The city of Sulphur Springs will be applying for a $100 million grant for Thermo Mine and Northeast Texas Rural Rail Transportation District (NETEX) projects, per a decision at their October 5 regular council meeting.
The council unanimously authorized a resolution to pursue the grant in conjunction with the Ark-Tex Council of Governments (ATCOG).
ATCOG will be looking at several northeast Texas communities for the US Economic Development Administration’s Build Back Better criteria, the COG reported on Sept. 30.
While Ark-Tex is helping Hopkins County as well as the TexAmericas Center in Texarkana, and former mining properties in Titus, Morris, Camp, and Harrison counties, the Sulphur Springs city council like their chances for the enormous grant.
“This is a great opportunity to develop the coal mine property,” community development director Tory Niewiadomski noted. “Ark-Tex (ATCOG) has been working to identify regional clusters and come up with a vision for our region. We have been identified as advanced manufacturing focus.”
The preliminary deadline for the application is Oct. 19, 2021, Niewiadomski noted. Afterwards, individual projects (such as the Thermo Mine) will prepare individual applications, which are due February 2022. The federal government expects to make final decisions by September 2022, according to ATCOG.
“There’s an emphasis on coal communities getting some attention with this process,” Niewiadomski noted. “We want to turn this into a new opportunity.”
While only 50-60 entities nationwide will receive the highest tier of funding, city manager Marc Maxwell believes that Sulphur Springs is unique enough to catch the federal government’s eye.
“There’s a priority for coal-affected communities, and with NETEX [rail] connecting us, there’s not one but two– Sulphur Springs and Mount Pleasant,” Maxwell pointed out.
With the Thermo property sitting at just under 5,000 acres and the Mount Pleasant/ New Boston property measuring approximately 1,200, Maxwell sees a prime opportunity for the federal government to buoy infrastructure and jobs.
“We have a compelling story, and we don’t have to fluff it up,” Maxwell said. “This is us, and we are what they’re looking for… if we can rebuild some rail line, it’s a beautiful regional development opportunity.”