Rural communities across America have a shot at $3 million to implement projects that encourage long-term growth and sustainability.
Frontier Communications and Dish are sponsoring the America’s Best Communities competition that dedicates more than $10 million in cash and other rewards to support innovative community projects.
“It’s one of those opportunities where our CEO thought, ‘What can we do to help rural America?’” said Steve Crosby, senior vice president of corporate communications for Frontier. “The growth of America is around small towns and small cities.”
Eligible communities must be within the Frontier Communications service territory with populations between 9,500 and 80,000. Populations with less then 9,500 are encouraged to join forces and collaborate with neighboring communities to become eligible.
The deadline to apply is Jan. 12, 2015.
An independent panel of judges will select the top 50 proposals by Feb. 15, 2015.
Those quarterfinalists will receive $35,000 in seed money to get their plan started. On Nov. 4, 2015, those groups will be narrowed down to 15 semi-finalists.
Of those proposals, eight finalists will be selected Jan. 29, 2016, to receive $100,000 to bring their plan to life.
The three finalists will be named Oct. 18, 2017, and receive $3 million for first place, $2 million for second place and $1 million for third place.
“The only thing we ask of the winner is that they share their best practices with everyone,” Crosby said. “They have to give advice to other communities on how they did what they did.”
The judging panel is comprised of economic development professionals and professors who are looking for innovation, collaboration and “knowing your community.”
The America’s Best Communities campaign was kicked off Wednesday in Minden as well as rural communities in Ohio, Indiana, Oregon, West Virginia and Pennsylvania.
“What better place to do this than rural Douglas County, Nevada,” said Rhonda Lutzke, area president of national region for Frontier. “This campaign is based on teamwork. Residents, businesses and leaders can come together and create an actionable plan that will make a difference in their town.”
Commissioner Lee Bonner praised Frontier and Dish for the opportunity.
“Today we’re talking about a problem where Dish and Frontier are providing a solution,” he said. “We’re looking for ways to increase our economic vitality here. I appreciate when Frontier steps up and says ‘I want to be a part of the solution.’”
Bonner also said the competition allows Douglas County to ask the question, “What if?”
“What if we had fiber optics running throughout the county? That’s a game-changer,” he said. “I’m not saying that is the idea we’re going with, but it is a chance for our community to come together and ask, ‘What’s our what if?”
According to Crosby, there are 280 communities in the 9,500-80,000 population range eligible for the contest, and 4,000 communities who have the potential of teaming up to become eligible.
“The task is going to be to pull all the potential beneficiaries together and see if we can’t find the right combination that will resonate with the people making the judgment,” said Bill Chernock, Chamber of Commerce executive director. “A big part of the projects that make their way to the top are going to have a big communications element to it.”
Commissioner Barry Penzel was looking forward to collaborating with Douglas County’s nonprofit and private entities to come up with a proposal.
“Winning would be huge. That’s windfall money we didn’t budget for,” he added. “There are a huge number of programs this could be used for. This is an interesting opportunity.”