Region Nine Development Commission Awarded SolSmart Silver
Designation for Advancing Solar Energy

Solsmart Silver Logo


Mankato, MN– Region Nine Development Commission (RNDC) has been awarded the SolSmart Silver designation for the organization’s efforts to make solar energy more accessible for residents and businesses in the region.

The SolSmart program is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office and recognizes organizations that have worked to promote solar energy by making it faster, easier, and more affordable for the community to adopt.

To receive this designation, RNDC worked to reduce the barriers for developing a solar energy infrastructure. This includes changes to local processes that will make the region an attractive area for solar companies. The expansion of solar energy has the potential to drive economic development in the area and create jobs.

“As an organization focused on community and economic development, one of our main jobs is helping our communities understand and access the resources available to them,” said Nicole Griensewic, RNDC Executive Director. “Solar energy is just another example of an important resource that can benefit our local communities and economies by providing affordable and clean energy. Through our work with SolSmart, RNDC learned how to develop solar resources in a manner that provides the maximum benefit for community resilience.”

The SolSmart program provides free technical and logistical expertise to communities interested in developing or expanding their solar energy capabilities. Through the program, RNDC worked with the Great Plains Institute to evaluate local permit, planning, and zoning procedures as well as recommendations to make solar energy more accessible in the region.

“We are getting a lot more questions from our communities about integrating renewable energy into planning and projects,” said Joel Hanif, RNDC Community Development Planner. “As a community development planner, I now feel more comfortable answering those questions and helping communities make the right energy choices for them. This is in large part due to the education and support provided by SolSmart and the Great Plains Institute.”

RNDC joins over 400 other communities and regional organizations that have received the SolSmart designation. All municipalities and counties are eligible to join the SolSmart program and receive this technical assistance. Interested communities can learn more at or by contacting Joel Hanif at

Updates from Governor’s Trade Mission: UK & Finland

Governor Walz, along with 50 Minnesota business representatives, went to the United Kindom and Finland as part of a trade mission on November 13-19, 2021 with major business centers in London and Helsinki. The mission aimed to increase state exports, promote Minnesota as a premier destination for foreign investment, develop new business opportunities, and strengthen existing ties.
The delegation consisted of businesses and organizations within Minnesota’s medical technology, food and agriculture, environmental technology, and educational sectors. Also joining Governor Walz in representing the state was First Lady Gwen Walz, Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) Commissioner Steve Grove, and Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) Commissioner Thom Petersen.
Updates from each day of the trade mission can be found below.

Americas Competitiveness Exchange Colorado Final Report

Region Nine’s Executive Director, Nicole Griensewic, was selected to participate in the 13th Americas Competitiveness Exchange on Innovation and Entrepreneurship (ACE) in Colorado, as an ACE Ambassador, from August 1-6, 2021. ACE Colorado was hosted by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration (ITA) and Economic Development Administration (EDA), in coordination with the U.S. Department of State and the Organization of American States (OAS) and in partnership between Jefferson County Economic Development Corporation (Jeffco EDC), the City and County of Denver, and El Paso County.

Each ACE edition connects decision-makers from the public and private sector in the Americas to a region’s new business opportunities, innovation hubs, flagship sectors, strategic investment, and research and development centers. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic which has negatively impacted the economies of the region, ACE reconnects communities with international trade, potential investors, and supply chains, which are urgently needed in order to recover.

View the final ACE Colorado report here to read about the participants, what happened during the trip, results so far, and more!

Delegation to Germany’s North Rhine-Westphalia Updates

Region Nine’s Executive Director Nicole Griensewic joined the Climate Smart Municipalities (CSM) delegation to Germany’s North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) from September 11-18, 2021. The delegation consisted of 28-32 members representing the cities of Duluth, Morris, Rochester, Warren, White Bear Lake, along with state government, counties, business, and the education and nonprofit sectors.

Below are links to PDFs to CSM’s 2021 Delegation dispatches highlighting events of the day as well as cities involved in the exchange.


Dispatch Daily #1

Dispatch Special Report: Rochester

Dispatch Daily #2

Dispatch Special Report: Morris

Dispatch Daily #3

Dispatch Special Report: Duluth

Dispatch Daily #4

Dispatch Special Report: Renewable Businesses

Dispatch Daily #5

Dispatch Special Report: White Bear Lake

Area commissioners’ top issues: broadband, highways, telemedicine

More federal funding to expand broadband, rules to allow the continuation of telemedicine, highway funding and more aid for small businesses are at the top of the list for area rural counties.

Those were the messages county commissioners delivered to U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar during a virtual roundtable she hosted Friday. The three commissioners are board members of the Region Nine Development Commission.

Le Sueur County Commissioner Steve Rohlfing hoped Klobuchar will help push for changes to federal rules to allow telemedicine to continue after the pandemic.

“COVID, like it or not, has really created some new avenues for us. Telemedicine is working and we don’t want that to go away.”

Rohlfing said telemedicine visits not only help with doctor and nurse visits but also with social worker and mental health professional visits.

He said current rules on reimbursement are designed to encourage in-person rather than telemedicine visits.

Read more.

Klobuchar talks economic recovery plans for Region 9

Sen. Amy Klobuchar talks COVID’s economic impact with the Region 9 Development Commission

The pandemic has hit businesses, hospitality industry and the economies of entire cities, with having to close restaurants for weeks at a time to canceling events that would’ve drawn tourists.

Representatives from Sibley, Le Sueur and Martin County joined the senator to tackle short and long-term pandemic recovery for Region 9.

Sen. Klobuchar announces the Restaurant Act which aims to help eating establishments and venues across the state.

”Mankato Ballroom, Kato Ballroom and a number of other places through the state. Including everything from First Avenue to the Bluestone Amphitheater. That was in the end of the year bill, that applications were just all in for that. The restaurants bill is going to help even more for your region, areas where we have had some significant drop-off from a lot of our restaurants and we want to keep them strong,” United States Senator, Amy Klobuchar said.

Sen. Klobuchar says on the horizon: infrastructure funding is coming as well.

View more.

Executive Director Griensewic reflects on Mondale’s impact on MN and how we need to continue to fight the “good fight”

Dear fellow Minnesotans,
Adversity seems to lurk around every corner as of late, and yesterday’s news added only more grief. I was devastated at the announcement of Mondale’s passing. Minnesota has experienced great loss once more.
Vice President Walter Mondale made his mark on Minnesota, the nation, and the world. He redefined what the role of Vice President could be. Mondale was known for his ability to collaborate. He was before his time focusing on clean water, child poverty, and fair housing. These issues were not commonly discussed.
He was well known for being the first Presidential candidate on a major ticket to have selected a female running mate. This deliberate display of feminism was and is so essential. Speaking personally as a female leader in government, representation matters. The highlight of 2019 for me was having a one-on-one meeting with Mondale. My intent was to discuss his timeserving as an ambassador for the U.S. to Japan. He instantly pivoted the conversation to me instead, interested in hearing about me, my background, current work, and career aspirations. He instantly filled the role as a mentor.
When I asked if he ever watched the HBO show, Veep, he laughed and said, “No, should I?” to which I quickly replied—” Yes, please!”. He meant so much to me, I named my adopted cat after him. When he learned of this, he stated that he was “honored and humbled”. I pointed out that both were from Region Nine territory and had white and gray hair. His assistant, Lynda received more cat photos than what was probably needed.
It is easy to feel deflated and overwhelmed with grief and trauma, Minnesotans have all endured as of late. I had to remind myself that Mondale always encouraged others to ignore the noise and step up to be a leader. 
The world is watching Minnesota. His legacy can guide us as a state as we work towards healing, helping, and be a catalyst for the needed change, especially in the days and weeks ahead of us. We need to keep fighting the “good fight”. It is what he would want us to do. His famous quote, “We told the truth, we obeyed the law, we kept the peace.” We need that type of leadership now more than ever. 
Let us be more like Mondale. #moreMondale
RIP Fritz
Nicole Griensewic
Executive Director