Morden’s Multicultural Winterfest Is Coming

Morden’s Multicultural Winterfest is Saturday, Feb 16, 12:30-4:30 p.m. at... Details Here

The plan to transform Winkler into the Silicon Valley of Southern Manitoba is receiving national attention.

Valley Fiber, the new locally owned company birthed out of Valley Internet Service Provider, has set their sights on hooking up every building and residence within city limits to the fastest internet connection in the country.

If successful, the average household could receive internet speeds of 1,000 mbs.

The average in Winkler is closer to five.

Winkler Mayor Martin Harder says the ambitious plan has hit national headlines and he's received calls from across the country.

"Absolutely everyone has told me this is a no-brainer, "if you can pull this thing off, your community is going to be outstanding, above and beyond anything that's out there,"" he says.

The City of Winkler was so excited by the idea, they've invested half a million into the company, as well as providing land for Valley Fiber to build a head office and an internationally recognized data centre.

Harder says Winkler has always been aggressive in creating business opportunities in the city, "but there's always been a piece missing, and that's the tech side... that will no longer be a negative issue when coming to Winkler."

hank martinWinkler Mayor Martin Harder with Valley Fiber CO Hank Wall. The city was an early believer in Valley Fiber

Valley Fiber will begin with connecting fiber optic to every City of Winkler facility as a proof of concept.

However, the dream still has one major hurdle before becoming reality; Valley Fiber needs to raise $10 million from investors.

The money is needed to dig the entire underground network from scratch.

While daunting, the Province recently announced a special tax credit of 45% on any investment into Valley Fiber up to $450,000.

"It's an extremely rare opportunity," Wall says, but reveals the Province's excitement for the project.

With the City and the Province backing the project, Valley Fiber CFO Mike Wolf says the federal government is also watching.

"Winkler has a long history of creating cool new things in a shop, marketing them to the world," he says, especially in the manufacturing world.

"This is our shot," Wolf says.

hank fiberMany believe if Valley Fiber succeeds, it will transform the Pembina Valley into the Silicon Valley

Combined with the region's high quality of life and affordable electricity, the data super highway could attract major tech companies to Winkler, providing jobs and growth.

"If you build a digital highway, they will come," Wall says.

Some of the international companies that have expressed interest include Netflix and Google.

"The Internet is coming to us," Wall says. "We're going to become a hub."

Current estimates suggest it would take three years to build out the whole city with fiber optics.

While Valley Fiber would like to see 80-90 percent of Winkler residents sign up for their unprecedent internet speeds (at prices, they say, are comparable to what many are paying today) Wall says they could make their business plan work at 50 percent buy-in from local residents and businesses.

There will be no cost for installation during the initial build-out.

He notes studies have shown property values go up in areas outfitted by fiber optic.

"It needs to be an obvious, no-brainer choice," Wall says, adding they've tried to take out every reason someone wouldn't sign up.

If the project is a success in Winkler, he says they could look at expanding to surrounding communities and municipalities.

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