Martin Lauded by State as Gig City

Photo courtesy of Bruce Cain, Elevated Lens Photography

What began with a search for ways to control water system operating costs has resulted in City of Martin residents gaining access to gigabit internet speeds that rival major metropolitan areas. The Gig City designation has also caused the State of Tennessee to look twice at Martin and select it and its leaders as a “Best Practices Highlight” by the state’s Department of Economic and Community Development.

In 2016, Martin officials began to look for a better way to increase the accuracy and automate the labor-intensive process of reading public water system meters. Officials discovered one of the best ways to do this was through a fiber-optic network that could also provide high-speed internet services to its residents, education providers and businesses at affordable rates.

Careful strategic planning led the city of Martin to take this infrastructure challenge and leverage a solution into a partnership. Instead of building the fiber network alone, the city partnered with West Kentucky & Tennessee Telecommunications, a cooperative with experience building and maintaining a fiber network. The entities forged an agreement where the city would pay the cooperative $300,000 a year over 30 years to build the network and connect the water meters. WK&T agreed to use this payment arrangement as the foundation for a $10 million technology investment to build 150 miles of fiber optic lines throughout the city. Delta Regional Authority funding of $144,000 provided LAN receivers to round out the water system equipment requirements. The innovative partnership has enabled the cooperative to offer advanced broadband internet, digital television and phone services to all of Martin’s residents, businesses and community facilities and assist the city in improving water system services.

City leaders estimate that the new water meter reader system will result in an estimated $100,000 in city savings for the first year alone.

Martin is already reaping significant benefits from these technology and infrastructure investments in the community. Better internet services allow the University of Tennessee at Martin to recruit faculty and students across the state, region and country.

The Gig City network is also being used as a catalyst to provide expanded services to existing businesses and develop a local technology park targeted to software development companies, incubator businesses, and related tech companies that require the internet access speeds and system reliability only available through fiber infrastructure.

Since the Gig City project launch, the Savant Learning Systems corporate headquarters located in downtown Martin is benefitting from expanded broadband services that support their existing 100 tech jobs and enhance new virtual training system development plans. South Korean home appliance and automotive supplier Dong-A USA announced plans to create approximately 220 new jobs and make the largest foreign-direct investment made in Weakley County. A new software development company also plans to create more than 50 high-tech jobs in Martin.

The Martin Gig City project is providing more than just fast internet. Access to fast, reliable and affordable broadband service is creating new opportunities for citizens and businesses in the areas of small business creation, education, distance learning, telemedicine and technology applications.

When completed, Martin will be among the top cities in Tennessee when it comes to its internet speeds.

According to a press release issued by the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, projected project results include:

• 4,000 residential households served;

• 300 business and industrial customers served;

• 3 new tech and industrial announcements;

• 270 new tech and industrial jobs created;

• $18,000,000 in new projected direct and industrial investments; and

• $100,000 in projected annual water system cost savings.

Project funding includes the following:

• $9,000,000 by a City of Martin water department investment, which is a city-wide network construction and water meter connections cost at $300,000 per year for 30 years;

• $10,000,000 by a West Kentucky and Tennessee Cooperative investment for construction of a city-wide fiber optic network; and a

• $144,000 grant by Delta Regional Authority States’ Economic Development Assistance.

The total project funding for the broadband network is estimated at $19,144,000.

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