In the village of Hopkins Park, Ill., time has virtually stood still since its incorporation in the early 1860s. Here, the community’s dwindling population of 600 residents makes a median household income of $17,778 a year. Once labeled one of the nation’s poorest communities, Hopkins Park covers less than four miles in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it spot one hour south of Chicago. Its populace has been promised over the years to lessen the uncertainty of the village’s future and bring about—at the very least—basic utilities. And still to this day, Hopkins Park citizens have no Internet connections, cable TV, or natural gas to heat homes and cook food; most rely on burning wood or propane to subsist. Many homes have no running water or electricity. Jobs are understandably scarce in what’s largely been an invisible, ignored blip on the map that no one’s paid attention to for decades.

Nicor Gas

Nicor Gas is one of four natural gas distribution companies of Southern Company Gas, a wholly owned subsidiary of Southern Company (NYSE: SO). Nicor Gas serves more than 2.2 million customers in a service territory that encompasses most of the northern third of Illinois, excluding the city of Chicago.

Until now.

Ill-based Nicor Gas, which serves more than 2 million utility customers in the northern third of the state, excluding Chicago, plans to build the first pipeline to flow natural gas to Hopkins Park, using grants to bring both gas supplies and even broadband connections to households there. The project, now 10 years in the making, will cost approximately $8 million. An Ill., state senator says the State will offer in $1 million. Local officials must raise $3.25 million. A final grant now in the works could seal the deal for what’s being called “a game changer” in Hopkins Park. Nicor has presented three construction plan options for the natural gas project that would include about 400 structures along 30 miles of new pipeline. God speed.

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