Minority Business Lands Multimillion Dollar Grant with Georgia Tech’s Assistance

With assistance from the Georgia Minority Business Enterprise Center (GMBEC), a team of African American-owned telecommunication businesses in Atlanta partnered to win a highly competitive $59 million Department of Commerce grant to provide a broadband communication network to a substantial portion of a rural, eight-county region in central Alabama.


The team, made up of primary partners Trillion Communications Corporation, A2D Inc. and A-Plus Community Solutions, won a contract that will not only create jobs, but expand access to broadband in underserved communities. Through construction of a 2,200-mile network to augment existing facilities, the project will ultimately enhance the communities’ ability to bring high-speed telemedicine, distance learning, access to web-based legal assistance, and better 911 services to residents in this region, among other benefits.


Funded by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Minority Business Development Agency and operated by Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute, GMBEC helps emerging and existing minority businesses experience significant growth and sustainability and generate long-term economic impact through the creation of jobs and revenue. Along with the Minority Business Development Agency and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, GMBEC held a vendor fare for minority business enterprises that included a technical workshop and information on how to put a proposal package together.


Donna Ennis, GMBEC project director, worked with Trillion to develop and edit the proposal, assist with marketing and procurement, and implement the project. At GMBEC, Ennis is responsible for the strategic direction, marketing and outreach, and operations of the GMBEC and assists clients with strategic, business and market planning; marketing research and communications; public and private procurement, finance and operations; and business process improvement.


“I am thankful for Donna Ennis and the Georgia Minority Business Enterprise Center. They are admired and respected for their work ethic and professionalism. I am indebted to them for their support and counsel provided during the preparation of Trillion’s Infrastructure application,” noted Ralph E. Brown, CEO of Trillion Communications Corporation. “They successfully hosted the region-wide Vendor Workshop where Trillion secured corporate and community partnerships that helped us assemble and fortify a winning project. I could not have succeeded in our endeavor without Donna’s willingness to review our proposals, provide guidance and resources, as well as counsel and advice during the project implementation phase.”


Trillion Communications will serve as the grant awardee, fiduciary and program manager for the grant released by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and the Department of Agriculture Rural Utilities Service (RUS). An extra $25 million will come from private investors. In addition to creating broadband access, the MBDA projects the award opportunity will extend to 25 additional MBEs and service the impacted communities for the next 20 years.


“This will make a difference in the community,” said Brown. “It impacts eight counties, 1,000 businesses and community anchors including public libraries and institutions, Historically Black Colleges and Universities, 80,000 households, as well as the Poarch Creek Tribal Nation..”


The Trillion team will design, construct and install a next generation broadband infrastructure which will then be transferred to the South Central Alabama Broadband Commission (SCABC), where it will eventually be expanded across the region. A2D Inc. will serve as SCABC’s long-term operator of the eCommunity Broadband Network.


The e-Community Broadband Network will link anchor institutions such as schools, libraries, and health care facilities together, as well as provide the means for small businesses to expand their markets and help stimulate new business development. It will also enhance public safety services by creating an interoperable network among public safety agencies. For those who can’t afford fee-based broadband services from commercial providers, eCommunity will also enable community organizations, anchor institutions and governmental agencies to offer free or subsidized intranet-based broadband access directly to vulnerable populations they already serve.


Funding for the project is made possible by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act signed in 2009 by President Obama, which included approximately $7.2 billion to expand broadband access and adoption in communities across the United States. It also means an increase in jobs, more investments in technology and infrastructure and long-term economic benefits.


For more information on GMBEC services offered by Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute, contact Donna Ennis (404-894-2096); E-mail: (donna.ennis@innovate.gatech.edu); Web site: (www.georgiambec.org).


About Enterprise Innovation Institute:
The Georgia Tech Enterprise Innovation Institute helps companies, entrepreneurs, economic developers and communities improve their competitiveness through the application of science, technology and innovation. It is one of the most comprehensive university-based programs of business and industry assistance, technology commercialization and economic development in the nation.

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Media Relations Contact: John Toon (404-894-6986); E-mail (john.toon@innovate.gatech.edu).
Writer: Nancy Fullbright