Strut Your Stuff: Broadband projects with the GRIZZLIES (Cook, Orr and Bois Forte)

Part of becoming a Blandin Broadband Community (BBC), is the opportunity to show off what you’ve been doing related to broadband in your community. It was great to hear from folks from the GRIZZLIES today. (Grizzlies is the mascot for North Woods School, which was opened in 2012 when the schools in Cook, Orr and Bois Forte were consolidated.)

It’s great to see how well the three communities work together. Really great.

And they provides a handy list of all of their projects:

  1. QuickBooks Online (Lisa Hyppa)
    The Grizzly’s continue to work with Lisa Hyppa to provide QuickBooks online education and program development to local business throughout our region. The intake of this program has given multiple local businesses the opportunity to manage their business online and educate themselves in basic accounting practices provided through Lisa.
  2. Cook Library WIFI Hotspots (Crystal Phillips)
    The Cook Library continues to Provide WIFI access points and computer access to Members of the Cook Library. During the Covid-19 crisis, the WIFI hotspots are in high demand. The success of this program has led to the procurement and disbursement of WIFI hotspots to all elementary students of the Nett Lake Elementary school in order to provide a means of communication between school children and teachers in areas where broadband is limited.
  3. Orr Center Wireless Buildout (Wendy Purdy)
    The Orr Center (Old Orr High School) was in need of new wireless equipment. Since the closing of the school, the original Cisco access points were in dire need of replacing. Local Tech guys Lou Pliml, and Evertt Huismann completed a wireless implementation of the school providing coverage to all areas of the building. Lou and Evertt donated a considerable amount of time chasing old cut out wiring and replacement of cabling to make this project a success.
  4. Wireless to Ball Fields Grizzly’s school (John Vukemanich, Lou Pliml, Evertt Huismann)
    The Grizzly’s school had a request to enhance its WIFI access to the ball fields surrounding the school. The school teachers and athletic programs utilize this WIFI to provide program access to the school children and athletic game broadcasting via you tube. This project got highly technical as it required fiber optic cabling to be installed within the school to the roof of the school. One directional Wireless bridge was installed on top of the school and the other on top of the Football field broadcasting house to make the wireless connection. An outdoor access point was then installed at the football broadcasting house connecting the teachers, students and media broadcasters to the school network. Local Tech guys Lou Pliml and Evertt Huismann installed and setup the equipment. Bois Forte Purchased and donated the fiber optic cabling and bridging equipment needed to provide the equipment between the school and Football field clubhouse.
  1. Art Unlimited- Website Design training
    Our original intention of this program was to develop a specific website tailored to all sports activities of the Grizzly’s school and have it built solely by Art Unlimited out of Cook. Throughout this website would be various content on games and activities with links for community members to watch local games being broadcasted via broadband through computer, iPads, iPhones etc.  Once we progressed, we revisited our intention and realized it was not in the best intention of the school nor the students. We then retailored the program such that Art Unlimited would train and teach various students on how to build and develop websites, gather information and how to manage sites properly. This project did not go unnoticed from the school district. In due diligence we notified the school district of our intention on providing school activity content via this newly created website and after a few short meetings they were ok with the project. This project has been indivertibly affected by the Covid-19 epidemic, but will still manage to go Live in June prior to the start of the upcoming years athletic programs.
  1. Zup’s Online Ordering Process
    Due to Covid-19, various community members reached out to us for assistance on how best to provide social distancing when forced to enter small community-based grocery stores. We decided that a web-based ordering system for food from the local Zup’s IGA would best satisfy the community’s needs and provide the protection necessary to safeguard a lot of the elderly and at-risk community members within our area. The website has been up and running and handling several requests per day. We are anticipating early June for completion as each item throughout the store must be accounted for and maintained throughout the website in a specific database. Local Web Designer Art Unlimited and Local tech guy Lou Pliml were influential on integration and implementation of this project. Zup’s IGA expressed their appreciation recently on the project and how it has aided their business throughout this epidemic.
  1. Nett Lake Fiber to the Home Project
    Due to the implementation of various broadband activities and projects throughout our region provided through the Blandin Foundation, the Bois Forte Reservation was successful in applying for DEED Fiber to the home funding to build out a complete fiber optic to the premise buildout. Other contributing sources of funding came through the IRRRB and Shakopee Reservation. No funding through the Blandin Foundation was used to acquire this grant funding, but was considered one of the primary sources of community-based involvement needed to prove that such a buildout is necessary and financially stable to implement within this region. Bois Forte is now researching funding opportunities to provide engineering costs and estimates to the communities that have close ties to the reservation. These community include the City of Orr, Cook, Tower, Soudan and the Greenwood Township area.

Strut Your Stuff: Broadband projects in Aitkin

Part of becoming a Blandin Broadband Community (BBC), is the opportunity to show off what you’ve been doing related to broadband in your community. It was great to hear from folks in Aitkin today.

Like all of the latest BBCs, COVID played a big role in both preparing the community for the pandemic quarantine and stopped projects in their tracks. In Aitkin we heard a lot about healthcare. Turns out they were able to serve 900 patients online in the first few weeks of the quarantine because they were prepared – but also because policy, especially around reimbursement made it financially possible. In fact, the health care folks were somehow able to expedite a plan scheduled really through the end of the year to deploy measures in weeks. Wow!

There were also some projects like the fancy new super-efficient conference room at the Birch Street Center where at first were put on hold as communities meetings were cancelled but now it back in play as they are planning to use it to stream Tai Chi classes for local seniors.

Aitkin is still working on getting broadband and it was good to hear about their short term plans to get it to people immediately but also long term goals to make sure they got what they needed.

Venture Forward: socioeconomic factors, venture growth and prosperity in MN Counties

Last month, Go Daddy released Venture Forward, a report on the impact of local ventures on a community and impact of community on local ventures. I wrote about it earlier – and decided that it made sense to write two posts. One on the high level look at the report – and this one focusing on what we can learn about Minnesota Counties. You could slice and dice this info many useful ways and I will likely dig in when I do the County Profile reports but for now I’ve kept it pretty high level. But know that Go Daddy tracked data regulalry between May 2018 to Dece 2019. You can check out your county especially if you know there’s been a change in broadband access or other factors in your area! (Get spreadsheet of MN County data.)

A quick reminder from my earlier more on why local ventures are important:

  • Each new venture per 100 people increases the predicted prosperity of a county by an average of 0.4 pts; or 1.4 pts if the venture is highly-active
  • On average, counties with 2.5 or more ventures per 100 people saw a net gain in economic prosperity since the Great Recession of 2008.
  • Adding one highly active venture per 100 people in a county increases median income by $331 on average or over 19%

Here some Top 10 lists based on how Minnesota Counties rank – you can get compete lists in spreadsheet form. The first two lists come from data based Go Daddy, which means they are updated  as of December 2019.

Top 10 in Venture Density (ventures per 100 people)

  1. Lyon County 10.96020222
  2. Hennepin County 10.1336298
  3. Dakota County 9.492868423
  4. Chisago County 8.988284111
  5. Cook County 8.495574951
  6. Carver County 8.300045013
  7. Scott County 7.769239902
  8. Ramsey County 7.42700386
  9. Crow Wing County 7.171596527
  10. Wright County 6.472303867

Top 10 in Highly Active Ventures

  1. Cook County 2.411504462
  2. Hennepin County 2.237640508
  3. Dakota County 1.915973052
  4. Carver County 1.686515287
  5. Lake of the Woods County 1.68295335
  6. Scott County 1.562431455
  7. Ramsey County 1.556159183
  8. Pope County 1.485350262
  9. Douglas County 1.43686356
  10. Lake County 1.331908815

The rest of the information comes from 2017 American Community Survey, 5-year estimates or 2018 Economic Innovation Group, Distressed Communities Index, which means the data is not as up to date.

Top 10 Ag (percentage employed in ag)

  1. Traverse County 18
  2. Kittson County 16
  3. Norman County 15.30000019
  4. Lincoln County 14.89999962
  5. Wilkin County 13.60000038
  6. Renville County 13.5
  7. Lac qui Parle County 13.5
  8. Marshall County 13.30000019
  9. Pipestone County 12.69999981
  10. Murray County 12

Top 10 Ag (percentage employed in retail)

  1. Koochiching County 17.70000076
  2. Pennington County 17.29999924
  3. Kittson County 14.30000019
  4. Douglas County 14.30000019
  5. Crow Wing County 14.19999981
  6. Stearns County 13.80000019
  7. Sherburne County 13.69999981
  8. Hubbard County 13.5
  9. Freeborn County 13.39999962
  10. Becker County 13.39999962

Top 10 in Prosperity (EPI)

  1. Scott County 97.79957581
  2. Washington County 92.739151
  3. Dakota County 90.70198822
  4. Carver County 89.37926483
  5. Rice County 89.28246307
  6. Wright County 89.06459045
  7. Clay County 87.614151
  8. Olmsted County 86.4201889
  9. Nicollet County 85.7696991
  10. Wabasha County 80.88555145

Top 10 change in Prosperity from 2016 to 2017

  1. Aitkin County 14.83516312
  2. Isanti County 10.38163757
  3. Wadena County 8.680400848
  4. Anoka County 8.203529358
  5. Norman County 7.440498352
  6. Meeker County 7.242202759
  7. Chisago County 6.579452515
  8. Douglas County 6.558887482
  9. Kanabec County 6.447067261
  10. Sherburne County 5.867752075

Top 10 change in Median Income from 2016 to 2017

  1. Sherburne County 5814
  2. Isanti County 4832
  3. Carver County 4457
  4. Rock County 3918
  5. Chisago County 3839
  6. Lake County 3758
  7. Chippewa County 3560
  8. Carlton County 3267
  9. Anoka County 3217
  10. Hubbard County 3199

Top 10 (really bottom 10 – but most positive) Unemployment rate

  1. Wilkin County 1.4
  2. Rock County 1.9
  3. Chippewa County 2
  4. Brown County 2.3
  5. Carver County 2.4
  6. Watonwan County 2.4
  7. Stevens County 2.6
  8. Roseau County 2.6
  9. Kittson County 2.6
  10. Cook County 2.6

In the nerdiest way, I am really looking forward to the County Profiles this year – especially with this data. I see that they had the same difficulty I had with the report I did two years ago on the Community ROI on Public Investment in broadband. Specifically, the stats that track income, unemployment and prosperity lag behind broadband deployment and adoption. But every year we get a better historical perspective and we can apply predicted improvements based on updated data related to ventures.

Venture Forward: socioeconomic factors impact venture growth, venture growth impacts community prosperity

Last month, Go Daddy released Venture Forward, a report on the impact of local ventures on a community and impact of community on local ventures. It looks at how different socioeconomic factors affect venture growth and compare city rankings across our database of 900+ U.S. city regions. Here’s a description of the report from Daily Yonder

A new dataset from GoDaddy (a large retailer of website domain names and hosting services) provides some new insight into this topic.  The data focuses on “ventures” which are defined as individual domain names with an active website.  Using data from over 20 million websites, GoDaddy has developed an intriguing measure of broadband use by assessing how many ventures exist per 100 people.  GoDaddy estimates that about 75% of the active websites are business-oriented (as opposed to nonprofit or personal sites).

Here is the map from the Daily Yonder site that caught my attention – it highlights venture density in non-metrocounties – the darker the color, the greater the venture density…

You can see the diversity in venture density with a nod to cook for higher percentage! (For something really good you can check out the growth of ventures in an intereactive map on Go Daddy, track May 2018 to Dec 2019. Check out your county especially if you know there’s been a change in broadband access or other factors in your area!)

So what does is mean for a community to have a greater density or more active ventures?

  • Each new venture per 100 people increases the predicted prosperity of a county by an average of 0.4 pts; or 1.4 pts if the venture is highly-active
  • On average, counties with 2.5 or more ventures per 100 people saw a net gain in economic prosperity since the Great Recession of 2008.
  • Adding one highly active venture per 100 people in a county increases median income by $331 on average or over 19%

Go Daddy makes this info available at the county-level. I have also looked at Minnesota counties and the report – for another post.

Get a nice high level look on why this is valuable:

(In the spirit of full disclosure I host a few dozens websites with GO Daddy and have for 20 years.)

Strut Your Stuff: Broadband projects in Hibbing MN

Part of becoming a Blandin Broadband Community (BBC), is the opportunity to show off what you’ve been doing related to broadband in your community. It was great to hear from folks in Hibbing today.

They have been doing a lot of great work getting iPads to seniors, doing training, WiFi in public housing but there was one application that really struck me. Lots of communities are putting projects on hold during the pandemic or changing them – it’s what we’re doing.

Hibbing got iPads for the ambulances. It was a good way to get a visual connection between the ambulance and the hospital. Well those iPads have been repurposed. Patients use them in the hospital for pre-screening. That saves on PPE for healthcare workers. And patients with (or suspected to have) COVID-19. That reduces the contact (but not care) with healthcare professionals. Also, and this is the part I love, it allows patients to connect with loved ones outside. Technology makes life better.

Local musicians raising funds for local efforts through community websites in Mankato

Mankato Free Press reports…

A weekly online concert series featuring local bands to raise funds for area COVID-19 efforts will kick off 7 p.m. tonight on Facebook Live and KTV Public Access.

The event, called Band Together Mankato, is sponsored by the Mayo Clinic Health System Event Center. It will feature regional musicians performing “live from their living rooms.” Tonight’s guest features Mankato’s Good Night Gold Dust.

Band Together Mankato is a fundraiser for the COVID-19 Community Response Fund, a joint effort of the Greater Mankato Area United way and the Mankato Area Foundation to assist with emerging needs in our region.

I found out about this week when I interviewed tomorrow night’s musical guest Dave Sandersfeld; he will be debuting a new album tomorrow night. I love this idea. I’ve been trying to think of ways that local artists and performers can help the community and vice versa. I don’t know if Dave will get paid for the show; I love the idea either way BUT I really love a plan where the performers get paid as few industries have been hit harder during the pandemic than musicians.

I throw this out for other communities – support local artists and performers by hiring them to perform at online fundraisers or arrange to share money raised. You can open this up to local businesses too – have them sponsor a band, just as they might sponsor a meal, the beer or donuts at a meeting. The performer could perform from the sponsor location or wear promotional t-shirts.

You raise money, you help keep music alive – and with any luck you all build up your social media channels building relationships who will be more likely now to visit once they can.

Strut Your Stuff: Broadband projects in Cannon Falls

Part of becoming a Blandin Broadband Community (BBC), is the opportunity to show off what you’ve been doing related to broadband in your community. It was nice to hear from Amy Dombeck and Laura Qualey about what’s happening.

I was about to say it was fun – but it wasn’t all fun today. We heard a lot about the impact of COVID-19 – especially on school families. Some families are in great shape in part due to the work of the BBC in the community. Some families are not. We heard about families with multiple children working off a single smart phone to do distance education. We heard about one teacher who got to learn all about Google and then how to teach using Google in the two-week prep period before classes went online.

It wasn’t all discouraging, we also got to hear about seniors in community housing who have been so glad to have virtual reality set up for adventures, especially now as family and friends are unable to visit them.

And we got to hear about a lot of resources in the area that are all working to making technology an asset for education, healthcare and economic development.