Amazon to open fulfillment center in Lakeville (Dakota County)

KARE 11 reports

Amazon has announced it will open a new fulfillment center in Lakeville next year. According to a statement from Amazon Spokesperson Kirsten Wenker, it will be 750,000 square feet and create hundreds of full-time jobs.

The operation will be located at the Interstate South Logistics Park Third Addition, near Dodd Boulevard and 217th Street West. Employees at the site will pick, pack and ship larger customer items such as mattresses, grills and exercise equipment.

“Amazon leverages its scale for good and makes investments to support communities,” Wenker said. “We are excited to join the Lakeville community and bring hundreds of full-time jobs. We provide a great place to work with highly competitive pay, benefits from day-one, and training programs for in-demand jobs.”

Two points worth mentioning in terms of broadband. First, I can’t picture Amazon going where there wasn’t – so good job Dakota County! I suspect they may grow into need even more broadband – so good job Dakota County!

Justice Department Sues Monopolist Google For Violating Antitrust Laws

Minnesota is not one of the state mentioned but I found this interesting. I have been buying Google ads for close to 20 years. I remember when AltaVista did it better and how the transparency changed when they disappeared.

The US Department of Justice reports…

Today, the Department of Justice — along with eleven state Attorneys General — filed a civil antitrust lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to stop Google from unlawfully maintaining monopolies through anticompetitive and exclusionary practices in the search and search advertising markets and to remedy the competitive harms. The participating state Attorneys General offices represent Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, South Carolina, and Texas.

“Today, millions of Americans rely on the Internet and online platforms for their daily lives.  Competition in this industry is vitally important, which is why today’s challenge against Google — the gatekeeper of the Internet — for violating antitrust laws is a monumental case both for the Department of Justice and for the American people,” said Attorney General William Barr. “Since my confirmation, I have prioritized the Department’s review of online market-leading platforms to ensure that our technology industries remain competitive.  This lawsuit strikes at the heart of Google’s grip over the internet for millions of American consumers, advertisers, small businesses and entrepreneurs beholden to an unlawful monopolist.”

“As with its historic antitrust actions against AT&T in 1974 and Microsoft in 1998, the Department is again enforcing the Sherman Act to restore the role of competition and open the door to the next wave of innovation—this time in vital digital markets,” said Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen.

As one of the wealthiest companies on the planet with a market value of $1 trillion, Google is the monopoly gatekeeper to the internet for billions of users and countless advertisers worldwide. For years, Google has accounted for almost 90 percent of all search queries in the United States and has used anticompetitive tactics to maintain and extend its monopolies in search and search advertising.

As alleged in the Complaint, Google has entered into a series of exclusionary agreements that collectively lock up the primary avenues through which users access search engines, and thus the internet, by requiring that Google be set as the preset default general search engine on billions of mobile devices and computers worldwide and, in many cases, prohibiting preinstallation of a competitor. In particular, the Complaint alleges that Google has unlawfully maintained monopolies in search and search advertising by:

  • Entering into exclusivity agreements that forbid preinstallation of any competing search service.
  • Entering into tying and other arrangements that force preinstallation of its search applications in prime locations on mobile devices and make them undeletable, regardless of consumer preference.
  • Entering into long-term agreements with Apple that require Google to be the default – and de facto exclusive – general search engine on Apple’s popular Safari browser and other Apple search tools.
  • Generally using monopoly profits to buy preferential treatment for its search engine on devices, web browsers, and other search access points, creating a continuous and self-reinforcing cycle of monopolization.

These and other anticompetitive practices harm competition and consumers, reducing the ability of innovative new companies to develop, compete, and discipline Google’s behavior.

Economic benefits and opportunities of telehealth especially in rural communities

Craig Settles is on a campaign to help communities see that telehealth is key to economic development and you can’t do telehealth without broadband. Next Centruy Cities higlihgts his reasoning…

Telehealth is more than video chat with your doctor. It means using intranets and Internet networks to observe, diagnose, initiate or otherwise medically intervene, administer, monitor, record, and/or report on the continuum of care so that residents can heal and stay healthy.

Telehealth increases broadband’s economic development impact, and can add revenue streams for the network and/or the community. For example, 26% of economic development professionals in a national survey felt using telehealth to attract doctors and medical specialists would have a definitive impact on local economies.

Another important benefit…

Broadband and telehealth can draw other healthcare professionals to your community. For example, “We have less than half of the psychiatric providers needed to meet the U.S. mental health demand,” says Encounter Telehealth CEO Jennifer Amis. “In the rural areas we may have less than 20% of the providers needed.”

And a list of telehealth benefits…

In addition to attracting medical professionals, telehealth’s economic benefits include (more details here about here [https://tinyurl.com/yxmevaq9])

  • Slowing or reversing hospital closings

  • Reducing unnecessary visits to the ER

  • Attracting medical research grants

  • More mental healthcare services staying local

  • Keeping seniors living at home longer

EVENT Sep 16: Smart Agriculture: Driving Innovation in Rural America

An invitation from BroadbandUSA…

You are invited to join NTIA’s BroadbandUSA Practical Broadband Conversations Webinar 

Topic: Smart Agriculture: Driving Innovation in Rural America

Date:   Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Time:  2:00 to 3:00 p.m. ET

Overview: Farmers and ranchers use smart technologies to improve yields, reduce costs, increase efficiencies, and improve decision making. Join BroadbandUSA on September 16, 2020, to take a deep dive into the technologies being implemented to further these precision agriculture techniques. Speakers will also provide an update on the Precision Ag Connectivity Taskforce, co-chaired by USDA and the Federal Communications Commission, as well as an overview of the latest innovations from the Global City Teams Challenge Smart Agriculture and Rural SuperCluster, which encourages collaboration on innovative ag tech and rural projects.

Speakers:

  • Chad Rupe, Administrator, Rural Utility Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture
  • Dennis Buckmaster, Dean’s Fellow for Digital Agriculture, Professor of Agricultural and Biological Engineering, Purdue University; Co-Chair, GCTC Smart Agriculture and Rural SuperCluster
  • Megan Nelson, Economic Analyst, American Farm Bureau Federation

Moderators:

  • Jean Rice, Senior Broadband Program Specialist, BroadbandUSA, NTIA
  • Karen Archer Perry, Senior Policy Analyst, BroadbandUSA, NTIA
    Please pre-register for the webinar using this registration link. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.
    Want to access past Practical Broadband Conversations webinars? Visit our webinar archives for past presentations, transcripts and audio recordings.

A look and state and local anti-trust issues from Microbusiness Strategies

Duluth News Tribune posts a letter from Ron Wacks, from Microbusiness Strategies consulting firm. My knowledge of anti-trust is pretty shallow but I always appreciate a look at what appears to be tangential policies because often those policies more directly impact expanded use of broadband than one might think. It’s difficult for policy to keep up with technology to support innovation and keep citizens safe from security and privacy breaches. Wacks offers…

Local leaders in Minnesota have dedicated considerable resources to transforming our state into a thriving community of young innovators. The spirit of innovation, encouraged by state policies like the “angel” tax credit for start-up investors, should not be met with heavy-handed and sweeping rhetoric at the federal level that disregards the benefits of business dynamics.

The problem is a fundamental misunderstanding of how our antitrust laws were designed to protect consumer rights. The intention of the U.S. antitrust framework is not to protect firms from their largest competitors; it’s about protecting consumers from corporate malfeasance. Antitrust laws are designed to ensure customers’ access to a competitive, fair market. But as the structure of digital businesses takes on a new shape, many leaders interpret any market shift or expansion as a threat.

These misconceptions, deliberate or not, ignore the role that digital platforms actually play in bringing buyers and sellers together. Today’s tech platforms are different than AT&T in 1920 or Standard Oil at the turn of the last century. These are incredibly competitive markets, ones in which the success of preeminent companies doesn’t limit innovation at any level but rather encourages it.

Online platforms aren’t for-sale products; they’re resources that drive innovation and allow flexibility for companies across the board — from the small businesses transitioning to digital sales through websites and social-media pages during COVID-19 to medical systems expanding telehealth services to keep patients safe and healthy.

He offers a recommendation…

In Minnesota, the stakes are real. Our internet-based innovation economy supports more than 100,000 jobs and represents $32 billion in economic output, according to the Internet Association. From homegrown startups to larger players investing in our skilled workforce and setting up operations here, we are an example of how the innovation economy can lift up communities and connect them to opportunity and access.

In the end, this digital marketplace is both a product of innovation and a driving force behind it. In today’s hot-button antitrust discussions, lawmakers should be more careful in asking who benefits from preventing innovation and expansion in the tech industry.

Millennials are ready to move and 39% prefer small towns – how can you attract them?

Route Fifty reports…

The pace of small towns are often a welcome change for millennials already burned out on the demands of urban life. Perhaps that’s why as many as 39% have indicated a preference for living in small towns over big cities. Leaving crowded metro areas means ditching traffic congestion, cramped and noisy neighborhoods and unaffordable housing prices.

And with the current pandemic shuttering mainstays of city life and physical proximity to others becoming dangerous, countless Americans are also questioning why they live in dense urban centers at all. In April, nearly 40% of urbanites said they’ve considered leaving for less crowded spaces.

They also look at what attracts millennials; topping the list is broadband and legislation that makes it easy to work remotely…

  1. Provide area-based incentives. Attracting remote-working millennials is one approach communities have taken. But many small communities have limited (or sometimes no) access to broadband, making remote work difficult to impossible. Given the large amount of workers now conducting business remotely, fixing this problem will become even more critical in rural areas.
    States have started addressing this by providing incentives for small communities to make local broadband investments. These take a variety of forms, such as the statewide broadband plan Oregon is considering that allocates money for enhancing rural broadband or the rural broadband funding Georgia is exploring. With the necessary boosts to limited small-town broadband connections, new and current small-town telecommuters can enjoy workdays without worrying about spotty or unreliable internet connections.

Other items on the list…

  1. Offer individual and business incentives.
  2. Encourage rural homecoming initiatives.
  3. Revitalize Main Streets.

DEED Commissioner says “high-speed internet access isn’t a luxury; it’s a necessity”

Duluth News Tribune posts letter from DEED Commissioner Steve Grove on the impact of COVID-19…

One thing the pandemic has made abundantly clear is that reliable high-speed internet access isn’t a luxury; it’s a necessity. Business owners and families alike have relied on access for everything from meetings to distance learning. Not having broadband access isn’t only an inconvenience; it can reduce a person’s ability to work and hamper a student’s learning. DEED’s Border to Border Broadband Program grants are targeted toward nonmetro Minnesota communities where broadband infrastructure is not at the level needed to support economic opportunity. Since 2014, the Border to Border Broadband Program has invested $108 million across Minnesota through 140 projects, which have connected nearly 50,000 homes, businesses, farms, and community institutions. Those who’ve benefited have included 10,426 Northeastern Minnesotans.

I’m looking forward to my upcoming visit to Duluth as part of a series of visits in an economic-recovery listening tour. During this critical time, I’m honored to work with Minnesota’s business and community leaders to serve our fellow Minnesotans. I look forward to hearing what we can do better — together.

Tele-Mental Health Portal helping reach folks in Region 9

Earlier this week Bernadine Joselyn, Mary Magnuson and I had a conversation with Kristian Braeken at Region 9 about their telehealth plans and programs (supported with Blandin Foundation funding). It’s interesting to hear about what they are doing and the impact they are having but a key point is how they are using this to ensure that they have a healthy workforce, which makes this as economic development issue as well as community development and health.  (Also worth nothing that the project started late in 2019.)

Region 9 serves the following counties: Blue Earth, Brown, Faribault, Le Sueur, Martin, Nicollet, Sibley, Waseca and Wantonwan. They have created a portal that provides referrals and access to mental health services. Actually better than that – they didn’t create anything, they found a solution with Direct Assessments and Counseling. It’s been a great way to reach community members who can be geographically out of reach. And it’s been a great way to connect those people (and others) to providers and counselors who do not necessarily live in the area.

Being able to access counselors outside Region 9 has been a coup because there’s a shortage in the area. The push to move everything online (due to COVID) has opened up everyone’s interest in doing more things online. Zoom was a niche word a year ago; now everyone is doing it so there’s a growing comfort level.

Some regulations have been loosened making it easier to use accessible technology. And with the stress of a pandemic, job loss and change, students doing everything differently and with seniors experiencing more acute seclusion the need is greater. Also, Region 9 works with people who require court mandated assessments and services.

People have found that they like it. Within a month, the portal was operating to capacity. People with court mandated assessments appreciate the convenience. Many other experience the privacy of services from home. They found that before the online option people might drive a couple hours to get service or forego services altogether. And going online has opened the door to more diverse clients, especially immigrant groups.

By all accounts it’s been a success. It’s easy to see that much of this will continue to serve a purpose even after the stringent rules aroudn COVID are relaxed.

Beltrami County certified as telecommuter-friendly community

I wrote about the big announcement from DEED’s Telecommuter Forward Program last week, but it’s always fun to see local communities get local recognition for their efforts. The Bemidji Pioneer reports…

Beltrami County was congratulated as a telecommuter-friendly community earlier this month by Gov. Tim Walz.

According to a release, these types of communities are labeled as those that coordinate and partner with broadband providers, realtors, economic development professionals, employers, employees and other stakeholders to promote the availability of telecommuting options in their region. In total, 23 communities were recognized, with Beltrami County and Cook County, as well as the cities of Bigfork, Halstad and Warren being the only northern areas listed.

And the local perspective…

Locally, Beltrami County is served by the Bemidji headquartered Paul Bunyan Communications, as well as the Sioux Falls-based provider Midco. Additionally, some of the county is served by Garden Valley Technologies.

Last year, Beltrami County was shown to be No. 1 out of 87 counties when it came to broadband internet access, with 98.78% having access to speeds of up to a gigabit per second. During the stay-at-home order from Walz, the access was essential as Midco and Paul Bunyan Communications saw traffic increase by at least 30% during daytime hours.

Currently, government units and educational institutions are still relying on telecommunications. Since March, all of the Bemidji City Council and several of the Beltrami County board meetings have been held digitally. Additionally, this semester, just 13% of BSU classes will be held in person, with the rest being online or hy-flex courses. Northwest Technical College, meanwhile, will have 35% of its classes in person.

EVENT Sep 23: MHTA Tech Connect

From an MHTA email invitation…

MnTech is pleased to invite you to our first-ever virtual conference, Tech Connect, on Sept. 23! This interactive online event includes more than 30 sessions where you can hear from Minnesota companies that are using technology to fuel growth across the state.

Tech Connect also includes opportunities to network with other attendees, gain insight from key thought leaders, participate in community discussions, and connect with event sponsors.

Register Now

Event Fees 

Register Now 

You’ll get access to 30 sessions, including: 

  • Fireside Chat with Land O’Lakes CEO Beth Ford
  • “How Weather Data Coupled with Machine Learning Optimizes Business Outcomes” with Paul Douglas, Senior Meteorologist and Co-founder of AerisWeather
  • “Not All Superheroes Wear Capes: Large Venue Tech Leaders Discuss New “Game Day” Realities” with executives from the Minnesota Twins, Minnesota Wild, U.S. Bank Stadium, the Minneapolis Institute of Art, and the Metropolitan Airports Commission
  • “Target Circle – Behind the scenes of one the nation’s largest loyalty programs and its positive impact on our local communities” with Keri Stelle, Senior Director of IT at Target Corporation

North Branch And Chisago County are certified as telecommuter-friendly communities

I wrote about the big announcement from DEED’s Telecommuter Forward Program last week, but it’s always fun to see local communities get local recognition for their efforts. Isanti-Chisago County Star report

For a long time now, one of the biggest pet projects for the North Branch council and staff has been trying to bring high-speed internet to the entire area, something that is desperately needed even near downtown North Branch. To that extent, back in February, the council approved a resolution in support of Telecommuting Opportunities and Telecommuter Forward Certification, which is a bill passed by the State Legislature in 2019. North Branch was one of only 23 cities, counties, or townships to formally get on board with the initiative. Chisago County was also one of these 23 communities.

While there has so far been minimal advancement in the area with high-speed internet – even despite the increased emphasis in the need due to more people working from home and distance learning during the COVID-19 pandemic, the city was recently honored by Minnesota Governor Tim Walz for being a “Telecommuter Forward Community.”

Local leaders commented…

“We, as a community, want broadband in every single household,” said North Branch Mayor Jim Swenson. “They all deserve to have broadband. North Branch has got a plan for our community and we are ready and willing to be the leaders in the state of Minnesota.”

“As the city went through its rebranding process about a year ago, we really identified the city of North Branch as the place to work, live and play,” said City Administrator Renae Fry, who was designated as the single point of contact for coordinating telecommuting opportunities within North Branch – a mandatory component of becoming a Telecommuting Forward community. “My city council, my mayor, my staff have been committed to making sure that individuals who choose to work from home have the resources to do so.”

Lake Crystal and Madelia are certified as telecommuter-friendly communities

I wrote about the big announcement from DEED’s Telecommuter Forward Program last week, but it’s always fun to see local communities get local recognition for their efforts. Mankato Free Press reports

Two area cities have been recognized for promoting the availability of telecommuting options.

Lake Crystal and Madelia are among the first group of Minnesota communities certified as telecommuter-friendly.

These 23 cities, townships and counties across Minnesota are being recognized for their efforts to coordinate and partner with broadband providers, Realtors, economic development professionals, employers, employees and other stakeholders.

Happy Telecommuter Forward Day in MN – esp to 23 participating cities

KSTP News reports…

Gov. Tim Walz on Friday issued a proclamation congratulating 23 cities, counties and a township across Minnesota as telecommuter-friendly communities.

Walz has also declared Aug. 7, 2020, as “Telecommuter Forward!” day in the state of Minnesota.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has made clear how important it is for the state to support telecommuting capabilities,” said Walz. “This initiative will help ensure options for remote work expand in our state, improving the quality of life for employees and encouraging economic vitality in communities throughout Minnesota.”

How does a community sign up?

According to the release, under the law, communities must adopt a model resolution that includes a statement of support for telecommuting and a single point of contact for coordinating telecommuting opportunities within their community. Minnesota communities that wish to become a Telecommuter Forward! community can find the resolution template from the Office of Broadband Development on DEED’s website.

Which communities are participating?

The first group of communities certified as telecommuter-friendly are:

  • Cities:
    • Albany
    • Balaton
    • Big Lake
    • Bigfork
    • Halstad
    • Lake Benton
    • Lake Crystal
    • Madelia
    • Monticello
    • North Branch
    • Preston
    • Spring Grove
    • Warren
    • Windom
  •  Counties:
    • Beltrami County
    • Big Stone County
    • Chisago County
    • Cook County
    • Lincoln County
    • Sherburne County
    • Swift County
    • Martin County
  • Township:
    • Greenvale

COVID Funding available at city and county level in Minnesota

The broadband connection here may be tenuous but you have to be online to see the list – and the list may include possible funding for broadband. (Ironic, huh the people who need it most might not see it!) I did want to share this info from the MN Chamber of Commerce because I suspect the info is valuable to many readers…

Businesses around Minnesota need assistance to withstand the challenges of COVID-19. Many cities and counties throughout the state have grant or loan programs available to businesses, so their local economies can compete and thrive. The Minnesota Chamber’s Grow Minnesota! Partnership has compiled a list of available funding at the city and county level.

Find your community on this list, and apply for valuable resources to keep your company operating. If you don’t see your community on this list, email growminnesota@mnchamber.com, and Grow Minnesota! Partnership staff will get back to you with details about your area.

Visit the site to see the list.

EVENT Sep 10: UMN Extension’s Connecting Entrepreneurial Communities Conference

I remember attending the UMN Extension’s Connecting Entrepreneurial Communities Conference last year and being very impressed. The event is being moved online. SO even easier to access and the lineup looks good…

The 2020 Conference will be held online on September 10.

To register for the conference please use this link. The cost is $20 per participant.

To stay informed about updates please sign up here!

Tentative Agenda

9:00 am   Keynote Panel –founder stories from Launch Minnesota regions

9:40 am  Break

9:45 am  Breakout sessions

Minnesota Indigenous Business Alliance- Building an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Indian Country

Min-Corps- Online Training Resources for Entrepreneurs in Minnesota

Office of the Comptroller of Currency- Rural Broadband Development

10:20 am Break

10:25 am Breakout networking mixer

10:40 am Break

10:45 am Breakout sessions

Launch Minnesota’s Regional Hubs – Panel on Developing an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem across Minnesota

HACER- Workshop on HACER’s Entrepreneurship Program

Speaker 3 to be confirmed

11:25 am Break

11:30 am Keynote – Andrea Stordahl- The story of Minnesota Rust

12:30 pm Closing