Downtown Skowhegan, pictured in July 2022. Credit: Erin Rhoda / BDN

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Amber Lambke is the founder and CEO of Maine Grains Inc. in Skowhegan.

The town of Skowhegan and surrounding communities are experiencing a renaissance.

New investments, new ideas and new people are coming here, creating new opportunities that span from outdoor recreation to increased manufacturing to public and private investments in education and housing.

It’s an exciting story of an area working together, identifying its assets and using them to create opportunities that support people and families.

As the communities in the Skowhegan area prepare for growth, it is critical to expand access to fast, reliable and affordable internet.

Through years of hard work, planning and partnership between Skowhegan, Madison, Cornville and Canaan, the area earned an $8.8 million grant from the Maine Connectivity Authority to provide access to high-speed internet to more than 16,000 potential customers, including the businesses who are looking at the area with optimism.

The grant was awarded in January by the Maine Connectivity Authority, and will greatly increase the number of people and businesses in the state that have access to good internet.

Maine has some of the most innovative small businesses anywhere in the world. Skowhegan and the surrounding area have demonstrated what can happen when a hopeful vision brings  people together to work collaboratively and build a positive future.

As a small business owner, I know that reliable, fast internet isn’t a luxury. It’s the key to selling our freshly milled local grains in and out of state, reaching new markets and customers and keeping my business moving forward. For people who live here, reliable internet is the key to submitting a job application, finding housing, and accessing education and healthcare.

There are businesses like mine all over the state waiting for the opportunity to sign up for broadband internet. The Maine Connectivity Authority is ready to support their efforts.

Through Connect the Ready program, the Maine Connectivity Authority has provided $34 million in grants to local public-private partnerships that will bring high-speed internet to 12 regions across the state. This is the largest investment in rural broadband in Maine’s history and will reduce the number of unserved locations in Maine by almost 15%. The next round of Connect the Ready grants is expected to be announced this summer.

With all the good news coming out of the Skowhegan area, there is plenty to be excited about.

Expanding manufacturing, a new school and early childcare center, a river park and vibrant local food scene, innovative business, and great internet – it’s a winning combination.

Looking around the state, other communities have their own opportunity for growth and renewal. It may look different than Skowhegan’s. Every community has its own assets and strengths. Success comes when people collaborate and cooperate on a common vision and smart investments that lay the groundwork for success.

High-speed, reliable, and affordable internet is an important part of the equation. Good internet is no longer a luxury. Like electricity, clean water, and transportation, it’s a critical part of the infrastructure necessary for people to experience success in their lives.

We’re proud of what’s happening in Skowhegan. We’re excited for the future and the new opportunities for our community and the people who live and work here.  We cheer for other communities throughout Maine and the dedicated people working hard to make life better now and for generations to come.