is the Humboldt branch of Bank Iowa for the $33.355 million capital expenditure loan to be used for network construction and equipment. Bank Iowa is joined by the Fort Dodge branches of United Bank of Iowa, Green State Credit Union, First State Bank and First Interstate Bank, as well as Security Savings Bank of Gowrie and Cedar Rapids Bank & Trust.

Peoples Credit Union ­– Fort Dodge is financing an additional $3.48 million in working capital to launch utility operations.

Those debts will be paid off with revenue generated by the utility, not tax dollars.

-Messenger photo by Kelby Wingert
Troy DeJoode, executive director of the Iowa Association of Municipal Utilities, delivers remarks during Thursday's groundbreaking ceremony for the Fort Dodge Fiber broadband project.

Jim Plagge, president and CEO of Bank Iowa, said he is excited to be able to lead the funding of the project.

“One of the points in our vision statement is to be a center of influence in the communities we serve,” he said. “I’m confident that this will help propel you into the future.”

Progress on Fort Dodge Fiber’s data center is “rapidly progressing,” said Fort Dodge Fiber Executive Director Jeremy Pearson.

“Our core networking equipment has been purchased, with some already being delivered,” he said. “Our Tech Center remodel has started, and should be picking up speed here in the next month. Things are coming together, and we are on track to begin testing and bringing up our initial customers by the end of year.”

The Fort Dodge Fiber project has also been named one of the Top 100 Strategic Projects in the U.S. by CG/LA Infrastructure.

-Messenger photo by Kelby Wingert
Fort Dodge Fiber held a groundbreaking ceremony at the City Square on Thursday afternoon.

“These are exciting times for both Fort Dodge Fiber, and the community of Fort Dodge,” Pearson said. “Being named to the Top 100 Strategic Projects List solidifies the investment and opportunities of our fiber project, and its importance to our community. This project is making waves across the country. Contractors, service providers and equipment vendors are talking about Fort Dodge Fiber, and want to be a part of this amazing project.”

According to Angela Gill, director of research for CG/LA Infrastructure, the organization looks at all kinds of infrastructure projects and assesses them based on whether they’re likely to move forward and whether they should progress.

“Projects we find to be of strategic value generally have wide support, increase capacity for business generation, and most importantly, improve the quality of life of its users and/or the community,” she said. “They also are often innovative (including financially innovative), are environmentally friendly (either directly or through improving efficiency), and enable job creation.”

Construction of the fiber broadband network will begin soon and will likely take until the end of 2024 to be completed. Once completed, the mostly underground fiber network will pass every home and business in the Fort Dodge city limits.

“This does poise us for the future to be a very competitive city going forward,” Fierke said.

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