What makes a city smart? We can learn from NYC and others

ComputerWorld has a series on Smart Cities. They check out what’s happening in big cities and how they are using technology to make life better. Their changes are definitely different than rural Minnesota but that doesn’t mean there isn’t something we can learn here. This latest video looks at swapping out phone booths for charging WiFI stations. Something that’s probably worth considering if your rural town wants to attract tourists.

The beauty of the new charging stations is that it tracks use and presence of smartphones. It could be a great way to measure usage and visitors. The NYC stations are paid for with advertising. I’ve hearing about rural Minnesota cities using advertising or sponsorship to pay for public Wifi (on the welcome splash page).

Broadband is only one ingredient is success –relationship is another

Red Wing Ignite supports economic development in Red Wing based on community-wide access to gig broadband. They were a Blandin Broadband community. They’re a great example of maximizing the value of a gig by getting people to use it.

The Red Wing Republican Eagle recently posted a letter from Susan Sorensen Langer (founder of Live.Give.Save., won the annual Ignite Cup business competition in early 2017) about Red Wing Ignite’s role in that win.

First info on Live.Give.Save

Live.Give.Save. is a mobile app that makes saving and giving as easy as spending. We’re aiming it particularly at millennials. We call the concept “Spaving.” Every time you spend on yourself, you save for your future and give to someone in need without changing a thing. Together, we’re making the world better … one community, one person, one transaction at a time.

Now some background on the development of the business…

Kirsten Mikkelson Ford of Focus Design sparked everything off by recommending I meet Neela Mollgaard of Red Wing Ignite. That spark lit a flame of opportunities that continue today. Neela first invited me to apply to Red Wing Ignite’s accelerator program, followed by an introduction to Mark Thein of Small Business Development Center, who helped me develop my business financials, and then Shari Chorney of Red Wing Port Authority, who suggested I apply for a loan from agency’s newly created entrepreneurial fund.

I joined Ignite’s coworking office space and received a Port Authority loan to conduct marketing and develop a prototype. Kirsten, Neela, Mark and Shari participated in a “Design Thinking” session at The Nerdery (a large software development firm in Bloomington, Minn.,) to help inform and shape our prototype design. The prototype was completed in December 2015 and used to help solicit funding from prospective early-stage investors (aka, family and friends). I was introduced to the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation where I also applied for funding.

My company — Live.Give.Save. — became a formal corporate entity in February 2016 and I started raising capital, over-subscribing our seed round that summer. I hired a chief technology officer, Tim Dokken (who serendipitously grew up and graduated from Red Wing High School), to lead our technology development.

Now here’s the best part: While sitting around a table during one of our coworking updates at Ignite, I shared that we needed to establish a beta test for our product. I received a list of individuals to contact in the community and the concept of our community-led, controlled beta test was formed. …

We were recently invited to participate in the Ignite Cup — and won! — earning us a semifinalist position in the Minnesota Cup, the nation’s largest statewide startup competition.

I just had a funny conversation today about broadband and increase in jobs. I maintained that jobs was a 20th century measurement for a 21st century opportunity. I think this is a good example. You need broadband – but that’s not the only connection you need. Communities with broadband and support like Red Wing Ignite are well poised to take on their future!


Making a short list for the Farm Bill? Remember broadband.

The Marshall Independent is reporting from Farmfest on conversations happening on the Farm Bill. He’s a very abbreviated broadband take what they are talking about…

Dozens of farmers, ranchers and organizational leaders voiced their opinion on what should be in the next Farm Bill to U.S. House Agricultural Committee members, drawing a big crowd to the Farmfest Forum building for 2-and-1/2 hours Thursday. …

[Minnesota Farmers Union President Gary] Wertish said broadband expansion to rural areas, high healthcare costs are huge issues. …

Minnesota Association of Townships Executive Director Gary Pedersen said rural broadband expansion should be considered a “have to be” and a utility.

It’s a really interesting list  of “must haves” – worth a read. I was glad and not surprised to see broadband mentioned.

Congressman Emmer Supports Focus on Tech Apprenticeships

News from Minnesota Congressman Tom Emmer on building tech skills…

Last week, Congressman Tom Emmer (MN-06) cosponsored the Championing Apprenticeships for New Careers and Employees in Technology (CHANCE in Tech) Act.

“As I travel across Minnesota, employers often express their frustration with the current skills gap and worker shortage facing our state and the nation as a whole, especially as the tech sector expands in Minnesota,” said Emmer. “As of April, more than 15,000 jobs in Minnesota’s technology sector remained unfilled – jobs with average annual salaries of nearly $100,000. I have had the opportunity to tour some of the apprenticeship programs and private-public partnerships in the great state of Minnesota and it is clear these programs are going to be the key to solving the skills gap currently plaguing our nation. I am proud to cosponsor the CHANCE in Tech Act to foster the creation of these private-public partnerships and cultivate new apprenticeship programs so that the generation of tomorrow has access to education that will bring this nation fully into the 21st century and beyond.”

“The U.S. is expected to have 1.8 million unfilled tech jobs by 2024. The deficit is not because of a lack of desire by American workers, but a dearth of workers with the necessary IT skills,” said Elizabeth Hyman, CompTIA’s Executive Vice President of Public Advocacy. “If neglected, the IT skills gap will affect our country’s ability to protect national security interests and to compete economically on the global stage. The CHANCE in Tech Act introduced today will address the growing IT talent challenge by encouraging public-private funding for apprenticeship programs in the technology sector and providing students with the necessary skills to compete in the 21st Century workforce.”

The CHANCE in Tech Act will direct the Department of Labor to assist in the promotion and development of access to apprenticeships in the technology industry.

Strut Your Stuff Tour in Aitkin County: Community centers, wifi hotspots and community portal

This morning I was pleased head up to Aitkin to hear about our the local broadband adoption programs went through the IRBC (Iron Range Broadband Communities) program. It’s always inspiring to hear about what’s happening on the frontlines. As we often hear in these meetings – the technology is hugely beneficial but nothing compared to the opportunity to work together as a team. Broadband doesn’t have the same boundaries as cities, towns and counties have. Subsequently, cities, towns and counties are learning to works around boundaries.

As part of the IRBC experience, Aitkin County has been working with Bill Coleman on creating a broadband expansion strategy, focused on increasing use. Currently they are working on a few things: a community portal (with calendar), free community wifi spots and tech-equipped community centers.

You can read on for more of the details of each project. I’m going to leave the notes a little loose – because there might be something in there that helps another community deploy similar projects.

Continue reading

Pope County wants to grow and broadband is part of the equation

According to the Pope County Tribune

The Pope County Board of Commissioners heard a report from West Central Initiative Business and Economic Development Director Greg Wagner and Donor Services Officer Tom McSparron at its meeting last Wednesday.

Wagner gave the board a report on the economic development of Pope County in 2016. He said that Pope County’s population decline has slowed and is on a slow upward trajectory, with a growth in population until 2025. From 2000 to 2016 Pope County lost approximately 147 people, but is expected to grow from 11,049 in 2016 to 11,758 by 2025.

2016 trends in Pope County included the need for a larger workforce, housing affordability, the need for increased wages, the need to expand broadband access and coverage, rising energy costs and the need for more child care openings and providers.

They also mention a website that helps businesses recover from disaster…

McSparron mentioned how WCI has created a website called stayopenforbiz.org that helps businesses prepare for disasters. He said that 25 percent of businesses that close their doors due to a disaster never reopen. The site is used to help those businesses develop continuity plans to prepare for disasters. WCI helps companies start up and expand through loan and business assistance programs.

Hibbing broadband expansion plan: hotspots, social media and tech fair

According to the Hibbing Daily Tribune

The local Blandin Broadband Cohort tasked with developing ways to improve and advance high-speed internet access and the skills to use it has identified its top three priorities, and Blandin Foundation has stepped in to help make it happen.

Blandin Foundation announced Monday that it has awarded 11 grants totaling $483,090 to assist rural Minnesota communities.

Hibbing — which is largely unserved by broadband access of 25 megabits per second upload and 3 megabits per second download — is a recipient of these grant funds.

Grant funding from this round will drive three specific projects forward. They include:

  • Public hot spots: wi-fi hotspots will be placed in public locations and available for checkout through the public library.

  • Website and social media consulting: small businesses will be invited to compete for training to grow their revenues and brand awareness through online strategies.

  • IT knowledge and career fair: Hibbing Community College will host an IT Fair that will focus on the many ways IT interfaces with everyday life, what career options exist, and the education pathways to get to those careers.