What broadband brings to New Ulm MN – and other rural areas

In Newsweek, Minnesota native and Clearfield CEO, Cheri Beranek, talks about what a difference broadband makes to towns, like her hometown of New Ulm…

As I watched New Ulm Telephone become Nuvera, it grew bigger and provided additional services, and the surrounding areas benefited from that growth because high-speed access in rural communities can attract new businesses. When large facilities in these areas are already equipped with broadband, satellite offices or satellite manufacturing centers can move in more effectively. In the past, manufacturers would only go into rural markets for lower-cost labor, but now, they need labor anywhere they can find it. With broadband, companies can bring these well-paying jobs to rural environments where people need work and draw in even more types of businesses to support that growth.

When broadband brings opportunities into a rural community, it brings them to everyone, including children. Just north of New Ulm are several little towns where kids have to take an hour-long bus ride to get to the nearest school. With broadband in these areas, children could access quality educational services, tools, classes and support from anywhere, and a rural education could provide the same opportunities as one in a city….

The pandemic has shown us how hard life can be without access to quality health care and how much better broadband can make it, but people in rural communities have long understood these disadvantages. From economic and transportation concerns to workforce shortages and insurance coverage, barriers to health care in rural communities lead to less healthy people. When COVID-19 started to spread, the lack of broadband compounded all these barriers. As broadband expands into these areas to provide easier access to health care and telemedicine, a healthier population can drive a healthier economy.

Cooperative recipe for building a private wireless network for precision ag costs $50,000 per farm and $6,000 annually

Telecompetitor reports

A new report from CoBank’s Knowledge Exchange Division estimates the upfront cost of deploying a private wireless network to support precision agriculture at $50,000 per farm if deployed through one of the nation’s farm supply cooperatives. The annual recurring cost per farm would be about $6,000, according to CoBank.

“Agricultural cooperatives are in an ideal position to build and deliver carrier-grade, high-speed private wireless networks to their farmer members,” the report observes.

The cooperatives exist to serve the needs of their farmer members and have “institutionalized knowledge of farming operations,” according to the report authors, who see private wireless networks as an opportunity for the cooperatives to develop “new and diverse revenue sources that depend less on turbulent ag commodity and fuel prices.”

The CoBank report cites two key enablers of the private wireless precision agriculture opportunity. One is the availability of a large swath of CBRS spectrum, some of which is unlicensed. The other is the availability of carrier-grade equipment that can be deployed for use by a single entity.

The CoBank estimate of the per-farm cost of private wireless for precision agriculture assumes that 50 farms share network core costs of about $225,000. Considering that the average agricultural cooperative has about 1,000 members, this would mean that about 5% of the farmers in the cooperative would need to participate.

After two days traveling in rural Western MN, I can appreciate the need for investment. Cell coverage is better than is used to be out there, but it’s not consistently great. But listening to the local radio, I hear the stories and concerns about food safety and technology will definitely play a role in keeping food safe!

Madison Mercantile: When broadband makes community easier (LqP County)

On our trip to Western Minnesota, Mary Magnuson and I stopped in to visit the Madison Mercantile. The folks at the UMVRDC (Upper Minnesota River Valley Regional Development Commission) had clued us into the interesting things they were doing. And while this isn’t a broadband-forward project, it’s an example of what folks can do when broadband is ample and the community is engaged – in part because they have been connected, even during the pandemic, via broadband.

The Madison Mercantile is a coffee shop, art gallery innovation center built in a rehabbed hardware store. The footprint is huge. We walked in and saw tables people chatting, art and the coffee shop. The proprietor/creator Kris Shelstad immediately apologized for the mess. (She was working on replacing part of a carpet.)  Then she quit what she was doing and gave us the whole tour, with backstory, despite the fact that she had no idea of who we were.

As briefly as possible, Kris is originally from the area. She moved away to Austin TX, joined the army, got married and a couple years ago lost her spouse. That led her back home, but she missed the scene in Austin. So, she decided to create the same opportunities for art and beer and music and community by buying out the old hardware store. She started to rehab it based on the needs of the community, ways to minimize heat bills and her vision. Her vision included creating a space to showcase art left to her from her friend Janice Anderson. Janice’s art is mixed media collage with an eye for color nuances, clever messaging and inherently rural appeal. It feels like through Kris, Janice is helping boost and nurture a local art scene.

Along with a couple of art galleries, the space hosts local musicians and serves as a “third space” community center. You can pop in for coffee or you can host your birthday party. There are spaces for local discussions and classes. In fact, when we were there a group of local entrepreneurs gathered to talk about using social media. (Funny enough, I recognized one entrepreneur from a social media class I taught in the area 10 years ago!)

There’s also a maker space or innovation center. It created itself because retired farmers from the community, who used to hang out at the hardware store kept showing up wondering if Kris needed any help or time to chat. Kris recognized the need and opportunity and made room. There’s also a museum of medical supplies like walkers and wheelchairs, which folks can borrow as needed. Apparently the 90 year old woman, who used to lend these from her home, donated them.

There are also plans for public computer access, a wellness center and Zoom room. If you are in the area, you will have to check it out. It’s the best example of a bottom up solution I’ve seen. Kris told us that she decided that for one year she’d say yes to everything. She has and she’s tired but man is that a cool center and it can’t help but engage community!

Bemidji’s broadband leaves them poised to succeed – says Dave Hengel

Bemidji Pioneer posts a column from Dave Hengel, executive director of Greater Bemidji Economic Development, on the importance of technology and broadband for a thriving community…

The primary driver has been technology, which has created both incredible opportunities and challenges for communities worldwide. Since technology has allowed both businesses and people to locate virtually anywhere, geography (where we are located on a map) matters less, and place (a community’s character and quality of life) matters more. …

Thanks to technological innovations, none of these matters as much. We aren’t remote — we are connected via Zoom and other technology. We have access to metropolitan markets and resources all with the click of a mouse. While logistics have not reduced in importance, our largest “interstate” is our broadband network.

And let me remind everyone, the greater Bemidji region has the best all-fiber network in the nation. Thanks to the investment over the past decade by Paul Bunyan Communications, every home and business in our region has up to 10-gigabit service while other communities (including metropolitan areas) are struggling to gain basic broadband service.

In other words, Bemidji is ahead of the game.

Today, great communities are built, not born. The assets that bring prosperity and economic growth are not inherited. Like our all-fiber broadband network, key quality of life and economic development amenities can be identified and built.

Farmers Bureau looks at broadband as a necessity, not a luxury

American Farm Bureau Federation  has a chat that focuses on rural broadband being a necessity, not a luxury. Here’s their high level description…

The American Connection Project’s goal is to bridge the rural digital divide. We discuss the importance of broadband access to rural America and the vital role it plays in supporting and sustaining those communities around the country with Patrick Garry, an American Connection Corps Fellow, and Bruce Tiffany, a Minnesota Farmer and Lead for Minnesota Board Member.

They talk about role of broadband in maintaining safety and stability especially on farms.

Launch Minnesota Awards $1 million in Education Grants to Organizations that Support Entrepreneurs and Startups

Big News from MN Department of Employment and Economic Development (MNDEED)…

The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) today announced that it has awarded $1 million in Launch Minnesota Education Grants to nine organizations throughout Minnesota. This is the third round of Launch Minnesota Education Grants, which are awarded to groups that help start-ups and entrepreneurs across Minnesota achieve success through education, mentoring, and networking opportunities.

The grantees announced today have created a regional partnership with people and organizations to support the start and scale up of high-growth businesses. These grantees and their regional partners comprise the Launch Minnesota Network, which is organized in a hub-and-spoke model that allows each region to customize its offerings while still enabling entrepreneurs to access statewide resources and best practices. The network has nine  hubs across Minnesota’s six regions and over 80 program partners.

“Launch Minnesota is such an important program for our state at a time of intense competition for talent and business growth,” said DEED Commissioner Steve Grove. “We’re creating opportunity by providing access to expertise and resources across the whole state – with a special focus on founders who are women, people of color, and veterans.”

“The goal of the Launch Minnesota Network is to be a front door for entrepreneurs and innovators at a local, regional, and statewide level,” said Launch Minnesota Executive Director Neela Mollgaard.  “Research shows that a connected and coordinated innovation ecosystem accelerates the speed and success of startups. We’re inspired by strong engagement in the network so far.”

Thousands of Minnesota entrepreneurs and startup supporters have engaged in the Launch Minnesota Network trainings, events and resources over the past year. This includes more than 270 people who joined the new Minnesota Exchange powered by Kinetic. Over 1,000 people also engaged in lean startup training through MN Venture Builders, ILT Studios and other education providers. Every part of the state is now focused on nurturing and supporting innovators and high growth startups.

Launch Minnesota Education Grant awards announced today are for use through June 30, 2023. The Launch Minnesota grant recipients and their specific awards are listed below.

Launch Minnesota works to level the playing field for all entrepreneurs across the state and has a unique focus on entrepreneurs who are often overlooked by traditional funders. Launch Minnesota’s grants have and continue to support organizations like Lunar Startups, Social Impact Strategies and others who focus specifically on entrepreneurs of color. Since inception, 1 in 4 Launch Minnesota Innovation Grants have gone to founders of color, and Launch Minnesota education grantees have reporting serving almost 1000 BIPOC founders over the last two years.

We are now partnering with these organizations in the Twin Cities metropolitan area, focused on elevating and accelerating startups with a specific focus on founders from Black, Indigenous, and communities of color:

  • Forge North/Greater MSP: ($100,000) Forge North is a coalition of entrepreneurs, investors, business leaders and other problem solvers united to make the Twin Cities the best place to start and scale ventures.
  • Social Impact Strategies Group: ($75,000) partners with public and private institutions to drive growth in corporate social responsibility, including racial equity, in industries like tech, finance and philanthropy.

Across the state Launch Minnesota working to grow local and regional efforts to create better pathways for innovators and startups to start and grow. These are organizations specifically in Greater Minnesota:

  • Red Wing Ignite (RWI): ($110,000) Leading the Entrepreneurs First Collaborative for Southeast Minnesota. RWI fuels economic development by working with key sectors of the community to spur innovation by supporting entrepreneurs, businesses and students.
  • Greater Bemidji: ($105,000) Leading the NoW Innovators Network. Greater Bemidji’s LaunchPad is a coworking space and hub for entrepreneurial support for the Northwest region. LaunchPad provides entrepreneurs, freelancers, startups and professionals with the opportunity to collaborate, network and learn in an innovative environment.
  • Itasca Economic Development Corporation (IEDC): ($100,000) IEDC-led Innovate 218 is a regional collaboration in northeast Minnesota designed to streamline startup services, support entrepreneurs, strengthen networking and increase new business formation and growth.
  • Greater St. Cloud Development Corporation (GSDC) ($100,000) This is the third consecutive year the GSDC, a private collaboration of more than 250 business and community leaders, has received grant funding from DEED to serve as its West Central Minnesota Launch Minnesota hub, which has been vital to providing impactful training to more than 100 entrepreneurs from this region.
  • Minnesota State University, Mankato (MNSU) Strategic Partnership Center: ($65,000) MNSU’s Start-Up Southwest will provide educational programming to innovative technology businesses and early-stage businesses; and outreach to and collaboration with businesses, federal and state agencies, institutions of higher education, trade associations and other organizations working to advance innovative, high-technology early-stage businesses throughout Minnesota.

We’re creating opportunity by providing access to expertise and resources at institutions like the University of Minnesota. Services that were previously reserved for students and faculty are now accessible to all innovators in the state. Our statewide partners are:

  • University of Minnesota (UMN):
    • Venture Builders: ($120,000) Organized by the Holmes Center for Entrepreneurship, this online education platform shares information with early-stage technology entrepreneurs throughout Minnesota about courses, competitions, seminars, mentors and connections to the state’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.
    • Discovery Launch Pad (DLP): ($115,000) DLP is a no-cost, no-equity-required startup incubator and program of formal coaching for UMN innovators interested in forming a startup company to commercialize new technology or an idea.
    • Technology Leadership Institute (TLI): ($75,000) UMN’s TLI program provides education opportunities that turn later stage technology professionals into business professionals.
  • Agriculture Utilization Research Institute (AURI): ($35,000) MBOLD’s Bold Growth initiative, led by AURI and Grow North, will provide education and technical/business support to high-growth food and ag entrepreneurial businesses.

1 in 7 Minnesotans who needed reliable broadband during pandemic, didn’t have it

A report from APM Research Lab finds…

According to our Minnesota’s Diverse Communities Survey, only half of those from households that included someone either working from home or attending school online reported a “very reliable” internet connection. One-third indicated that their internet connection is “somewhat reliable,” with the remainder split between “slightly reliable” (9%) and not at all reliable (6%).

The survey looked a broadband access and use of broadband during the pandemic (did anyone in household work or go to school online) and cross referenced with demographic information.

Despite a large proportion of Minnesotans with reliable internet access, more than 1 in 7 Minnesotans who needed a reliable internet connection for work or school did not have one. A small but notable proportion of Asian (excluding Hmong) and White Minnesotans reported lacking an internet connection in their home.

Among those who needed the internet for work or school, a higher proportion of residents of the Twin Cities 7-country metro had a “very reliable” connection than is the case for residents of the remainder of the state. Somewhat surprisingly, a similar gap exists between those identifying as Democrats versus those identifying as either politically independent or Republican.

They found that affordability was an important as access…

Our data from the Minnesota’s Diverse Communities Survey suggests a similar conclusion. Since there is a strong correlation between education level and income, the fact that fewer Minnesotans with less education report access to reliable internet than Minnesotans with more education implies that this difference hinges on the affordability of high-speed internet.

While the state has made great progress on overall access to broadband, there is still a lot of work to do—especially in terms of affordability and adoption—before every Minnesota household and business can regularly and reliably use the internet. The reliance on internet-based schooling during the pandemic has further underscored the equity concerns at the heart of the push toward universal broadband.

Fiber is lifting rural areas – such as Bemidji’s Locate218

Clearfield CEO Cheri Beranek has a letter in Entrepreneur on the impact of fiber in rural areas…

According to the data aggregation company BroadbandNow, an estimated 42 million Americans still have no access to broadband Internet service, most of them in rural areas. Without the speed, latency and reliability of the fiber-fed networks being deployed in cities, the rural economic divide will likely continue to widen. At the same time, a 2021 Deloitte study found that a 10% increase in broadband access in 2014 would have generated more than 875,000 additional jobs and $186 billion in economic output in the U.S. by 2019. Another 10 megabits-per-second (Mbps) faster average speeds in 2016 would have added 139,400 new jobs.

With broadband entering its largest investment cycle ever, a community’s economic survival will increasingly depend on its Internet, and only fiber optic-based solutions will be enough to compete.

She offers Bemidji’s Relocate218 as an example of what’s going right…

Other areas are using broadband to draw in new residents. Bemidji, Minnesota, with a population of 15,000, is attempting to capitalize on its fiber-optic network with Relocate 218, an incentive program to draw more remote workers that includes a free co-working space and a $2,500 reimbursement for moving expenses.

Matchmaking app for finding a lawyer made in MN

The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports

Zeb Anderson is on a mission to make legal services available to everyone, not just those who can afford it.

A former compliance and analytics specialist at Medtronic, Anderson is the founder of LegalQ, a free smartphone app that connects people with lawyers.

Through the app, users submit details of their legal situations and why they need an attorney. They then choose a lawyer in their jurisdiction to schedule a free 15-minute consultation or choose to have one instantly, Anderson said. The consultation appointment is automatically synced to the lawyer’s calendar.

For $109, a user can pay for a one-hour consultation. If the user wants to obtain that lawyer, that agreement is done off the platform.

Users of the app can search for legal consults in areas such as criminal justice, family law, personal injury, trademark infringement, immigration, employment and labor, taxes, real estate and business. In Minnesota, the platform is processing at least 15 consultation requests each day, Anderson said.

The total addressable market of legal services in the U.S. is around $350 billion, of which 20% is spent on new client outreach and advertising, he said.

Many times, agencies supply lawyers with lists of names of people searching for legal help. Those lawyers use that information to contact people, either through phone calls, e-mails or mailers. That strategy is inefficient, Anderson said.

“It’s a terrible user experience for the user, as well as the attorneys who are fighting with 10 other [attorneys] at the same time,” Anderson said.

With the app, lawyers can choose how many clients they want referred to them, or choose how many leads they want each month.

Anderson developed the idea for LegalQ while at Medtronic, where he noticed the inefficiencies of middlemen in the medical device industry.

Innovate 218 gets more recognition for lifting up Northeast Minnesota

Tech.MN reports on Innovate 218…

From Grand Rapids to Duluth, Northeast Minnesota is well known as including a region called the Iron Range, where historically mining and other natural resources championed the local industries.

“They have many of  the elements there — thriving higher education, broadband, local champions, and strong corporate innovators,” Neela Mollgaard, Executive Director of Launch Minnesota, said. The last region to join Launch MN’s 8 hub and 80 program partner initiatives across the state, the area holds a lot of promise for innovation.

“It’s been great to see these organizations across Minnesota come together. They’ve all been serving entrepreneurs for years, and now are purposefully working together to start and scale new ventures ” Mollgaard said. “They are building on their local strengths while leveraging statewide resources and best practices.”

The main innovative areas remain in the natural resources sphere, according to Tim White, Business Development and Intellectual Property Manager at University of Minnesota Duluth / Natural Resources Research Institute.

“Northeast Minnesota has amazing natural resources available. We are charged with considering responsible use of those resources,” White said, mentioning the minerals, forests, and freshwater that are in abundance.

FCC commits $603 million to close homework gap – MN to get $57+ million

The FCC reports

—The Federal Communications Commission today announced that it is committing $602,985,895.13 in its latest wave of Emergency Connectivity Fund program support, which will connect over 1.4 million students in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia. These additional commitments bring the current total commitments to over $3.8 billion, supporting students, school staff, and library patrons in all 50 states, Guam, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the District of Columbia. The funding can be used to support off-campus learning, such as nightly homework and virtual learning, as schools and libraries continue to respond to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. …

Today’s announcement marks the sixth wave of commitments and includes over $367 million in commitments from Window 1 applications and nearly $236 million in commitments from Window 2 applications. This round of commitments will support 1,651 schools, 85 libraries, and 14 consortia, which are approved to receive nearly 1.2 million connected devices and over 790,000 broadband connections. Total commitments to date are supporting over 9,000 schools, 760 libraries, and 100 consortia for nearly 8.3 million connected devices and over 4.4 million broadband connections. More details about which schools and libraries have received funding commitments can be found at https://www.fcc.gov/ecf-current-funding-commitments.

Minnesota will get $57,412,673.35 in total doled out in waves of:

  • $19,830,464.06
  • $10,347,442.23
  • $6,601,893.82
  • $3,854,319.44
  • $10,865,203.54
  • $1,468,881.00
  • $4,444,469.26

A closer look at telework recruitment efforts such as Bemidji’s 218 Relocate

The Register Citizen takes a closer look at Bemidji’s 218 Relocate program, a program to recruit teleworkers to the area…

Earlier this year, they [potential new residents, the Fahrenbruchs] saw a job possibility for his wife with the city of Bemidji. But he didn’t see anything for himself. Then, he read about Bemidji’s 218 Relocate program, which offers $2,500 to help cover moving or telecommuting expenses for people who move to Bemidji from more than 60 miles away and bring a job with them, Minnesota Public Radio news reported.

So he pitched the idea to his boss. He could telecommute for his job — with the Kansas Legislature — from Bemidji, Minnesota.

But they are just one story..

The Fahrenbruchs are one of 22 families who have qualified so far for the relocation program since it began in February. It’s run by the economic development organization Greater Bemidji, with funding from a local foundation and Paul Bunyan Communications.

Greater Bemidji hatched the idea for an incentive to help lure people to town before the pandemic, but assistant director Erin Echternach said they launched it after hearing stories of people teleworking from cabins in the area last year after COVID-19 lockdowns went into effect.

Better broadband is a seller…

A key part of Bemidji’s sales pitch is its high-speed internet. Paul Bunyan has built one of the largest rural, all-fiber broadband networks in the country in north-central Minnesota.

“For them to move up to their cabin, and then connect with us and say, ‘I get better internet service at my little cabin in Bemidji than I do down in Maple Grove, Minnnesota,’ that was pretty special,” said Echternach. “And that’s when 218 Relocate was born.”

218 Relocate is one of several resident recruitment programs that have sprouted up around the state in recent years, with names like the “Get Rural” initiative in western Minnesota, “The Good Life” campaign in the north-central part of the state, and “Live Like a Local,” in Grand Rapids.

 

Most affordable towns to work remotely from in Minnesota

Minneapolis St Paul Business Journal reports on most affordable places to work from home in Minnesota…

The ranking comes from New York-based financial and technology company SmartAsset.

To compile a list of the most affordable places to live in Minnesota, the tech company used a variety of factors, including taxes, homeowner insurance and home costs relative to local median income. (You can see the full list here.)

The list of Minnesota’s most affordable places is below:

  1. Montevideo
  2. Redwoods Falls
  3. International Falls
  4. Ostego
  5. Hibbing
  6. Austin
  7. St. Michael
  8. Virginia
  9. Albert Lea
  10. Litchfield

These affordable towns are in a good position to recruit residents and businesses to their location, especially since COVID has moved many people to remote work options and opened the door to living anywhere. So I wanted to take a look at these cities and their broadband ranking – or at least the ranking of their county. Turns out they are all over the place from 31 to 85. Some of the towns listed would definitely rank higher than their county. Monticello, for example,  has a municipal fiber network; Austin has been talking about broadband for years; Redwood Falls was focused on broadband 10 years ago. I’d say, however, that having good broadband and being affordable might boost a community to the top of a “potential new home” list.

City County Affordability Rank Broadband Rank (100/20)
Montevideo Chippewa 1 37
Redwood Falls Redwood 2 85
International Falls Koochiching 3 60
Ostego Wright 4 31
Hibbing St Louis 5 44
Austin Mower 6 35
St Michael Wright 7 31
Virginia St Louis 8 44
Albert Lea Freeborn 9 32
Litchfield Meeker 10 72

 

 

 

 

OPPORTUNITY: I’m thankful for broadband because… #MNthanks2broadband campaign

In a meeting yesterday we talked about how the holidays are a great time to recruit expats. After life in quarantine, folks are looking forward to a traditional holiday season with family and old friends. After life in quarantine, many folks are still working online, which means they might be ripe for permanent return to their hometown. So it’s time to put our best foot forward. You bake the best pumpkin pie and maybe get the Vikings to win a few games. Collectively maybe we can talk up broadband around the state with quick videos or pictures.

The idea is to create, collect and share content throughout the holidays season making the point that with great broadband, you can live anywhere – so why not here? I got the ball rolling below. It took exactly 2 minutes to do. I recorded myself on a Zoom and uploaded to YouTube. But you could also do a selfie video or have a friend record you. You could post it on YouTube and send me the link OR send me the video and I’ll post on the BlandinonBroadband channel. (Just email me and we’ll figure it out atreacy@treacyinfo.com.)

Or join us for the Special Lunch Bunch on Tuesday November 23 at noon and we can record some then. Or contact me and we can set up a time to do a Zoom video. We can share as we build!

Innovate 218 supports Innovation in Northeast Minnesota

Tech.mn is writing a series on innovation in Minnesota. In Northeast MN, they have focused on  Innovate 218, an organization that focused on promoting and facilitating entrepreneurialism in the area. If you’re a regular reader, you’ll see some familiar names or folks who are involved…

Finding these startups and providing them with a one-stop shop for resources is what Innovate 218 is all about.

“These organizations in the region already existed — small business development, universities — but it’s bringing us together so we’re a more holistic, cohesive resource for entrepreneurs,” White said. “Together we’re stronger.”

An entrepreneur himself having started six companies, White admitted that it previously was confusing to access resources. Now, with funding from Launch Minnesota to create Innovate 218, it’s much more approachable and gives access to services in one place, he said. 

“It’s been a great catalyst for bringing these groups together,” White added. “It’s not necessarily that we’re creating much ‘new,’ but organizing it in a way that makes it more accessible.”

“We’re full-on in the launch phase,” Tamara Lowney, President of the Itasca Economic Development Corporation (IEDC), said of the region’s efforts to build a platform for entrepreneurs where they can get the resources they need.  

And more…

Betsy Olivanti of NSBDC had similar sentiments. “There are a lot of creative folks and a lot of interesting things going on, [but] they don’t know how to get from idea to creation,” she said. 

In her work — which she comes to with an engineering background, ISO certification, and lean certification — she’s noticed that folks tend to think of themselves as “inventors” instead of “entrepreneurs.”

“My work at Innovate 218 is to marry those two things. You are an entrepreneur as well — [it’s] bringing the two sides together,” Olivanti said.

Olivanti and Lowney are both working to bring entrepreneurs out through multiple initiatives: entrepreneur meetups, pop-up coworking spaces at a local coffee shop in Virginia, MN called “jellies,” and events like the Itasca Summit. Innovation was one of the key tracks at this economic development summit, which was held in Grand Rapids October 19 and 20. It brought together state and regional leaders working to inspire and support more innovation and startup entrepreneurship in the region.

One of the organizations participating in the Itasca Summit was the Blandin Foundation, which is a highly influential organization in the region on many fronts, and is a major contributor and supporter of the Itasca Business Development Corporation.