Iron Range Tourism Bureau – Blandin Broadband Community Reflection (St Louis County)

The Blandin Foundation recently published an inclusive assessment of the last cohort of Blandin Broadband Communities. Including a segment on Iron Range Tourism Bureau…

The Iron Range Tourism Bureau (IRTB) BBC is the first  ”community of interest” to participate in the program as a Blandin Broadband Community.  IRTB is a tourism-support association that serves the communities of Hibbing, Chisholm, Buhl, Mountain Iron, Virginia, Eveleth, Fayal Township, Gilbert, Biwabik, Aurora, Embarrass, and Hoyt Lakes. The IRBC team‘s goal as a BBC is to help small tourism businesses better use the internet and technology to attract new visitors to the area.

Attracting and retaining workforce is a big concern for tourism businesses. To address this challenge the team is implementing two projects in 2020: a “local pride” campaign promoting activities and opportunities available on the Range, and a “talent attraction” microsite targeted at people considering moving to the area.

Another priority for the IRTB BBC was to improve the digital marketing and social media skills of the region’s tourism businesses through one-on-one trainings, professional design services, and equipment upgrades.

Arts is a great asset throughout the region, but not always very visible to the general public. IRTB is showcasing the work of area artists and cultural opportunities in the region by creating a digital map8. The map will help raise resident and visitor awareness of arts opportunities, increase the audience for cultural events and improve artists’ ability to market their work.

Finally, the IRTB team seeks to promote the region’s mining identity for tourism by creating a virtual reality mine tour. Mine tours used to be quite popular on the Iron Range, but for a number of reasons they aren’t offered any more. Both residents and visitors are interested in the mining process, and this will provide them with an entertaining and educational virtual experience.

Added story…

The small business marketing assistance allowed 15 nonprofits to purchase equipment and services vital to their success. Items such as scanners, website design, and software purchases allowed the Virginia Area Historical Society, Lyric Center for the Arts, the Tourist Center Seniors and others increase their visibility and meet their organization’s goals.

-Beth Pierce, Iron Range Tourism Bureau

East Range Joint Powers – Blandin Broadband Community Reflection (St Louis County)

The Blandin Foundation recently published an inclusive assessment of the last cohort of Blandin Broadband Communities. Including a segment on East Range Joint Powers…

The East Range Joint Powers Board (ERJPB) is a collaboration and partnership between the Iron Range cities of Aurora, Biwabik, and Hoyt Lakes, and the Town of White. The four communities share a school district and pool their time and financial resources toward joint services, facilities, and programs and initiatives.

Large portions of the East Range area are un- or underserved or available broadband services are prohibitively expensive, particularly outside of denser population centers or towns. To address this need, the towns served by the ERJPB have joined with fellow IRBCs Laurentian Chamber of Commerce and Tower to conduct a feasibility study to determine what options exist to expand broadband services in the region.

Enhancing public Wi-Fi was a priority for these communities. The ERJPB team installed hotspots at the Biwabik City Center and at the libraries in Hoyt Lakes and Aurora.

The ERJPB BBC team increased their region’s capacity to work better together by significantly upgrading the partnership’s website7 to include a shared community calendar and repository for information on the region’s broadband enhancement efforts.

The ERJB team is working directly with local businesses to assess and address their technology training and planning needs, including with the help of a new portable training lab developed to increase the ability of local employers, educators, economic development organizations, clubs, associations and others to offer computer, technology, community and professional education and training to individuals and groups across the region.

ERJB team also has been active in statewide broadband advocacy efforts, including by engaging their local business community in making the case for the need to improve broadband access and adoption. The Mesabi East school district is large and spread out, meaning students spend a lot of time on buses. The BBC is equipping four longer-haul buses with Wi-Fi so students can do schoolwork while traveling. They are also helping the school district better communicate with its families and community by improving its communication infrastructure.

As part of an effort to improve the region’s tech literacy and inspire knowledge workers, the team supported a project to offer STEM education for all ages. They aim to have students teach older adults how to use mobile devices. They’ll also schedule classes at the library on coding and robotics, create kits to check out with preloaded apps for robotics and coding, and will acquire and manage a supply of devices to be checked out for those who don’t have cell phones or tablets of their own.
Lastly, the ERJB team implemented a few projects centered around modernizing the region’s emergency services, including updating laptops for use in squad cars and ambulances, and for EMS training.

Koochiching Technology Initiative – Blandin Broadband Community Reflection

The Blandin Foundation recently published an inclusive assessment of the last cohort of Blandin Broadband Communities. Including a segment on Koochiching Technology Initiative…

The Koochiching Technology Initiative (KTI) coalesced in 2018 out of a longstanding and growing recognition of the importance of internet access and skills throughout the community, which includes both Koochiching County and neighboring Kabetogama region of St. Louis County.

Infrastructure is a major concern for the Koochiching County area. With a small and sparse population, affordable internet service in the region is scarce. The situation became more dire, when a major employer in International Falls decided to close their office and transition their employees to work remotely. Many of the employees did not have adequate broadband connections to work effectively at home. The community responded.

One idea that sparked enthusiasm right away was to open a co-working space for use by the town’s displaced employees, as well as by the many local tourists who increasingly want to stay connected while on vacation.

This conversation led to the creation of Ballan’s iSpace, a converted furniture store downtown. This family-run business, a long-time fixture on main street, had been up for sale for years. When the family heard about the BBC team’s interest in developing a co-working space in International Falls, they decided to convert the building themselves – without financial assistance from the BBC.  The tastefully appointed converted space today is available 24/7 to members. Amenities include Wi-Fi, printing services, dining and event space, and a variety of office space options. As a component of the BBC program, the town’s Borderland Young Professionals group is offering scholarships to income-qualifying Ballan’s iSpace patrons.

KTI funded a record total of seventeen projects during the two-year project period, many addressing public internet access, training, opportunities for education and networking around technology and marketing, and promoting the area as a technologically vibrant place to live, work and visit.

In fall of 2018 KTI was invited to participate in the Feasibility Charrette activity at the Border to Border Broadband Conference. They were paired with Paul Bunyan Communications, and together over the course of two days the community team and the telephone coop staff went through a mini-feasibility study process. Conversations continued through the fall and winter.  With Blandin support, the community surveyed potential internet subscribers in the region. Based on this work Paul Bunyan applied for, and was awarded, grant funding to expand services in the Kabetogama region of St. Louis County.

Added story:

“The Blandin Broadband Community program has been a powerful catalyst and inspiration for us to form a strong and diverse team. We have allocated our Blandin funds across a strong slate of local projects which have launched us on a path to becoming our own version of an “intelligent community.” Our engagement with local leaders and stakeholders is strong and we thank you for your partnership in getting it all started.”

~James Yount, Small Town Tech, Inc. & Koochiching Technology Initiative

Swift County– Blandin Broadband Community Reflection

The Blandin Foundation recently published an inclusive assessment of the last cohort of Blandin Broadband Communities. Including a segment on Swift County…

Swift is another fiber to the premise county, having received Border-to-Border Broadband grant funding in 2015. They currently rank third in the state based on the 2026 state speed goals. Swift County applied for the BBC program to make sure their residents, businesses, and schools have the tools and knowledge to utilize broadband effectively. How can they do things better, smarter, cheaper and faster?

Swift County’s economy is heavily reliant on agriculture. Their largest employer manufactures sprayers and cotton pickers. When assessing local work force needs, the ability to offer vocational training locally, particularly welding, was identified as a major priority. The steering team investigated a variety of possible options and in the end partnered with Ridgewater College in Willmar to offer a four-week course utilizing online classes in addition to onsite training. Students were provided a computer if they needed one. There was a waiting list for the class, and 16 of the 20 participants completed the program. Welding jobs in the area start at $18-22/hour, which represents a significant improvement in wages for participants.

Youth was another focus for swift County.  The BBC team worked with Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg Community Ed to offer a summer STEM Camp for 80 students entering 2nd through 7th grade. Their goal was to provide a low-cost opportunity for kids to learn about robotics, computer coding, technology, engineering, and math. The camp was a success, in fact they exceeded their expectations when it came to registrations.

Another youth and family-focused project was creation of a Swift County 4-H Extension App. The goal of the app is to connect members and families across the county, provide quick and easy access to program updates and events, and generally promote community connectedness. Benefits of the app are wide-ranging, including easier clean-up at the fairgrounds, since fewer people will be misplacing their paper fair booklets! It will also allow for push notifications for events and schedule changes.

Swift County also helped four small cities without websites develop them, provided hands-on digital marketing consulting to seven small business owners, convened a digital marketing round-table group for community and economic development organizations, and developed a system for taking online campsite reservations.

Cannon Falls – Blandin Broadband Community Reflection (Goodhue County)

The Blandin Foundation recently published an inclusive assessment of the last cohort of Blandin Broadband Communities. Including a segment on Cannon Falls…

Recognizing the need to adapt, evolve and take advantage of opportunities to modernize and grow, Cannon Falls Economic Development authority (EDA) applied to the BBC program and chose the school district as its physical boundary. The city is located just over thirty miles south of Minneapolis/St. Paul, making it a desirable place to visit, conduct business and reside.

One of the team’s objectives was to address the problem that not all families in the school district have access to the same level of broadband service: the city of Cannon Falls is served by a fiber-to-the-home network, while those in more rural parts of the district struggle with poor service.  BBC Steering Team members are using broadband surveys to talk with local internet providers about the need to improve internet access.

The BBC team also has successfully distributed fifty refurbished computers from PCs for People to income-qualifying families with school-age children and nonprofits in need in the area.

Recognizing that everyone in the community would benefit from an increased level of digital literacy and sophistication of internet use, the project has included community education and training classes, such as in digital marketing.

Working in partnership with many organizations across the community the EDA has built a local foods infrastructure that includes a farmer’s market, restaurants, meat processing, event space, and more.  Cannon Falls used the Blandin Broadband Community program as an opportunity to build on and amplify this success by creating and implementing a 21st century marketing and promotion plan for the initiative and brand.

Another focus for the community is senior engagement. The BBC group helped purchase Virtual Reality (VR) headsets and software subscriptions for two senior care centers in the area, enabling residents to take virtual field trips around the world. VR systems are being used for wellness, stress reduction, and for the calming effect that guided imagery and ambient sound can have on improving quality of life. There is growing research to show virtual reality helps the elderly cope with depression and anxiety.

Other projects funded for implementation in the Cannon Falls area include a (digital) relaunch of the elementary school newspaper and a new co-working center downtown.

Community celebrates $5.2 million in USDA funding in Brainerd

I’m all about Brainerd today because local news was all about Brainerd yesterday – and their recent $5.2 million funding from the USDA ReConnect program. WDIO TV reports on the local reaction to the funding…

People choose to live in the country for a reason. But some make sacrifices, like going without high speed internet.

That’s about to change for about 700 households in the Cherry area and east of the airport in Hibbing. “I’ve got goosebumps,” shared Kip Borbiconi, who lives in Cherry.

A $7 million dollar broadband expansion project will break ground this spring. This has been a huge effort for several years on behalf of many stakeholders. A $5.2 million dollar grant from the USDA that was just announced means it can move forward.

They talk about the infrastructure…

It will be built by CTC, in partnership with the Northeast Service Cooperative. “We’ve already been talking to residents and businesses, to see what we can offer. Pre-sign up is going on now,” explained Anita Hollenhorst, from CTC. “Once the ground thaws, we will start digging.” ….

The NESC already has 1200 miles of fiber line they are operating. The IRRRB, St. Louis County, local school districts, and others have helped along the way. Executive Director for RAMS, Steve Giorgi, said, “Expanding broadband has been a priority for us. We wouldn’t be here without Blandin and the IRRRB recognizing how important this is for the Range.”

Give a nice nod to Blandin Broadband Communities initiative in the area…

The Blandin Broadband Community Group helped with a feasiblity study to get the grant going. Tom Whiteside was part of the group. “This is going to bring the Iron Range in to the future,” Whiteside said.

And talk about where to go for more info…

There are open houses scheduled for the end of February at the Cherry Town Hall. February 27th in the evening and February 28th in the morning. More details to come later.

http://www.goctc.com/cherry/

Need a broadband adoption project idea? Matrix of Blandin broadband projects 2018-2020

Blandin Foundation has just posted an updated version of the Blandin Broadband Communities project matrix. It includes brief descriptions of projects supported by Blandin and deployed by BBC participants. I’ll paste an abbreviated form of the matrix below – but it’s easier to read on the Blandin website

Community Project Name Project Description
Cannon Falls Cannon Falls Local Foods Initiative Project support to define, develop and position a brand that promotes Cannon Falls as the local food capital of Minnesota emphasizing the recreational, scenic, and healthy living assets of the community.
Koochiching Technology Initiative Backus Conferencing Upgrades Project support to upgrade interactive videoconferencing equipment and capabilities at the Backus Community Center.
Koochiching Technology Initiative Internet for the Homeless Project support to improve internet access at Servants of Shelter, which provides emergency shelter to individuals and families in Koochiching County. The upgraded capacity will allow clients to research employment, education and housing opportunities.
Koochiching Technology Initiative KCC TV Local Media: Local Lives Project support to increase locally-generated and relevant media content that reflects the lived experience and perspective of county residents available on Koochiching County Community Television by building a coalition of students and other residents trained to use cameras and editing equipment.
Koochiching Technology Initiative Birchdale Coworking Space Project support to promote entrepreneurship and improve internet access and use by adding a co-working space to the Birchdale Community Building in the unincorporated community of Birchdale. Residents can reserve the internet-enabled facility to conduct business, host meetings or attend online classes. The space will utilize the community building’s internet and other facilities.
Koochiching Technology Initiative Coworking Meetups Project support for creating a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship by helping Ballan’s iSpace, a new co-working facility in downtown International Falls, offer relevant programming in partnership with the International Falls Public Library and Borderland Young Professionals. Partners will host weekly gatherings of mutual support to share knowledge, build skills, network, and inspire one another.
Koochiching Technology Initiative The Library Reaches Into the Community Project support to increase broadband adoption and use by helping the International Falls Public Library expand its services in the community, including through improved Wi-Fi access at Smokey Bear Park, six LinkedIn Learning mobile internet subscriptions for check-out, expanded reference service to  texting and LiveChat, and the addition of  Adobe Creative Cloud software for use by patrons in the library’s new recording studio.
Rock County Library Hotspots Project support to provide five mobile Wi-Fi hotspots for check-out free-of-charge to library patrons.
Rock County Blue Mound Towers Computer Lab Project support to provide computer access to tenants at the Blue Mound Tower, a 70-unit income-based housing facility in Luverne. Tenants will be encouraged to attend computer training classes at the Rock County Senior Center or Community Library.
Rock County School Bus Wi-Fi Implementation Project support to improve public internet access and use by installing wireless routers on ten Luverne school buses and four Hills-Beaver Creek school buses, allowing student riders access to homework and projects via smart devices.
Rock County Educational Videos and Classroom Tech Training Project support to improve public digital literacy and technical sophistication by creating and publishing on the internet a series of locally contextualized and informed educational videos.
Rock County Sr. Center Computer Lab Project support to establish a six-computer lab in a newly renovated senior facility in Luverne.
Rock County Ag Tech Day Project support to design and host a day-long community workshop on various ag tech topics.
Rock County Community Ed Technology Upgrade Project support to purchase a quality laptop computer compatible with Community Ed’s wall-mounted flat screen TV, allowing instructors to demonstrate internet access, websites and other media for their students.
Rock County Additional PCs for People Computers Project support to purchase ten additional refurbished computers from PCs for People to distribute to community members in need.
Rock County County Fair Booth Project support to increase awareness of and engagement in Rock County’s Blandin Broadband Community projects through a booth at the Rock County Fair.
Rock County Social Media Optimization Project support to offer social media training and coaching to ten businesses and ten organizations in Rock County.
Rock County Blue Mound State Park Wi-Fi Project support to improve public access to the internet by providing free public Wi-Fi at Blue Mound State Park campground.
Rock County Hardwick Campground Wi-Fi Project support to improve public access to the internet by providing free public Wi-Fi at the Hardwick campground.
Rock County Hills Campground Wi-Fi Project support to improve public access to the internet by providing free public Wi-Fi at the Hills campground.
Rock County Magnolia Campground Wi-Fi Project support to improve public access to the Internet by providing free public Wi-Fi at the Magnolia campground.
Rock County Beaver Creek Baseball Field Wi-Fi Project support to improve public access to the Internet by providing free public Wi-Fi at the Beaver Creek baseball field and park.
Rock County SWMHC/Avera Health Distance Learning and Telemedicine Project support to improve access to distance learning and mental health care services through the purchase of telemedicine equipment.
Rock County Jasper Campground Wi-Fi Project support to improve public access to the Internet by providing free public Wi-Fi at the Jasper campground.
Rock County Technology Classes Project support to improve digital skills and literacy by offering a series of technology-focused community education classes based on community interests and needs.
Swift County Training for CNC and Welding Project support to offer a five-week Weld and Computer Numerical Control (CNC) certificate program to Swift County residents through a combination of online, classroom and shop experience.
Swift County Digital Marketing Consulting Project support to improve local business profitability by engaging seven small business owners (selected through an application process) in hands-on consulting to develop and implement affordable website and social media strategies, resulting in increased brand awareness and customer base.
Swift County Community Websites Project support to develop customized community profiles and websites for Swift County cities without current websites, including Clontarf, Danvers, DeGraff, and Holloway.
Swift County STEM Camp for Kids Project support for a low-cost summer STEM Camp for children entering 2nd through 7th grade utilizing proven curriculum provided by the National Inventors Hall of Fame to enhance kids’ skills in the areas of robotics, coding, and other STEM areas.
Swift County 4-H Extension Mobile App Project support to create a mobile app allowing r 4-H families across Swift County to easily access 4-H information and resources; including schedules, show programs, results, event sign-up, and training.
Swift County Digital Marketing for Community & Economic Dev. Orgs Project support to convene an ongoing peer communication/marketing roundtable where tools and best practices can be shared, and communication strategies aligned to strengthen community and economic development.
East Range Joint Powers Board Portable Training Lab Project support to develop a mobile training lab to provide computer/technology training and job search skills to East Range residents.
East Range Joint Powers Board (ERJPB) ERJPB Website Project support to create a new website to better inform the community about East Range Joint Powers Board and community activities, including the Blandin Broadband Community, with the goal of promoting cooperation across communities, creating a centralized point for information about telecommunications technology in the region, and raising awareness about ERJPB-supported broadband work on the East Range.
East Range Joint Powers Board East Range Business Retention and Expansion Visits Project support to solicit input from area business on their broadband familiarity, use, needs, etc.; and to seek to engage them in the BBC process, and strengthen the case for greater connectivity on the East Range.
East Range Joint Powers Board Public Wi-Fi Project support to improve internet access by expanding public Wi-Fi access in areas inside and outside of public buildings at the City of Biwabik, and libraries in the cities of Hoyt Lakes and Aurora.
Laurentian Chamber of Commerce Gilbert Campground Project support to improve public access to the internet through the installation of a fiber connection to the Gilbert Campground and of a free public internet access point.
Laurentian Chamber of Commerce Digital Marketing / Technology Audits for Area Businesses Project support to improve the online presence and profitability of ten local businesses by providing technical assistance, including an audit of the businesses’ current technology platforms, websites, and use of social media.
Laurentian Chamber of Commerce Chamber Technology Upgrades Project support to improve the ability of the Chamber of Commerce to host businesses and chamber members for meetings and events through the purchase of a new computer with upgraded software, projector, screen and a Bluetooth conferencing unit.
Laurentian Chamber of Commerce PCs for People Distribution Event Enhancement Project support to improve digital literacy skills of local residents through training, education and other support to the recipients of computers distributed by PCs for People as part of the Blandin Broadband Community Program.
Laurentian Chamber of Commerce Wi-Fi in the Parks Project support to improve public access to the internet by installing Wi-Fi hotspots in three public parks in the cities of Eveleth, Gilbert, and Virginia.
Laurentian Chamber of Commerce Small Business Saturday App Project support to improve small local business profitability on Small Business Saturday and throughout the year through the development of an app that shoppers can use to learn about local options and enable participating businesses to share promotional offers.
Laurentian Chamber of Commerce Virtual Interview Room Project support to increase employment opportunities for people using the Workforce Center by providing a remote interview cubicle with a computer, camera, and microphone. The equipment may also be used for training purposes, specifically on interview skills.
Laurentian Chamber of Commerce Interactive Television Project support to increase access to training by installing an interactive television (ITV) at the Workforce Center to allow staff and the public to videoconference, participate in remote trainings, increase training opportunities, reduce travel costs, etc.
Laurentian Chamber of Commerce Safe, Accessible Public Wi-Fi Project support to improve access to the internet by providing dedicated, comfortable, and safe spaces in three public locations in Eveleth where residents, visitors and guests can access Wi-Fi.
Laurentian Chamber of Commerce Wi-Fi on Buses in the Eveleth-Gilbert and Virginia Schools Project support to improve public internet access and use by installing Wi-Fi on school buses, allowing students who rely on school bus transportation access for school work.
Laurentian Chamber of Commerce Fayal Township Website Upgrade Project support to create a new, upgraded website for Fayal Township that will allow features such as a community calendar, forms and permit applications for download, and enable better communication between residents and Township officials.
Iron Range Tourism Bureau Internet Access Assessment Project support to conduct an assessment of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and challenges of internet connectivity at area attractions, lodging, campgrounds, and trails.
Iron Range Tourism Bureau Talent Attraction Microsite Project support to create and market a fun and informative microsite on Iron Range Tourism Bureau’s website that will provide needed information for those seeking to relocate to the area, including housing, daycare, what to expect during winter, etc.
Iron Range Tourism Bureau Local Pride Campaign Project support to launch a social marketing campaign to promote local pride and a positive sense of place.
Iron Range Tourism Bureau Small Business Trainings Project support to improve the technology and online marketing skills of tourism businesses to enhance their profitability through one-on-one trainings.
Iron Range Tourism Bureau Interactive Arts Map Project support to create an interactive online map to showcase and promote the work of local artists, cultural opportunities, and cultural sites in the region.
Iron Range Tourism Bureau Virtual Reality Mine Tour Project support to create an interactive, virtual mine tour experience so visitors can learn about the mining process and history via technology.
Tower EDA Workstation for Public Access Project support to improve public access to the internet by providing a workstation with a computer and printer in the new community room at the Breitung town hall.
Tower EDA Hoo Doo Point Campground Wi-Fi Project support to improve public access to the internet by providing Wi-Fi throughout Hoo Doo Point Campground.
Tower EDA Broadband Access to the Tower Depot and Farmer’s Market Project support to improve public access to the internet by providing Wi-Fi access to people using the Tower Depot for information, and to Farmer’s Market participants and visitors.
Tower EDA School and Community Connectivity Project support to improve digital literacy skills and technology use by creating and supporting a mobile computer lab and AV display for the Tower-Soudan Elementary School media center that will be accessible to the community as well as students.
Tower EDA Senior / Public / Student Access Computer Lab Project support to improve digital literacy skills and technology use by creating a 12-computer lab and AV display that can be used by the school, as an internet café for AEOA Senior Dining clients, and the general public through Tower-Soudan Community Ed classes and VCS after school parental involvement classes.
Tower EDA Interactive Field Trip and Music Lab Project support to improve digital literacy skills and training opportunities for students and the public by expanding the Vermilion School computer lab into a space that can be used for interactive educational and community education programming, virtual field trips, visits with scientists and writers, along with technology to create a digital music lab, including a digital piano and other instruments.
Tower EDA Smartboards in our Classrooms Project support to improve technology use by installing Smartboards in VCS classrooms, particularly math and science rooms, and to take full advantage of the new fiber optic capabilities to the school building.
Laurentian / Tower / East Range Laurentian-Tower-East Range (LTE) Broadband Feasibility Study Project support to explore options to expand broadband infrastructure and services by conducting a feasibility study throughout the Quad Cities / Tower / East Range JPB area. They will also use this process to identify potential partners to provide these services.
Aitkin County Wi-Fi Hotspot in Jacobson Community Center Project support to increase public access to the internet by installing a 25 megabit-per-second Wi-Fi hotspot in the Jacobson Community Center; a hub that hosts many local events and is an East Central Regional Library remote site.
Aitkin County High-Speed Broadband at LLCC Project support to install high-speed fiber optic broadband at the Long Lake Conservation Center, enabling higher internet speeds and increased educational programming.
Aitkin County Increase MyChart Usage at Riverwood Healthcare Center Project support to increase the use of the MyChart online patient portal amongst patients and caregivers at Riverwood Healthcare Center, which allows patients better access to their electronic health records, and to schedule appointments, contact their provider, view test results, monitor health maintenance, etc.
Aitkin County Enhance Interactive Community Conference Centers Project support to increase access to training and decrease meeting travel by enhancing and expanding the existing interactive capabilities at the well-used community conference centers in Aitkin and McGregor by adding interactive cameras to allow for onsite and offsite use.
Chisholm Wi-Fi Hotspots for Check-out Project support to increase students’ access to the internet at home by making hotspots available for check-out by students at the Chisholm Public School Library.
Chisholm Distance Learning Program Project support to improve Minnesota Discovery Center’s public outreach by establishing a distance learning program related to Iron Range history and natural history for remote audiences, including a mobile cart with video conferencing capabilities
Ely Google Local Listings Project support to create a website to showcase Ely to prospective residents, businesses, and visitors, including information on cost of living, the arts, restaurants, churches, business opportunities, infrastructure, etc.
Ely Community Building Skilllshares Project support to improve local business profitability through free professional training on internet and social media use offered through Ten Below Coworking.
Ely Proximity Beacons Project support to promote local events and businesses by using Wi-Fi enabled Bluetooth proximity beacons to deliver fun, interactive and unique experiences to park visitors.
Ely Ely through my Eyes Project support to kick-off a promotional video series with four episodes that highlight Ely through diverse stories of the unique characters found within the community.
Ely Arts Directory Project support to promote area artists by creating a web-directory that will link artists, art consumers, and material providers in an easy-to-access and easy-to-maintain website.
Ely Ely Meetup Project support to increase the sophistication of Ely’s web presence through the use of Meetup.com software by businesses and organizations to consolidate and post all community event listings online in one location.
Grizzlies (Bois Forte, Cook, Orr) Community Education Project support to increase internet access, digital literacy and technology use by providing adult education classes and public Wi-Fi at the Orr Center.
Grizzlies Wi-Fi Hotspots and Adult Education Project support to increase internet access, digital literacy and technology use by providing public Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi hotspots for check-out, and technology training and activities at the Cook Library.
Grizzlies QuickBooks Business Training Project support to improve business technology skills by providing technical training and support for small business owners on QuickBooks.
Grizzlies Native Video Archive Project support to establish a Native Video Archiving program with videos of various events so future generations can see, about learn about culturally significant activity throughout the reservation.
Grizzlies Grizzlies Sports Blog and Website Project support to provide digital literacy and skills to students and community members through training in journalism, web design, and blogging while promoting a sense of one-ness between the three communities in the North Woods school district by establishing a webpage designed specifically to cover all Grizzlies sporting events and programs.
Hibbing Aging in Place Through Technology Project support to increase internet use by utilizing smart home technology to create environmental control and enhance safety and security within homes to allow seniors to successfully age in place.
Hibbing Public Housing / Downtown Mesh Wi-Fi Network Project support to increase public access to the internet by providing affordable Wi-Fi to up to 60 low-income families at the public housing facility, with the potential to provide free access in public areas and to businesses in the downtown area within two blocks of the facility.
Hibbing Monthly Business Meetup Meetings Project support to increase the profitability of Hibbing area businesses by offering free monthly meetups with paid facilitators that focus on topics such as entrepreneurship, financial management, human resources, marketing, workflow mgmt, and technology.
Hibbing iPads in Emergency Dept, Hibbing Fire Dept, and Ambulances Project support to provide critical visual connectivity between first responders and emergency department providers by placing iPads in the Fairview Range Emergency Room, six Hibbing Fire Dept vehicles, three Nashwauk ambulances, and two Chisholm ambulances.
Hibbing Serenity House iPad Project support to provide internet access to patients and family members visiting Hibbing for cancer treatments by offering two iPads and a hotspot at Serenity House.
Mt. Iron-Buhl Internet Upgrades Project support to increase internet access and digital literacy skills by expanding Wi-Fi throughout the Mesabi Family YMCA facility, offering science and technology programs for youth, and through implementing the Open Y platform which allows for more up-to-date website, apps, etc.
Mt. Iron-Buhl Environmental Community Learning Center Project support to invite and encourage students and community members to engage with technology to enrich their environment learning by establishing an outdoor learning lab with 12 GPS units, geocaching containers, a weather station, and a community greenhouse.
Mt. Iron-Buhl Technology Inspired Design Program Project support to improve digital literacy and technology skills by making the school’s STEM Lab available and accessible to the broader population, and to develop a multi-facetted approach to teaching students and community members about the endless creative possibilities of using the internet and design software.
Mt. Iron-Buhl Collaborative Community Journalism Project support to improve digital literacy and technology skills by showcasing the school’s technology to teach community members and students to develop and produce various types of videos, social media, advertisements, posters and more.
Mt. Iron-Buhl City Services App Project support to develop an app for of the City of Mountain Iron to provide a wide variety of information to its residents.

White Earth Tribal Council and local Blandin Broadband Community partner on local WiFi access

D-L Online reports on the Partnership between the local Blandin Broadband Community Initiative and White Earth Tribal Council  …

The council passed a resolution to partner with the Blandin Foundation to provide funding for community projects to help promote the access and use of broadband for members across the reservation. Examples given in the presentation were Wi-Fi access to community members, libraries, community workforce, and schools.

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.