Cybersecurity Colloquium May 18 in Sartell

I thought this might be of interest to some – either to attend or to try to replicate in your area…

The House Small Business Committee recently held a hearing on the devastating effects cybersecurity incidents have on small businesses.  Some statistics that were reported include:

  • 60% of small companies close within six months of a cyberattack
  • 71% of cyberattacks occurred in companies with fewer than 100 employees in 2012
  • $32,000 was the average cost of a cyberattack in 2014

On May 18 you will have the opportunity to hear from experts on ways to protect yourself and your customers from cyberattacks at the Cybersecurity Colloquium in Sartell, MN.

Learn more and register at

“Entrepreneurs on Tap” series to connect small Iron Range businesses

I wanted to share for businesses on the Iron Range that might be interested – also as an idea for economic developers in other areas…

Small Iron Range businesses will learn about technology and social media strategies that can help grow business at a Thursday, May 11 forum at Minnesota Discovery Center in Chisholm.

“Entrepreneurs on Tap” is the first of at least three small business forums to be scheduled by the “Recharge the Range” Small Business Strategies action group.

The 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. forum, titled “Technology & Social Media to grow your business,” features a panel discussion led by Anna Anderson of Art Unlimited in Angora.

Three successful small businesses, represented by Mike Larson of Kondos Outdoors in Ely, Karin Woodman of 24hr Bookkeeper in Hibbing and RaeAnne Conat of Swanky Sweet Pea in International Falls, will be panelists.

The forum is an initiative stemming from four large “Recharge the Range” forums held in 2016.

“Cultivating and growing networks of like-minded small business owners is critical to our region and was a major need expressed in the Recharge the Range forums,” said Shawn Wellnitz, Entrepreneur Fund chief executive officer and a Recharge the Range Small Business Strategies action group host. “It’s also important to highlight the success stories at this event, so that other small business owners and entrepreneurs see what is possible in the region.”

Three primary themes aimed at helping small Iron Range businesses emerged from the large Recharge the Range forums:

– Strengthen and expand entrepreneur networks.
– Create and communicate a new narrative about entrepreneurs on the Iron Range.
– Connect and improve direct resources for entrepreneurs.

It’s hoped that up to 60 small business owners will attend.

“The Iron Range has a host of talented small business owners and innovative people,” said Wellnitz. “Connecting them with other business owners, resource providers, and fostering their growth is a critical first step with this event.”

Register for Entrepreneurs on Tap.


How can the Twin Cities become smart cities?

MinnPost recently an editorial from Mike O’Leary from  Ernst & Young LLP. He offers a three-pronged approach to becoming smart…


Big data is a term frequently thrown around when it comes to cities. But it’s much more than a buzzword. Big data allows government entities to take a granular look at their populations’ demands and behavioral patterns. As real-time data become more easily accessible through new data and analytics tools, governments are becoming more adaptable to meet their populations’ needs and more resilient against shocks, such as widespread disease or large-scale cyber attacks.

I would challenge governments to take this a step further by increasing their use of predictive models and behavioral approaches to policy to anticipate the needs of growing cities to become more proactive. Take transportation as an example. Data can allow government to predict commuter behaviors should autonomous buses become commonplace. If the predictive behavior looks positive, governments can make the decision to move forward with funding and create pro-autonomous bus policies.


One key question for corporations in the Twin Cities is how to use smart assets to drive superior return on investment. Smarter infrastructure, both physical and social, is a key component for smart cities. The real estate and construction industries have a key opportunity to optimize physical assets for new technology that could revolutionize the way businesses manage assets. As an example, smart buildings equipped with the latest technology have the ability to detect and respond in real time to occupancy, environmental and operational changes. Real-time data on usage and temperature, and the ability to respond to changing conditions, can allow for reduced operational costs and greater energy efficiency.


The sweet spot for entrepreneurs in the smart landscape is using new technologies to transform how citizens engage with their city. They are asking themselves better questions, such as: How do commuters move around the Twin Cities? Where are the epicenters of work in our cities? How are our residents spending their leisure time? Their ability to identify gaps in the market will continue to drive new commercial opportunities in Minneapolis and St. Paul. A prevalent example that comes to mind is the growth of ridesharing companies that derived from the transportation needs of those living in the city. We will continue to rely on entrepreneurs and innovative thinkers to identify the latest needs of city dwellers and innovate to meet the changing citizen demands.

Mark Erickson (RS Fiber) on the NPR Rural Life on how fiber retains youth (or calls them back)

The Call In: Rural Life is a NPR show based on phone calls from folks in rural areas. The host mentioned that challenges that come up on a regular basis include: broadband, healthcare and education. Last weekend they spoke to a retired teacher to Minnesota’s own Mark Erickson from RS Fiber.

The teacher spoke about the difficulty of keeping students in a rural area once they graduate. Mark chimed in with Renville and Sibley Counties’ use of fiber to encourage students to stay. He offers an explanation of how or why people in the area can afford to invest in broadband…

ERICKSON: We formed a cooperative, and the subscribers to our network are the owners. So let me give you an example. To build a fiber-optic network and connect people in towns, the cost per home or per business is about $2,500. To build that network and connect the farms, it’s about $10,000, about the cost of a used pickup.

Now, the people in this area felt that those kinds of per home, per farm investments are OK because what the Internet can do for education and health care is amazing. We just feel it’s an investment that the phone companies and cable companies are unable to make. So the folks in this very conservative part of Minnesota decided that they wanted to put their tax dollars on the line and enable this network.

And he mentions the reward of investment…

ERICKSON: Well, it helps the present businesses. We’ve had several here say that hooking up to the fiber network has increased their ability to do business greatly. But we also saw this as something for the future, like you allude to. We expect our children to leave our communities when they graduate from high school and go to college and learn about life. But they have to have a reason to return. And the millennials today, and those who follow, will find it difficult to come back to a community that doesn’t offer the kind of Internet connection that they want. What we have our fingers crossed for, and it looks pretty good, we believe we’ve attracted a four-year medical school to our area, which will change the face of our communities in a very positive way for a long, long time, if it happens. And that was a direct result of the fiber network.

How does one Minnesota farmer use broadband?

Recently the Daily Yonder published an article from Craig Settles on RS Fiber and the impact their wireless (25 Mbps symmetrical) service has had on one local farmer…

“I can download the maps from a cloud-based app to my iPad and desktop or access data on the cloud through a web browser that lets me determine the state of our planting and monitoring crops harvesting,” Rieke says. “Using a second iPad, we can log into the planter or combine and view a live stream of what’s happening at that moment.”

Broadband is also part of the automated security system at Rieke’s hog barns. And broadband allows him to collect and transmit planting and harvest data to improve productivity and get the most out of his inputs like fertilizer.  …

Besides mapping data with his on-the-ground machinery, Rieke says he can rent drones and cameras capable of providing general crop health.

“On a 40-acre field, I will pull about 20 grid points, which equates to about 300 soil cores,” he said. “I then input the data from these 20 grid points in an app that program creates soil maps. The harvest maps are created using GPS and sensors in the combine.”

For additional vital data, Rieke’s crop consultant flies over the fields to take pictures or videos, and uploads the content to a cloud storage system for Rieke to access later.

As Settles points out – it makes a case for rural broadband, even in farming areas that tend to have low population densities.


US Bank upgrading broadband for the Superbowl

The US Bank Stadium is apparently getting ready for the Superbowl. Channel 4’s Jason DeRusha just did a story on upgrades they are making to the stadium’s wifi network to accommodate all of the fans and media outlets coming to the game.

Some interesting notes –

  • The network is synchronous – meaning same upload and download – so that people can publish info as quickly as they can download it.
  • They have 1300 wifi access pointss
  • The network supports 2400 HDTV.
  • They can support 70,000 devices all online at the same time

Life of a Hackfest project after the Hackfest

In November, there was a Hackfest in Willmar hosted by Ridgewater CollegeMinnWestKandiyohi County EDCWork Up (local coworking space), Blandin Foundation and RITA Consortium.

Thanks to the folks at RITA and the Kandiyohi County & City of Willmar Economic Development Commission, we have a fun update on what’s happening with one projects from the event…

[Here’s] an update about the MNyou website that came from the 2016 Hack2o. Upon receiving funds from Blandin, we were able to utilize the majority of the funds by purchasing server space, web design work and coding work.

In January, we lost two of our most vital coders due to scheduling conflicts and building of the website came to a halt. In February, we brought on two coders interested in the project but had very little experience with the .net framework the original site was structured in.

After bouncing back and forth, one of the coders is continuing work in .net and learning as he goes; while the other switches formats. Our intention is to have the framework on both platforms ready to put on display at the MN Cup competition later this Spring.

On a side note, our group has turned the idea for this website into something much bigger. To accompany the idea for our “food facebook” website, we are also working with the MinnWest Campus and WDD to utilize their greenhouse and 4-acre plot of land to hire underrepresented youth to research, grow vegetables, both common and uncommon to Minnesota, and market those vegetables throughout the community to promote healthy eating. We have partnered with many markets throughout Willmar to fulfill their needs and have already recruited 16 youth to work on the project.

The website will be a great way to market our produce and to tell the story of the Willmar community while also giving the entire region a centralized location to find the foods they are looking for.

Fun to see the ripples from the project! Here’s a reminder of the original project