Region Nine Delegation to North Rhine-Westphalia


December 2-10, 2022

Münster, Saerbeck, Düsseldorf

An international learning exchange to share best practices in clean energy and building more welcoming communities. 

North Rhine-Westphalia calls itself the “diversity state” due to its rural, industrial, and multi-culture population. The state has multiple communities involved with the international exchange with communities from Minnesota, Climate Smart Municipalities, and are leaders in developing clean energy initiatives at a local level.

United Cultures was created to build a thriving and welcoming community for residents in St. James. Its goal is to create a culture of inclusion by providing spaces to grow through sharing, learning, and collaboration and remove barriers to equal opportunities.

This delegation is made possible through support provided by the BUSH Foundation.

Follow the delegation on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn using #R9inNRW #Exchange #CleanEnergy #WelcomingCommunities, and read our daily digests below!

R9 NRW Day 01: Münster

R9 NRW Day 02: Münster and Senden

R9 NRW Day 03: Saerbeck

Learn more about the delegation:

Press Kit:



An Interview With a Fellow

Alejandra Web

Written by Brianna Sanders, RNDC Intern

Alejandra Bejarano, a current fellow at Region Development Commission (RNDC), grew up in Bogotá, Colombia. She got a Bachelor of Business Administration in marketing and management from Dalton State College. Alejandra first joined Mankato’s community in 2018 when she became a graduate student at Minnesota State University – Mankato studying public administration. At MSU, there is a large international student community that helped Alejandra adapt to the new city and feel a sense of belonging. Along the way, she also made strong connections with community members which helped make her feel like a welcomed part of the community. She accepted an internship at RNDC during her master’s degree to get some practical experience in the area. She was recommended to look into opportunities at RNDC by a friend and felt like RNDC had various exciting projects. The variety of projects helped her get a lot of experience in multiple areas. Alejandra enjoyed working on the SPRINT Challenge. Through a collaboration with MSU-M and RNDC, this funding opportunity would establish a regional Economic Recovery Center to help with the crisis caused by the pandemic and to support stakeholders in sustaining economic resiliency. She was able to use her knowledge from her schooling for this project and was able to learn about the grant application process.


Alejandra became a Lead for Minnesota (LFM) Fellow in the summer of 2020. As a LFM Fellow, Alejandra has two components to the fellowship. She works on projects for RNDC and then also some work for the fellowship. Lead for Minnesota is a two-year-long, paid fellowship that places dynamic and diverse leaders, between the ages of 21 to 30, in communities within their home state to work with local, public institutions to improve community well-being. Fellows are given the opportunity to work within public institutions, like RNDC, to gain access to and an understanding of the roles needed to grow and support a vibrant community. She is given tasks, like the listening tour, to look at the community needs and to come up with a project and initiative to help tackle some of the needs in the community. There are also training, networking, and meetings with other fellows. In the future, Alejandra wants to continue to work on projects that impact the community positively. It has been rewarding for her to see the results of the initiatives and the impact that some of the projects have on small communities. The work at RNDC has been very rewarding for Alejandra. Overall, she plans to work in a field that will have a positive impact on communities.

Region9 4c Logo Screenshot 2021 03 31 The Fellowship Lead For Minnesota


Choose your local farmers’ market


Still looking for a New Year’s resolution?

If you haven’t decided on a New Year’s resolution yet, you hope to lead a healthier life, and you want to support the local economy, this year choose to shop at the local farmers’ market.

For the past 40 years, the Mankato Farmers’ Market has become a primary provider of locally grown foods to most residents in the region. It offers a wide variety of products from fresh eggs, meats, produce, and fruits to fresh flowers, plants, baked and homemade products, fruit preserves, artisanal handicrafts, and more.

Despite all the challenges and disruptions caused by the pandemic to food supply chains, the Mankato Farmers’ Market continues to provide community members access to healthy food. The farmers’ market also promotes sustainability by requiring vendors “to make or produce their goods wholly or substantially from within 40 miles of Mankato.” Moreover, contrary to the popular myth, products at farmers’ markets are affordable and often priced the same or even less than at conventional grocery stores. Some other reasons to visit the local farmers’ market is that it helps residents to come together and connect while supporting local family farms and artisans. It also keeps the money you spend in your local economy, and it is a local source of jobs.  


Keep yourself accountable to this resolution by marking your calendars for the farmers’ market winter season dates. During the winter season, the market convenes at 281 Saint Andrews Drive (Drummers Garden Center). Their next event is February 6th, from 10:00 to noon. During the regular season (May-October), the market meets at 1895 Adams Street (Best Buy parking lot).

For students, faculty, and staff at Minnesota State University Mankato interested in visiting the farmers’ market at their Best Buy location, there are free shuttle buses available on Saturday. These bus services are open to the public for $1.50.

This year don’t forget your local farmers’ market when setting your New Year’s resolution list!


By: Alejandra Bejarano, Lead for Minnesota Fellow

Sources: Mankato Farmers’ Market. (2021). About Us. Mankato Farmers’ Market.

Get to Know St. James China Restaurant Owner, David Ouyang

By: Brianna Sanders, Region Nine Intern
News Center  A popular restaurant in St. James, MN is the China Restaurant or better known as China Dave’s by the locals. At the restaurant you will often be met by David Ouyang, the owner of China Restaurant since 1994. David came to the United States from Taiwan when he was 26 years old. He and his wife first decided to open up the China restaurant after he worked in Fairmont for a few years. He chose St. James to build a business because there was opportunity there for someone with less experience. In Mankato, where he lives, you often need education in business or experience in order to have a successful restaurant. He started the restaurant to give his five children an education and feels grateful for the opportunities that he and his children have. All five of them have been very successful and have all gone on to get a degree from a university. When opening a business in a rural city, David felt welcomed by the community and has felt like St. James has become part of his family. He has been able to watch children in the community grow up which he says is one of his favorite parts about the community. Although he felt at times it can be isolating in a rural community being only a few people of Asian descent in the area, he feels grateful for the support and for the future of his family. For other new business owners, he thinks that there needs to be more financial support and opportunities and thinks that people within the community can help new business owners succeed.

Rural Engagement Initiative

The Rural Engagement Initiative (REI) is a group of young professionals, led by Region Nine interns and fellows, that look at topics of diversity, inclusion, equity, and sustainability. REI aims to highlight community members, businesses, and community projects and practices within South Central Minnesota that support community, economic, and sustainable development. The group will be presenting new and engaging content each month that will resonate with all age groups. REI believes that engagement from all community members will not only help, but is essential, for regional resiliency and growth.

2020 Annual Performance Report

The Region Nine Development Commission’s Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) Annual Performance Report (APR) for Blue Earth, Brown, Faribault, Le Sueur, Martin, Nicollet, Sibley, Waseca, and Watonwan counties is in development and is in the process of being approved. The CEDS is posted in accordance to EDA’s regulations found in the Federal Register at 13 C.F.R. part 303.

As the designated Economic Development District by the U.S. Economic Development Administration for the nine-county area of South Central Minnesota, Region Nine is required to coordinate and develop the CEDS for the region every five years and submit a supplemental annual performance report for subsequent years.

 To view the 2020 APR, click here.