Office of Broadband Development to Host Informational Webinars for 2019 Broadband Grant Application Process

Sharing an invitation from the Office of Broadband Development…

On July 24 and July 25, the Minnesota Office of Broadband Development will host a series of three webinar/WebEx toll-free calls to support the 2019 broadband grant application process and to answer potential applicant questions. We will introduce this year’s changes to the program, walk through the application requirements, review the scoring criteria, and answer questions. Please join us on any one of the following scheduled webinar sessions:

• Wednesday, July 24, at 1 to 3 p.m.
• Thursday, July 25, at 9 to 11 a.m.
• Thursday, July 25, at 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

To register, please send an email with your contact information (your name, organization, address, email and telephone number to, also copying

Please indicate which session you plan to attend. You must register to receive further instructions on how to access the meeting and the associated materials. The information presented on each call will be the same, so you only need to select one session in order to participate fully.

If you have questions about registration, you may also call David Thao at 651-259-7442. If you have specific questions about the grant program, please contact Cathy Clucas at or 651-259-7635.

As always, any general questions can be directed to our DEED e-mailbox at, or our Staff at 651-259-7610.

Good luck!

Register Now: Innovation: Putting Broadband to Work

Register Now: Innovation: Putting Broadband to Work
October 8-10
Grand View Lodge – Nisswa MN

Please join us October 8-10, at the gorgeous Grand View Lodge in Nisswa for our annual broadband conference, Innovation: Putting Broadband to Work. Broadband access today is as varied as communities across Minnesota. Some enjoy a gig, others are working hard for any service, and the rest are somewhere in between. This conference is for all communities, regardless of where they are on the spectrum – because we’ve learned that having broadband isn’t enough. It takes inspiration, encouragement and guidance to reap the full benefits. We’ll be talking about how to make the most of what you’ve got and/or get more.

This year’s conference will shine a light on local broadband heroes as well as look at several aspects of broadband:

  • Getting Connected
  • Community Vitality
  • Economic Development
  • Digital Equity

Check out the conference website for more details, including the preliminary agenda. (Or learn about opportunities to sponsor or exhibit.)

Register Today!

Join policymakers, economic and community development professionals, and community broadband champions from across the state for this annual opportunity to learn, connect, and engage.

We hope to see you there!

EVENT ALERT: Is your community’s tech sophistication keeping pace with the world?

An invitation from the Blandin Foundation:

You can find out by using the benchmarking tool of the Intelligent Community Forum (ICF) which measures six inter-related indicators of a community’s competitiveness in the digital economy. The ICF benchmarking tool is used to measure progress against other communities and over time.

To give you and others in your community the opportunity to learn more about this process, Blandin Foundation is hosting four regional workshops across the state to explain the ICF model and showcase how communities in Minnesota and across the globe are putting it to work.

This workshop is for leaders in business, education and government interested in working strategically and collaboratively to improve the economic vitality and quality of life of their community and region.

In addition, Blandin will offer technical assistance to local teams completing ICF’s benchmarking questionnaire. This tool works for communities of all sizes – from the smallest up to a regional partnership, though data constraints may hamper answers to some questions for smaller communities.

Join us at one of the regional meetings to learn more.

Join us at one of the regional meetings to learn more.

  • Red Wing* Monday, August 12 9:00-10:30 am
    Red Wing Ignite 419 Bush Street Red Wing, MN 55066
  • Brainerd Tuesday, August 13 9:00-10:30 am
    Brainerd Lakes Area Development Corp. 224 West Washington Street Brainerd, MN 56401
  • Bemidji Wednesday, August 14 9:30-11:00 am
    Bemidji Launchpad 102 1st Street West Bemidji, MN 56601
  • Appleton Monday, August 19 1:00-2:30 pm
    Upper MN Valley Regional Dev. Commission Appleton Civic Center 323 West Schlieman Avenue Appleton, Minnesota 56208

Register online.

About ICF Benchmarking Each organization that completes the benchmarking process will be entered in ICF’s Intelligent Community of the Year competition and will receive an ICF benchmarking report that compares your scores in the six elements to the other 400-plus ICF applicants. ICF estimates 8 – 10 hours of work to complete the application, which combines data and storytelling.

The questionnaire is due September 23, 2019.

You can find the questionnaire and more information on the Intelligent Community Forum at

Blandin Foundation’s Community Broadband Resources Program Blandin Foundation has been using the Intelligent Community framework to help communities develop successful tech-based community projects that build local tech sophistication. A Minnesota delegation to the recent Intelligent Community Global Summit is inviting more Minnesota communities to join them in the Intelligent Community movement.

Blandin Foundation staff and consultants will assist rural Minnesota communities/regions by facilitating a stakeholder team discussion about how to present your best stories and offer draft application review. That assistance is available by completing the brief Community Broadband Resources form.

House Agriculture Subcommittee on Broadband July 11 in DC

The House Agriculture Committee is having a Subcommittee hearing this Thursday, July 11th on rural broadband: “Building Opportunity in Rural America through Affordable, Reliable and High-Speed Broadband.” Looks like the meeting starts at 9am (MN time) and there’s a link for the livestream

Thursday, July 11, 2019 – 10:00AM

1300 Longworth House Office Building

Washington, D.C.

Commodity Exchanges, Energy, and Credit Subcommittee Hearing

RE: “Building Opportunity in Rural America through Affordable, Reliable and High-Speed Broadband”

Now is a good time for communities to prep for broadband upgrades

It was good to see local media write about the broadband meeting in St Louis County last week. The Hibbing Daily Tribune reports…

Now is a good time for communities to take the proper steps to prepare for grant applications, representatives said, especially because of the local, state and federal sources available to tap into and an Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board and Blandin Foundation partnership.

“There are general fund dollars (state money) and local matching dollars this year … to grow connectivity in our area,” said Jason Metsa, deputy commissioner for the IRRRB.

An IRRRB infrastructure grant has up to $2 million dedicated for fiscal year 2020 to serve as a local match in leveraging other state and federal grants for broadband. The funds are available for unserved and underserved areas, with up to a 25% match.

St. Louis County has large areas considered unserved or underserved.

Local funding resources, which other rural parts of the state have employed, include local cash contributions, tax abatement bonds and dedication of special taxes.

Federal dollars are available through the United States Department of Agriculture ReConnect initiative and state funding from the Border to Border Broadband Grant Program.

I wrote about the meeting too so I won’t go into great detail – but it’s a reminder to all communities – act or be left behind. A lot is happening and that’s great. Some communities will be lucky enough to get grant funding – and luck favors the prepared.

Growth & Justice Blue Print – economic development discussed in Little Falls

Yesterday Growth and Justice released the latest section of the Minnesota Equity Blueprint – with special focus on economic development. The event was held at Sprout Growers and Makers Marketplace in Little Falls, MN. We heard from folks from Region Five Development Commission, Rural Renewable Energy Alliance, Five Wings Art Council, The Initiative Foundation and others.

You can watch the meeting in its entirety below.

Growth & Justice does a good job promoting rural and urban partnerships. Yesterday they talked about entrepreneurship, childcare, welcoming new people into the communities (immigrants and others), using art for placemaking and more. (The next section should address broadband more directly. Can’t wait!) These are the issues that are thorns in the side of residents.

It was interesting to hear from the presenters and the questions they got. Region Five has a program where they work with businesses and communities to be more welcoming – again of immigrants or others, like new graduates.  There was a small group of protesters, who did not like the idea of welcoming immigrants. They didn’t think their community needed it. Region Five explained that businesses and communities came to them for help. They aren’t door knocking for clients. Receiving their welcoming service is NOT mandated or required to receive a grant, loan or other service.

The vocal minority thought they spoke for the community – but clearly they didn’t speak for the whole community because Region Five has a waiting list for their welcoming services.

It reminded me of broadband discussions in some communities. Generally businesses want broadband. Generally anyone with kids in school wants it. But sometimes there is a group of vocal and/or powerful (on boards or otherwise in a decision-making position) who doesn’t think the community wants to invest in broadband. I remember attending a meeting in Sunrise Township where board members needed some persuading to understand that many people wanted broadband. (Now they have it.)

Communities without broadband have difficulties retaining, never mind attracting new residents and businesses. At the Growth and Justice meeting I was reminded that the State Demographer has reported that immigration is fueling population growth. Communities that aren’t welcoming will have difficulty attracting new residents. Broadband and immigration are coming; communities ignore that fact at their own peril.

St Louis County broadband meeting: make partners, help providers work with you – think feasibility studies

Today in St Louis a few dozen people met to talk and learn about broadband. A few themes emerged – people want broadband. In areas that aren’t yet served it’s going to take an effort – on the part of the local community. Partnership helps. Part of the game is courting a provider and often that means making yourself more attractive by knowing what infrastructure is already in your community and knowing the interest with local residents. Inherent in that idea is the opportunity to encourage local residents.

You can watch the archive or read notes below.

Welcome from Jason Metsa – Continue reading