Red Wing Ignite Wins $750K Federal Grant

Big congrats to Red Wing Ignite! Twin Cities Business Magazine reports…

Red Wing Ignite, a Red Wing economic development organization, was one of 44 organizations chosen to receive a grant through the U.S. Department of Commerce’s 2019 i6 Challenge and 2019 Seed Fund Support programs.

On Tuesday, the DOC announced that a total of $23 million will be distributed to the organizations, with other private and public sector sources contributing a total of $26 million in matching funds.

Red Wing Ignite was the only Minnesota organization to be named as a winner this year. Founded in 2013 by community leaders and billed as a project to “Ignite Innovation in Rural Minnesota,” the nonprofit connects entrepreneurs, investors, and advisors through events, collaborative work spaces, and varied programming, resource-sharing, and amenities.

As an i6 Challenge winner, Red Wing Ignite will receive $750,000 from the DOC, along with $940,602 matched by local entities in cash and in-kind support. It’s the most substantial grant in the organization’s history.

“This is a tremendous opportunity for a small town,” says Neela Mollgaard, Red Wing Ignite executive director. “It’s very validating that the work we’ve done over the last six years has been noticed and there’s dollars to continue to enhance and build on what’s been started.”

Blandin has provided some local match…

The non-profit’s capital contributors include the Blandin Foundation, City of Red Wing, Jones Family Foundation, Red Wing Shoe Foundation, Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation, and Goodhue County. More than a dozen other public and private entities offered letters of support or in-kind commitments.

Strut Your Stuff Tour in Swift County – hybrid welding classes, 4H app, STEM for kids and more!

We ended the Blandin Broadband tour this week in Kerkhoven, in Swift County. It was fun to hear about new projects such as a free, 4-week welding class. The class is half online and half in person but they graduated 13 people, who are likely to have better jobs soon. Another project that caught my eye was a 4H App that they will be using at the county fair. Parents in the room nearly cheered to hear that there will be one organized place for schedules and updates and winning announcements. I foresee more 4H groups adopting that app as soon as it’s available.

You can learn all about those projects below. Unfortunately the video I took didn’t save. (Using Facebook Live to archive works about 90 percent of the time in my experience.)

4H App

We have Facebook and email to reach out to families. It’s OK but not great so we thought an App that’s a one-stop-shop at the Fair would be helpful. It’s a great way to connect and maybe save on printing.

We reached out to Iowa Extension to help. We are piloting the app for the U of M.

The response from 4H parents in the crowd indicates that this will be well used!! And folks are excited in the easier cleanup and knowing that there will “be enough copies” since apparently they run out. They can push our notifications.

There should be sufficient broadband on the county fairground to work. About 300 kids in Swift County are in 4H.

The cost to use the app software is $600 every 2 years. Then there’s the cost to be in Apple/Windows App stores.

CNH Weld Training

Used Tooling U via Ridgewater to offer free classes over 4 weekends. CNH donated welding equipment.

We got 20 applicants- 14 were certified. The students found it easy to use. We had PCs for People computers for people to use; but we didn’t need them. The hardest part was timing – it ended on prom weekend. The instructor was great.

We didn’t have firm requirements for students. We need to be on the same page with requirements. Age range was about 19-55.

There are a lot of companies in the area that need welders.

We would do this program again – but we’d need grant support because it is expensive. Final budget was about $40,000 – or $3000/graduate.

A traveling welder can make $60-70 an hour!

Community Websites

6 communities that previously didn’t have adequate websites.

All sites will be a part of a County website but can use their own URL.

It’s a wizard developed site but includes community calendar and e-commerce options. We can do reports using ESRI access.

We have encouraged community champions – often the mayor. SO we can customize based on any special ideas that make sense for an individual community.

Working on community marketing plans based on storytelling.

Digital Marketing for Business

Matching businesses with a consultant to help with all aspects of tech needs.
Currently working with the newspaper. The program is going well so far. She asks questions that we wouldn’t know to ask. We plan to work with the consultant for 4 hours.

There isn’t an hourly limit on consulting but they worked on a list of deliverables.
There are so many businesses that would benefit from this type of service, we just need to know how to convince them.

PCs for People

We have 28 families signed up for computers. We were going to align the computers with girls who had gone through horse training program that works on self improvement.

So now we might work on home empowerment program to match computers with new homeowners/renter and help new owners use the computers to access county pages and census.

We are still hoping to get something done this summer – but it’s difficult to work with schools in the summer.

STEM Camp for Kids

Camp is happening now. Partnered with Community Ed. Working with National Investors Hall of Fame. Kids love it. We surpassed the expectation for students.

There was a fee to use the curriculum. Teachers are paid. Everyone loves it! School opened up free space and we had some volunteers.

Total cost was about $5000

The challenge moving forward with broadband adoption programs is keeping the momentum. The key is creating programs that interest people.

Strut Your Stuff Tour in Rock County – Hotspots in libraries, buses and camping sites as well as programming

Yesterday I joined the Blandin crew in Rock County (Luverne, MN) to hear about fun activities happening in the area related to Rock County’s participation in the BBC (Blandin Broadband Communities) initiative. What’s interesting is the budgets that Rock County has been able to provide to us; some budgets are actual and some are planned. You can probably figure out which is which by context.

It’s been great to hear what’s going on in terms of getting everyone access where they need it. It’s funny to think of broadband on the campgrounds and parks but the age of wanting to go off the grid are gone. People want/need broadband for weather reports, safety into and in parks to allow vendors to sell items (for example at an art festival.) You can watch the meeting as it happened or read my notes below.

Library Hotspots (Total Budget $3,240) Continue reading

Strut Your Stuff Tour in Cannon Falls – using technology to build a food brand and more!

’m out with the Blandin crew talking to communities that are part of the BBC (Blandin Broadband Communities) initiative to hear about the great stuff they are going in their town. Today we visited with Cannon Falls. You can watch the meeting in its entirely or read the notes below.

Local Food Market – Cannon Roots Continue reading

Check out a hotspot from the Rock County library

Fun news for Rock County Library patrons (as found on their Facebook Page)…

The Rock County Library now has wifi hotspots to check out! We have five Verizon hotspots available for Rock County library card holders 18 years or older with cards in good standing (fees at $5 or below) to check out.

The hotspots check out for two weeks, can connect up to 15 devices per hotspot, and will work anywhere in the United States with Verizon coverage.

Our partnership with the Blandin Foundation and Rock County’s involvement as a Blandin Broadband Community has made this possible.

Assessing the Blandin Broadband Communities with the Mountain of Accountability Framework

The Blandin Foundation just released an assessment of the Blanidn Broadband Communities (BBC) initiative from January 2017 – June 2018, which is the period of one cohort experiencing the program. This cohort was a little different from past groups in that they were all from the Iron Range: Aitkin County, Chisholm, Ely, Grizzlies (Bois Forte, Cook, Orr), Hibbing and Mountain Iron-Buhl (in St Louis County).

The assessment of the 2017-18 cohort of six Iron Range Blandin Broadband Communities and associated broadband-related activities was written by staff as part of the foundation’s overall efforts to build an assessment system that answers the basic question: “What do we need to know to do better?” The report uses the foundation’s Mountain of Accountability framework to help discern and apply what they are learning.

You can check out the report from specifics and fun stories from each of the communities. Many of not most of the stories have already been shared in the blog, so I won’t repost here. Instead I think it’s interesting to look at their lessons learned. I am lucky to be a part of the broadband team. From inside the team I see how the frontlines, education and advocacy pieces fit in well together; there’s often a disconnect between those facets but when brought together I think they are most powerful…

Some lessons learned from bringing the lens of this Opportunity Statement to our work:

Building upon proven practices: Based on positive community feedback we continue to use an intense community engagement process that brings communities from goal setting to action within about 90 days, and likewise have retained the Intelligent Community Framework14 as a model for helping community leaders think holistically about technology-based economic and community development.

Leveraging Our Reputation and Relationships: We continue to recognize reputation and relationships as two of our program’s most valuable assets. Reputation for attracting additional resources (human, financial) and relationships as the force field that keeps people engaged.

Attracting Additional Passionate Partners: In adding these words to our statement, electric coops were top of mind. However, staff has had only modest success inspiring and supporting electric co-ops to play a bigger role in addressing Minnesota’s broadband needs. In looking ahead to 2019 we will revisit whether further investments in building relationships with electric co-ops is advisable, given limited progress made to date. One factor that argues against standing down, especially in light of the magnitude of the opportunity, is the simple notion of “if not us, who?”

Drive Collaborative Approaches: Where possible, Blandin staff seeks to fill a supporting rather than leading role in the work, understanding that everything we do is one more thing the community is not doing for itself (as in the regional policy meetings, where partners were conveners and hosts, and Blandin provided content expertise and gravitas).

Continue to influence and Inform Statewide Policy and Messaging: This element of the Opportunity Statement is key to Minnesota’s long-term success in meeting its broadband goals. Foundation staff are optimistic that the Minnesota Rural Broadband Coalition will step ever more competently into this role, so that Blandin can be part of the choir, rather than the leading voice.

 

 

 

BCBP Webinar — Thursday, March 15 from 3-4pm — Is the BBC Program Right for You?

Webinar – March 15 from 3-4pm
Is the BBC Program Right for You?
Register here

Blandin Foundation is now accepting applications for four new Blandin Broadband Communities, a program that supports rural community efforts to improve both access to and use of broadband that enhance community vitality.  Through a leadership development, vision and planning process, community leaders set priorities and develop strategies and projects to move their community forward. Learn more about about BBC application.

Join Bill Coleman of Community Technology Advisors and Blandin Foundation’s Mary Magnuson to learn more about the BBC program, including program processes requirements, grant opportunities, and the application process.