Region Nine Development Commission Receives National Association of Development Organizations 2019 Impact Award

Region Nine Development Commission (RNDC) has received a 2019 Aliceann Wohlbruck Impact Award from the National Association of Development Organizations (NADO) for MedTech Connect.

MedTech Connect was motivated by the need to develop a conceptual framework that inventories and supports medical manufacturing activities in South Central Minnesota. The plan examines how and how well manufacturing and related industries leverage their geographic proximity to the medical manufacturing hub in the Twin Cities and innovations at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. Results from this report indicate that South Central Minnesota is poised for growth in the medical manufacturing sector and has led to RNDC applying and being awarded a grant from the Economic Development Administration (EDA) to conduct a feasibility study for a Manufacturing Resource Center in Waseca, MN.

NADO is a Washington, DC-based membership association of regional development organizations that promote programs and policies that strengthen local governments, communities, and economies through regional cooperation, program delivery, and comprehensive strategies.  The association’s Impact Awards program recognizes regional development organizations and their partners for improving the economic and community competitiveness of our nation’s regions and local communities.

Award-winning projects were honored during NADO’s 2019 Annual Training Conference, held October 19-22 in Reno, NV.  The 2019 class of award recipients consists of 100 projects from 66 organizations spanning 24 states.  These projects are presented in an interactive “Story Map” developed by NADO and CivicLens that includes project summaries and partners.  The Story Map is available online at:  https://www.nado.org/impactawards/.

“The Aliceann Wohlbruck Impact Awards program is an opportunity each year for NADO to publicly recognize the important services that regional development organizations deliver to their local communities,” said 2018-2019 NADO President Scott Koons, executive director of the North Central Florida Regional Planning Council, located in Gainesville.  “The projects awarded have made significant impacts on their regions and demonstrate the diversity of programs and resources provided by regional development organizations across the country.”

The NADO Impact Awards are presented in honor of the late Aliceann Wohlbruck who was NADO’s first executive director and served 24 years as a tireless champion for regional approaches to economic development in rural communities.

View the KTOE article.

Lake Crystal strategic plan to be discussed at public meeting

LAKE CRYSTAL — The city of Lake Crystal and Region Nine Development Commission will host a public meeting Wednesday highlighting Lake Crystal’s Strategic Economic Development Plan.

The plan is the result of a seven-month initiative between the city and Region Nine that creates a comprehensive picture of Lake Crystal’s economy, position and reputation within the region, according to a news release from the commission.

 

The public meeting is 6:30-8:30 p.m. at the City Hall community room, 100 E. Robinson St., in Lake Crystal. The meeting will showcase the plan as well as provide discussion about the next steps and implementation.

The plan incorporated public engagement and feedback that allowed Region Nine to verify findings, test assumptions and uncover additional challenges or opportunities the city may face, the commission said.

 

“With the plan complete, the city of Lake Crystal, Lake Crystal Economic Development Authority and its partners will have a road map to grow Lake Crystal and improve the quality of life for its residents,” Lake Crystal City Administrator Taylor Gronau said in a statement.

“Lake Crystal is much more than a small town — it is a highly educated workforce, an attractive destination, and an untapped potential for future investments,” Region Nine Executive Director Nicole Griensewic Mickelson said in the release.

View the Free Press article.

People gather for first-ever Southern Minnesota Equity Summit

ST. PETER, Minn. (KEYC) — A variety of different sectors were brought together for discussions on equity and diversity in communities and workplaces.

Region Nine Development Commission, in partnership with the University of Minnesota Extension for Community Vitality and the Greater Mankato Diversity Council and support from the Bush Foundation, Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community, Mankato Area Foundation and St. Peter Public Schools hosted the event.

“We brought together a variety of different sectors in a community. Including government, business, education, philanthropy, and we brought them together, so they are able to share how they can build equity, diversity and inclusion within their communities,” Region Nine Consultant Julie Hawker said.

Keynote speakers were present for the event, such as Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan. Flanagan’s principles of her career work are giving back particularly to children and families of color, American Indians, low income and working people.

“I came here today to Southern Minnesota to talk about the need to ensure that everything we are doing is through an equity lens. That diversity and inclusion should be very central to the work that we do. That there’s so much more we can do to make Minnesota more welcoming and inclusive through the leaders right here in the community,” said Flanagan.

Flanagan opened the floor to questions and listened to as attendees voiced their concerns on the topic.

That included requesting more diversity in leadership roles in schools and government positions.

The day served as a day of networking between groups to learn how to find tools in their community and to increase diverse equity.

View the KEYC article and video.

Lt. Gov. Flanagan calls for more inclusive communities

At southern Minnesota’s first summit focused specifically on equity, Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan called on area leaders to foster welcoming and inclusive communities.

Flanagan, a White Earth Band of Ojibwe member, gave the summit’s afternoon keynote Friday at St. Peter High School, while also describing what she and Gov. Tim Walz are doing to promote equity statewide.

“Our population makeup, our communities and our workforce continue to become more and more diverse, and it is the fabric that makes us who we are as a state,” she said.

 

Partner organizations convened the summit in part to highlight what communities in southern Minnesota are already doing so more places can follow suit.

“There’s a lot of great things that are already happening,” said Nicole Griensewic Mickelson, executive director at Region Nine Development Commission. “We’re trying to share those stories across communities, across sectors so everyone can take away and learn from one another and see what is working.”

The commission organized the event alongside the University of Minnesota Extension Center for Community Vitality and the Greater Mankato Diversity Council. All are involved in equity work in the region, with the commission’s Rural Equity Learning Community program an example. The program drew leaders from several communities for monthly workshops on inclusiveness and diversity.

Attendees took part in panels and breakout sessions on topics ranging from inclusion in the workplace to uncovering hidden biases during the hiring process. Representatives from area businesses, nonprofits and government bodies led various sessions.

Read the full Free Press article.

Public invited to City Hall for unveiling of Lake Crystal’s Strategic Economic Development Plan

LAKE CRYSTAL, Minn. (KEYC) — The public is invited to join the City of Lake Crystal and Region Nine Development Commission (RNDC) for a public meeting highlighting Lake Crystal’s Strategic Economic Development Plan from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Nov. 6.

The meeting will be hosted in the Community Room at Lake Crystal’s City Hall, located at 100 East Robinson Street.

The event will showcase the plan and allow for developers and the public to discuss the next steps and implementation process of the plan.

“We are excited to present this strategic plan to the residents and stakeholders of the City of Lake Crystal,” City Administrator Taylor Gronau said. “With the plan complete, the City of Lake Crystal, Lake Crystal Economic Development Authority and its partners will have a roadmap to grow Lake Crystal and improve the quality of life for its residents.”

The Lake Crystal Strategic Economic Development Plan is described as “the result of a seven-month initiative between RNDC and the City of Lake Crystal that creates a comprehensive picture of Lake Crystal’s local economy, position, and reputation within the region. The plan incorporated public engagement and feedback that allowed RNDC to verify findings, test assumptions, and uncover additional challenges or opportunities that the city may face.”

This event is free and open to the public.

View the KEYC article.

Public Meeting set for Lake Crystal’s Strategic Economic Development Plan

The Lake Crystal Strategic Economic Development Plan is the result of a seven-month initiative between RNDC and the City of Lake Crystal that creates a comprehensive picture of Lake Crystal’s local economy, position, and reputation within the region. The plan incorporated public engagement and feedback that allowed RNDC to verify findings, test assumptions, and uncover additional challenges or opportunities that the city may face.

RNDC and the City of Lake Crystal will hold a public meeting on November 6, 2019 from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the City Hall community room, 100 E. Robinson St., Lake Crystal, MN 56055, to showcase the plan as well as discuss next steps and implementation.

“We are excited to present this strategic plan to the residents and stakeholders of the City of Lake Crystal,” shared Lake Crystal City Administrator, Taylor Gronau. “With the plan complete, the City of Lake Crystal, Lake Crystal Economic Development Authority and its partners will have a roadmap to grow Lake Crystal and improve the quality of life for its residents.”

“Lake Crystal is an important city for the region and exemplifies the critical components for future success, forward thinking, and strong leadership. RNDC has enjoyed working with the City of Lake Crystal through this seven-month long process of developing a strategic economic development plan, and we hope the plan can help Lake Crystal achieve great growth in the future. Lake Crystal is much more than a small town – it is a highly educated workforce, an attractive destination, and an untapped potential for future investments,” shared Executive Director of RNDC, Nicole Griensewic Mickelson.

View the KTOE article.

Waseca receives grant to help address employment gap

MANKATO, Minn. (KEYC) – Nearly two years after Waseca’s largest employer shut down, the city hopes to use new grant funds to help with its employment gap.

Quad Graphics closed its Waseca plant at the end of 2017, leaving more than 300 workers without jobs.

In an effort to fill the hole left behind, the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration has awarded the city more than $395,000.

The funds will be used to hire a Recovery Coordinator. The person hired for the three-year position will be responsible for reducing unemployment, recruiting and attracting new workers.

Around $203,000 was also awarded to Region Nine Development Commission for a planning grant to investigate the feasibility of a possible Manufacturing Resource Center in Waseca.

View the KEYC article.

Waseca gets grant to combat job loss due to Quad Graphics closure

WASECA — The city of Waseca is receiving nearly $396,000 from the U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration to hire a recovery coordinator to help restore jobs lost as a result of the Quad Graphics closure.

Quad Graphics, formerly Brown Printing, closed at the end of 2017. About 350 workers lost their jobs at the Waseca plant where special interest publications and journals were printed.

 

The primary objectives for the recovery coordinator will be reducing unemployment and underemployment, business recruitment, and promotion of the workforce and industrial assets in Waseca, according to a news release from the city. The position will be in place for three years.

In addition, nearly $204,000 has been awarded to Region Nine Development Commission from the Economic Development Administration for a planning grant to investigate the feasibility of a Manufacturing Resource Center in Waseca.

The purpose of the resource center initially would be to build connections within the region between manufacturers and suppliers with the intent that innovations and efficiencies will increase and new opportunities be created, the release said.

 

As needs are identified, the Manufacturing Resource Center would bring expertise to help solve problems and capitalize upon new ventures.

The center would be regional, serving southern Minnesota.

Region Nine Development Commission worked closely with the city to develop the project concepts and craft the successful applications.

“Region Nine Development Commission is excited to see the EDA’s investments in the city of Waseca and their opportunity zone designation. We look forward to continuing our collaboration with the city of Waseca through the planning of the feasibility study for a Manufacturing Resource Center and offering any support we can for the economic recovery coordinator once they have been hired,” commission Executive Director Nicole Griensewic Mickelson said in a statement.

View the Free Press article.

First-Ever Southern Minnesota Equity Summit Held Nov. 1st

Region Nine Development Commission, in partnership with University of Minnesota Extension for Community Vitality and the Greater Mankato Diversity Council and generous support from the Bush Foundation, Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community, Mankato Area Foundation, and Saint Peter Public Schools, will host the first ever Southern Minnesota Equity Summit on November 1, 2019 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. in Saint Peter at the High School.

The Southern Minnesota Equity Summit will host keynote speakers Jane Leonard, President of Growth & Justice, and Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan as well as an Equity Innovation Panel with panelists from the Bush Foundation, Mankato Public Safety, St. James – United Cultures, Northfield Health Communities Initiative (NHCI), Greater Mankato Diversity Council, and Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS).

View the KTOE article.

Growing the local foods economy

This time of year, the farmers’ markets are rich with local vegetables, berries, meats, breads and jams. It’s a visual testament to the abundance of our region and the ever-growing local foods economy that is sustained by consumers who want to buy directly from area farmers. At Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation (SMIF), we have been supporting the local foods economy in our 20-county region through a variety of initiatives over the years.

In 2013 the FEAST! Local Foods Network was launched with the purpose of supporting local food producers and food-makers by boosting access to financing, resources and peer-to-peer learning opportunities. The network, which started with a partnership between SMIF and Renewing the Countryside, is comprised of more than 60 organizations, businesses, and individuals committed to growing a sustainable, local and regional food system.

One of the outcomes of this network is the Grow a Farmer Fund. The fund, which was supported by more than 250 generous donors and is managed by SMIF, offers low interest loans of up to $15,000 to help small scale farmers in SMIF’s region purchase the equipment and supplies they need to be successful. EJ Mushrooms in Kasota used the loan to convert a detached garage into a year-round mushroom farm. Hare and Tortoise Farm in Zumbro Falls used the loan to scale up their operations by installing a waterway and purchasing a root washer for their vegetable farm. Other Grow a Farmer loan clients include Antonia Navarro (a chicken farmer in Faribault) and two additional vegetable farms – My Sweet Greens MN in Zumbrota and Pearson Organics in Oronoco. SMIF also participates in support of another fund, the Minnesota Good Food Access Fund, which provides grants, technical assistance and loans to enterprises working to increase access to healthy and affordable food.

The FEAST! Local Foods Network also supports farm and food entrepreneurs through technical assistance. Each month, a Local Foods Peer Group meets to discuss business challenges and successes, learning from each other in order to grow their businesses. A program called FEAST! Smart Start Initiative provides customized coaching for business owners. In 2018, SMIF provided grants to Region Nine Development Commission and the Sustainable Farming Association of MN (SFA), Cannon River Chapter to expand this program. Region Nine worked with entrepreneurs over a seven-month period to support them in building a network of relationships that will help grow their businesses and expand operations. The SFA Chapter used the grant to launch a regional brand, Cannon Valley Grown, which identifies food produced in the Cannon River watershed.

SMIF Press Release.