The Longview Economic Development Corp. expects an analysis of this area’s broadband networking capabilities will identify strengths and weaknesses and provide an opportunity to help market this region’s strength to companies considering locating in the city.

On Friday, the organization’s board of directors agreed to allow LEDCO President and CEO Wayne Mansfield to contract with CBRE Network Advisory Services, a part of the Dallas-based commercial real estate and investment firm he said contacted him about analyzing this community’s broadband networking capacity.

“It kind of intrigues me, especially me now, in this day and time, and COVID and e-commerce starting to increase, as well as working from home starting to be a popular term,” that this is a good time to undertake this kind of study, Mansfield said.

He said the city of Forney conducted a similar study that helped land a Google data center for that city.

The project will be broken into two phases: a site evaluation report at a cost of $7,250 and then a comprehensive connectivity report at a cost of $13,360, with the two phases expected to take 70 days to complete. The study’s target area extends beyond Longview, in an area Mansfield described as roughly the Metropolitan Statistical Area. A map shows the target area includes Longview and its business parks, the East Mountain and White Oak areas, Hallsville and an area north and east of Longview, almost to Kilgore and almost to the Lake Cherokee area.

The scope of work calls for CBRE to: “research and evaluate the telecommunications and network infrastructure that supports the target area, including long haul & metro fiber systems; perform extensive background research and analysis of the collected data, creating the foundation data in support of on-site survey and validation process; conduct an on-site physical survey of the Target pathways, investigating interconnection points, central offices and nearby data centers; and analyze and compile the datasets, generate Rough-Order-Magnitude costs estimates, create preliminary design for ingress/egress systems, pathing for additional providers and a map of key element.”

The study will survey and map the available infrastructure and make recommendations for improvements, which could become part of the marketing effort, Mansfield said.

“I think fiber is every bit as important as water sources in terms of infrastructure,” Mansfield said.

Gaps that could be identified in the study are important, too, and could help identify potential projects and partners to work with on eliminating those gaps, Mansfield said.

The study will include consulting with area cities, companies such as Union Pacific, Southwestern Electric Power Co. and Sparklight, a Phoenix-based broadband communications provider that is building a fiber optic network in Longview, to identify capabilities inside their rights of way, for instance.

Then, Mansfield said the consultant has contacts, with Google and Amazon, for instance, and could market the area’s capabilities to them, along with the other advantages this area has to offer in terms of labor force or training opportunities.

“It’s going to another tool in our holster, for sure,” Mansfield said.

Also on Friday, the LEDCO board voted to allow Mansfield to prepare and execute an amendment to a performance agreement made with AAON Coil in 2019 after the company experienced “extensive weather delays” on its building expansion that was supposed to have been completed Sept. 30. He said the company now expects to receive its certificate of occupancy on the expansion in December, but that the delay also will affect employment goals under the original agreement. He said he would notify the board of the terms of the amendment.

Mansfield told the board Friday that the architect hired to design the organization’s planned new office space hopes to complete a request for proposals for a construction manager before Thanksgiving. Estimates put the cost of the building at $1.5 million instead of the $2 million the organization budgeted for the project, and Mansfield said construction could begin in mid-February.

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