February 2022
Long-time Finance Director Lu Vanderwerf Retires
For 17 years, Lu Vanderwerf has served as the organization's Finance Director and administered the Revolving Loan Fund. Region Nine's staff and commissioners would like to thank Lu for her unwavering dedication to her work within the organization and the communities we serve. Her presence and expertise will be missed.
From everyone at Region Nine, we want to congratulate Lu on her retirement and wish her the best on this next chapter of her life!
 “I would like to give a very heartfelt and grateful farewell to all the co-workers, commissioners, and partners of Region Nine that I had the privilege of working with over the past 17 years. You have all enriched my life in one way or another, and I have learned from each of you. I was especially fond of the loan clients I worked with over the years and wish them continued success in their endeavors. Thank you all for being a part of my journey!”

—Lu Vanderwerf
Get to Know Region Nine's New Finance Director,
Ky Battern
Ky earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Public Accounting from Gustavus Adolphus College in 2010 and soon after earned is Certified Public Accounting (CPA) license in 2011. His career started in public accounting while working as an auditor for CliftonLarsonAllen within the government and manufacturing industries. Ky later went on to pursue a career in government/school finance, and most recently served as the Business Manager for the Le Sueur-Henderson School District for four and a half years prior to joining Region Nine.

Ky Battern's work will include maintaining the accounting systems, financial reporting, and budget forecasting for Region Nine.
Region Nine Receives SolSmart Silver Designation
Region Nine has been awarded a SolSmart Silver designation for the organization's efforts to make it faster, easier, and more affordable to go solar! Region Nine is proud to be recognized as a national leader in advancing solar energy. 
Funded by the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office, SolSmart recognizes cities and counties for cutting red tape and making solar more affordable and accessible for homes and businesses. Region Nine staff are committed to reducing solar energy costs at the local level and encouraging even more homes and businesses to use this clean, affordable energy source. The SolSmart Silver designation recognizes that we are “open for solar business,” helping to attract solar industry investment that generates economic development and jobs.

Interested in having your community become a SolSmart designee?
Contact Region Nine at 507.387.5643 for more information. 
Waseca County Becomes Lead in Manufacturing Resource Center Project
Waseca County has taken over the lead on the planning process for the Manufacturing Resource Center (MRC). The project began in November 2019 when Region Nine and the City of Waseca received funding from the Economic Development Administration (EDA) to conduct a feasibility study to evaluate the potential development of an MRC. From this, a multitude of conversations, additional analysis, and potential site visits were held to further the project.

Waseca County hosted an industry and academic conversation with representatives from several key regional employers and a delegation from Minnesota State University, Mankato on Monday, February 21stat the Waseca High School. The goal for the session was to identify areas of need and to jointly develop a plan for programming at the MRC. The group is reconvening in two weeks to continue the conversations.
Former Youth Commissioner Reflects on his Experience Serving on Full Commission
Why did you want to join the Region Nine Full Commission as a College-Age Youth Commissioner?

I knew that civic involvement was going to be an important aspect of my career path, and I saw no better way to get involved than to represent my college aged peers on the Region Nine's Full Commission. I would also note that Region Nine does a spectacular job with legislative advocacy on the state and federal levels. I knew this would be a beneficial learning opportunity for me, as speaking to legislators will be a significant component of my career. 
What was your favorite aspect of being part of the Full Commission?

I enjoyed forming professional relationships with the other commission members and staff. It was not an intimidating environment at all, given that everyone was respectful, supportive, and willing to listen to the input of others.
I appreciate that Region Nine holds seats for public interest groups. Civically engaging people at a young age is one way that rural communities can prevent the hollowing out of their populations. When someone, like myself, has the opportunity to be involved with a local organization like Region Nine while in college, it makes me want to stay here after graduation and give more back to the Region.
How did being part of the Full Commission impact your time in school? Choosing a career path?

I was lucky enough to know what career I was pursuing before being appointed to the commission. Given that my career is in local government management, the opportunity to meet and work with mayors, council members, and school board members on the Commission greatly enhanced my knowledge, network, and confidence in the field.
Region Nine staff have done a wonderful job synthesizing and educating us on the issues that local communities in the region face. I can take the knowledge I have gained from this experience and apply it to my future work in the region.
Tell us about your new role. What are you looking forward to?

I was appointed as the City Administrator in Wells, Minnesota this past fall. Wells is in Faribault county, one of the nine counties that Region Nine serves. As the city administrator, I am responsible for all administrative affairs of the city and for coordinating all city government operations.
Being a city of just 2,500 people, I am floored by the number of amenities that the city government provides in Wells. A municipal liquor store, golf course, and movie theater are just some of the interesting services that we provide to residents.
I am also looking forward to continuing to work closely with Region Nine on establishing a REV program in Wells. Leah Petricka, Region Nine’s Community Development Director, has been coaching us on implementing the program. I know we are all excited for the opportunity to partner with Region Nine to grow the network of young entrepreneurs in Wells, Faribault County, and the whole region!

Are you, or someone you know, active within the region and interested in serving your community through local government? Contact Region Nine to learn about open vacancies on the Full Commission at 507.387.5643.
Share Your Thoughts on Transit in South Central Minnesota
Region Nine is working on the 2022 Local Human Services Transit Coordination Plan and seeking feedback about existing services, so we can identify where transit services are needed or need improvement. Feedback from this survey will help us and transit providers see where transit works well and where the region’s need are, and how we can plan accordingly.  
The survey will take approximately 5 minutes to complete and is available in three languages (English, Spanish, and Somali).
Please contact Region Nine at 507.387.5643 for further questions or if additional assistance is needed to complete the survey. 
Region Nine Offers Stipends to Underserved Farmers
Region Nine was awarded a grant by the United States Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to support local foods and historically underserved farmers in the region through various activities.

The purpose of stipends is to build the capacity of members of the Grower’s Network, including historically underserved farmers. Stipends may be used to attend conferences such as the Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Services (MOSES), Sustainable Farming Association-Minnesota, Living Earth Center and others. Stipends will be awarded on a quarterly basis. Members may apply for a stipend to more than one conference.

Amount available: Up to $60 per stipend.

Deadline for stipends: December 30, 2021; March 30, 2022; June 30, 2022; September 30, 2022

Application Process: If interested in attending a conference, please complete the online application found below.

Reporting Process: Stipend Recipients must submit a brief report documenting conference registration and what they gained from the conference.
Region Nine Gifts Prize Money to Local Non-Profit
Q: What is the name of the toy company founded in Mound, Minnesota, whose name means “Big” or “Great” in Dakota Sioux? (Answer can be found below)

On January 27th Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation (SMIF) hosted their 2nd annual Great Southern Minnesota Trivia Night where teams from non-profits, community organizations, and local government came together to test their Minnesota knowledge. The categories included Minnesota toys and games, movies, music, and sports. To add to the fun, and create some real competition, teams competed for a grand prize of $5,000 which could be donated to the organization of their choice!

Throughout the rounds, Region Nine’s two teams Magic Skol Bus and Ope I Smiffed My Pants were in contention for the top spots. In the end, it was Ope I Smiffed My Pants that made it to the sudden death question of “How many Subway sandwich shops are there on earth?”. The closest answer came from the Mankato Makerspace Cadets, who donated their winnings to the Mankato Makerspace, a communal space for makers, artists, and community members to access tools, workshops, and classes. But not to worry, Region Nine’s efforts specifically in the naming category did not go unrewarded. Ope I Smiffed My Pants won $500 for best name, which was donated to Key City Bike, a Mankato based bicycle repair non-profit.  

A: Tonka Trucks 
The State of Agriculture
If you are directly or indirectly involved with food or agriculture industry in Minnesota, please take the 2022 State of Ag survey today! Your participation enables GreenSeam to better understand, serve, and support the workforce, businesses, organizations, and communities we call home.

The 2022 State of Ag survey provides deeper insight into the future of agriculture. The results of the survey, along with the findings from a series of focus groups, will be published in a comprehensive 2022 State of Ag report, which will be released on National Ag Day, Tuesday, March 22.
In the Media
Minnesota State Mankato receives nearly $1 million grant to help small businesses -Read More

Minnesota State Mankato’s Strategic Partnerships Center Receives $942,796 Grant from U.S. SBA to Help Disadvantaged Small Businesses -Read More
$$ Grant Opportunities $$
Aspiring Entrepreneurs Business Competition

Eligible applicants must:

Apply for the chance to pitch to our partners, investors, and others in the southern Minnesota entrepreneurial ecosystem in Owatonna, Minn., on March 31, 2022. Additionally, finalists will have access to business training for their pitch session, free consulting hours, and a chance to win investment funding for their business.

Deadline: February 28
Local Trail Connections Program

The Local Trail Connections Program provides grants to local units of government to promote relatively short trail connections between where people live and desirable locations, not to develop significant new trails. Funding for this grant program is from "In Lieu Of" lottery proceeds.

Eligible projects include acquisition and development of trail facilities. Projects must result in a trail linkage that is immediately available for use by the general public.

Deadline: March 31
Calendar of Events
About Region Nine
Region Nine Development Commission takes great pride in working with and on behalf of counties, cities, townships, and schools throughout South Central Minnesota. Since 1972, being a partner for progress has led to the development of programs and identification of solutions in the areas of economic development, business development, healthy communities, transportation, community development, and leveraging regional resources. To learn more about our work and mission, visit www.rndc.org.
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