By JIMMY LAWTON
NICHOLVILLE -- In 2011, Slic Network Solutions employed 23 workers and supplied roughly 200 customers with hi-speed internet service.
Now the company has doubled its staff and serves a customer base of more than 2,000.
"These are permanent full-time positions that aren't going anywhere," Nicholville Telephone Company CEO Mark Dzwonczyk said.
Slic started as a daughter company of Nicholville Telephone, but quickly grew after receiving a $33 million federal stimulus grant in 2010 geared toward supplying rural areas with hi-speed fiber-optic internet and telephone service. This month, the firm received an Empire State Development Grant of an additional $2.2 million.
The project involves installing 660 miles of fiber throughout St. Lawrence County and an additional 160 miles of cable in Franklin County in less than three years, a task Dzwonczyk said is about 85 to 95 percent complete.
The cables are connected through a series of 19 service cabinets, which serve as hubs. He said the company has only two more cabinets to install to complete the construction phase of the project.
"That's a pretty good gauge of where we are at construction-wise," he said.
Although the construction is nearly complete, he said the installation phase of the project has to be tackled as well.
Originally, the construction was slated to wrap-up in March of 2014, but Dzwonczyk said the company will complete the job by February or March of 2013.
The rapid growth was not without problems, especially in funding. Although the company was awarded millions in grants, most of the money is paid as reimbursement, which can translate to a lack of cash flow.
To address this problem, Dzwonczyk enlisted help from the St. Lawrence River Valley Redevelopment Agency and the Industrial Development Agency to open a line of credit, which allows his company to build out faster.
St. Lawrence County residents from Nicholville to Ogdensburg have been provided with internet service already, and cable television will be available for some users in the summer of 2013. Dzwonczyk said crews are currently installing fiber in the Madrid area.
"We've been aggressive in building out our footprint and the response has been terrific," he said.
While providing internet, phone and television service to households is a big part of the project, Dzwonczyk said the commercial opportunities offered by broadband will be a draw for businesses, which might have traditionally avoided the low and outdated technology broadband traditionally offered in the North Country.
"I think it's an important project and it opens up a lot of opportunity for large scale economic development."
To learn more about the company visit Slic.com