Union Democrat staff

The governing board for the Tuolumne Economic Development Authority met in Sonora on Friday.

The board discussed a grant for broadband Internet improvements from the Amador Tuolumne Action Committee and the California Public Utilities Commission.

It is hoped that the grant will encourage local Internet providers to make infrastructure improvements by seeking grants and loans, according to TCEDA director Larry Cope. He has met with representatives from AT&T, Mother Lode Internet and Comcast to encourage them to expand access to more areas in the county

"We're trying to make sure they go get loans to expand their networks so more people can get high-speed Internet," Cope said.

The board approved a professional service agreement, with the caveat that it would have to be reviewed pending by county attorney Carlyn Drivdahl.

During the meeting, Cope also confirmed that the TCEDA was selected to manage the Central Sierra Economic Development District for the next two years.

CSEDD board members contracted with TCEDA to keep the agency alive in the hope of securing grants through the U.S. Economic Development Agency. Cope and his staff completed an annual comprehensive economic development strategy last year. They are working to compile a more detailed report that can be the basis for applying for project funding for the next five years.

The EDA also discussed a proposal by a private development firm to build a bed and breakfast in Chinese Camp, and the opening of American Wood Fibers, Inc. in Jamestown. They also talked about a grant-funded microenterprise program for businesses in Sonora.

Sonora Mayor Bill Canning said the TCEDA should look into gaining some of the funds that will be left over following the dissolution of the city's redevelopment agency. There will be about $700,000 in one-time funds remaining, which will be distributed to the county, city and area schools.

"As everyone already knows, redevelopment will be winding down," Canning said. "Really what is redevelopment if not economic development?"

The next meeting for the Tuolumne County Economic Development Authority will be May 11 at Evergreen Lodge near Groveland at 10:30 a.m. A public hearing for the TCEDA annual budget will follow at 10:40 a.m.