Role of broadband in bringing Koochiching County “back from brink of demographic doom”

MinnPost recently ran a story on the diminishing population in Koochiching County…

In the last 35 years, Koochiching County lost an estimated 4,845 people — more than a quarter of its 1980 population. In the next 35 years, it could lose nearly as many, according to new population projections from the Minnesota State Demographic Center.

Koochiching County isn’t alone. More than half of Minnesota counties are projected to lose population through 2050, based on calculations by Minnesota State Demographic Center. Most of them are in rural parts of the state, especially parts of northeastern, central, southeast and southwestern Minnesota. Meanwhile the seven-county Twin Cities metro area is projected to see the fastest growth, about 27 percent between 2015 and 2050.

The article outlines the efforts to reverse the trend – through diversification and attracting residents – by calling out to former residents who went away (perhaps for college) and might be persuaded to return. They are working on databases of former residents and using touch points like high school graduation to reach them.

The article doesn’t focus on the role of broadband – but it comes up – most prominently in the main story of one resident who returned…

RaeAnne Conat, 36, grew up among the pines, lakes and rivers of Koochiching County … Six years ago, she moved back to Koochiching County (population: less than 13,000), looking to be closer to family. There, she started Swanky Sweet Pea, a boutique that makes bath bombs, salts and soaps that are sold to thousands of retailers across the U.S. With the help of the Internet, Conat has grown the company from a small storefront in International Falls to a manufacturing facility in nearby Ranier with several full-time employees in the last half-decade.

I heard an interesting comment the other day – used to be the economic core communities were on the coasts, then by the rail roads. Now it seems like if you can get online you can make your own economic core community.

This entry was posted in economic development, MN by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

Librarian who follows rural broadband in MN and good uses of new technology (, hosts a radio show on MN music (, supports people experiencing homelessness in Minnesota ( and helps with social justice issues through Women’s March MN.

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