July 2021
Your Partner for Progress
Since 1972, Region Nine has been a partner for progress for South Central Minnesota. This has led to the development of programs and identification of solutions in the areas of economic development, community development, healthy communities, transportation, business development, and leveraging regional resources.

Do you have a program or project idea for your community? Contact Region Nine to learn how we can help your community thrive.
The Polytechnic & Applied Science Institute of Minnesota

Minnesota State University, Mankato responds to the changing needs of industry by building an institute within an institute
The United States in the midst of its Fourth Industrial Revolution, also known as Industry 4.0. Throughout history, education has responded to each industrial revolution by changing areas of focus and teaching methodologies to support the changing industrial and economic demands. “Polytechnic Institute”, or “Polytechnic University” have a long history in the United States dating back to the 1800s, and established to meet industrial, educational, and societal needs. Polytechnic Institutes today must serve the modern, digital economy with its focus on Industry 4.0 skills like smart, connected devices, and sustainable technologies.

More cross-functional roles are being created in which employees needs technical, social, and analytical skills. The polytechnic’s foundational approach of project-based/applied learning and strong partnerships learning requires the hard and soft skills to emerge through partnerships with industries as they offer robust and authentic learning opportunities for students to learn the new skills as well as engage in deeper technical knowledge.

With support from Minnesota State Colleges & Universities system office, Minnesota State University, Mankato can launch a Polytechnic Consortium to serve the needs of students, industries, and communities across Minnesota through the system network of 30 colleges and 7 universities  (https://www.minnstate.edu/campusesprograms/index.html). The Polytechnic Institute is able to respond nimbly to the needs of the community to create partnerships, deliberate results and advance Minnesota’s economy. MSU’s Polytechnic is rooted in the following:

1. Career-Focused programs – including emerging fields
2. Supported by strong professional and liberal arts skills
3.  Strong partnerships designed to react nimbly to industry needs
4.  Known for STEM focus with project-based learning (authentic, real-world projects)
5.  Dedicated to increasing access and diversifying the STEM disciplines

This past year, MSU has been fortunate to work with Kristian Braekkan, Senior Regional Planner, and the rest of the Region Nine team to better understand the labor market and the changing industry clusters throughout the state of Minnesota. With Region Nine’s help, MSU can see changes and areas of needs throughout different communities and create pathways for current employees and adult learners to gain the skills and education necessary to continue advancing and innovating Minnesota’s economy.
Next steps for the Polytechnic Institute include establishing an Industry Advisory Board which MSU’s, Director of Polytech Operations, Molly Schaefer is working to create. Overall, the foundation of the polytechnic is to work in partnerships to provide accessibility and career-readiness for students through applied learning while tackling economic and workforce needs to catapult Minnesota into a competitive, nimble, and sustainable economy.
Meet the Director

Molly Schaefer, Director of Polytech Operations at Minnesota State University, Mankato (MSU), started working for MSU in 2017 as the Director of Development for the College of Arts and Humanities. In November 2018, she moved into the role of Industry Relations Director, located out of the Twin Cities, and working with MSU’s Twin Cities Engineering program part of the Department of Integrated Engineering, and MSU’s Extended Campus programs.
Prior to joining MSU, Schaefer worked for the bipartisan Iowa Governor’s STEM initiative (iowastem.gov) as the Northwest Regional STEM Manager. While in Iowa, she served 20 counties by providing STEM programming and creating partnerships with industries, government officials, educational entities, and communities to increase STEM awareness and engagement for preschool through college students in an effort to support and accelerate Iowa’s economy. She also has experience working in the private sector specifically in advertising and marketing agencies.

Schaefer’s background has given her a wide range of experience and knowledge to operationalize a Polytechnic Institute, develop collaborative partnerships, and grow STEM. She currently lives in the Twin Cities with her husband, 4-year-old son, and 1-year-old daughter.

Stay tuned for official University announcements and updates regarding the polytechnic institute, including announcing the name of the new institute! Contact Molly.schaefer@mnsu.edu for more information or to learn how you could get involved.
German Consul General and Honorary German Consul Visit New Ulm
Wolfgang Mössinger, the German Consul General, and Barbara Müller, the Honorary Consul, visited New Ulm on July 18, 2021.

Mössinger oversees German interests in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin and Minnesota. Müller is the Honorary Consul, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota.
A consul has three purposes:

  • The first is to provide administrative support, issue passports and visas to people planning to travel to Germany.
  • The second is to oversee German interests in the Midwest. This includes reporting back on economic issues.
  • The third is to promote Germany and German-American culture.

Mössinger and Müller were given a tour of the City of New Ulm by Mayor Terry Sveine, City Manager Chris Dalton, Council President Andrea Boettger, local historian Denny Warta,
and Region Nine representative Corree Johnson. The tour began at the German Park Amphitheater with a stop by the Glockenspiel on their way to Turner Hall, where they discussed the history of the Turners as well as ongoing and future projects for the building over lunch. On the way to Schell's Brewery, the Hermann Monument and other area sites were viewed and discussed. After hearing the history of the brewery and learning more about how they brew their beer, the tour group moved on to Bavarian Blast, where Mössinger and Müller introduced the Concord Singers.

Learn more about Wolfgang Mössinger, the German Consul General, and his tour of New Ulm: German Consul General for Midwest enjoys New Ulm
Region Nine Development Commission Executive Director to attend Americas Competitiveness Exchange Colorado
Region Nine Development Commission’s Executive Director, Nicole Griensewic, was selected to participate in the Americas Competitiveness Exchange on Innovation and Entrepreneurship (ACE) in Colorado an ACE Ambassador.
The U.S. Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration (ITA) and Economic Development Administration (EDA), in coordination with the U.S. Department of State and the Organization of American States (OAS), will host the 13th Americas Competitiveness Exchange (ACE) on Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Colorado as a partnership between Jefferson County Economic Development Corporation (Jeffco EDC), the City and County of Denver, and El Paso County on August 1-6, 2021.
Executive Director Nicole Griensewic serves as an ambassador for ACE and will represent Minnesota at the Colorado proceedings in August.
“This year’s ACE event is particularly important for the United States, Minnesota, and Region Nine”, according to Griensewic. “The ACE program has been awarded $1.57 million from the United States Department of Commerce, through the federal EDA to help rebuild and re-establish trade and investment networks in the Americas and accelerate recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and to support what has become the premier economic development, innovation, and entrepreneurial network of the Americas. ACE is therefore a critical mechanism for economic recovery and resiliency nationally and abroad, but also at home in South Central Minnesota”.
Each ACE edition connects decision-makers from the public and private sector in the Americas to a region’s new business opportunities, innovation hubs, flagship sectors, strategic investment, and research and development centers. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic which has negatively impacted the economies of the region, ACE seeks to reconnect communities with international trade, potential investors, and supply chains, which they urgently need as they work to recover.
“COVID-19 recovery is going to be a marathon, not a sprint. No individual program will solve our mutual challenges, but ACE continues to be an important program to generate synergies between increasingly more global markets, while generating opportunities for sharing of resources, ideas, and trade that ultimately benefit our local communities. It is also a very timely exchange this year as the U.S. Department of Commerce recently announced their Investing in America’s Communities programs that the Economic Development Administration will execute to equitably invest the $3 billion it received from the American Rescue Plan,” says Griensewic.
The previous 12 editions of the ACE have been hosted by the United States, Argentina, Canada, Chile, Germany, Israel, and Mexico. It has a network of 2000+ stakeholders from 41 countries (32 from the Americas) and 36,000 beneficiaries. The U.S. will host the next iterations of ACE in Louisiana.
Region Nine Staff Members to Attend United Nations Summer Academy
Region Nine staff members, Corree Johnson and Alejandra Bejarano, were granted full scholarships, sponsored by the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, to attend an engaging five-day online program. The program will explore sustainable development in the post COVID-19 context from a multi-sectoral perspective, focusing on three critical themes: health and well-being, economic transformation, and climate action.

The course will be held August 23-27, 2021 and foster rich interaction on issues relevant to the work of the UN and its partners in the context of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement through panel discussions, small-group breakout activities, and peer-exchange.
Thank you to Dr. Sabine Engel of the University of Minnesota, who is the lead organizer of the Climate-Smart Municipalities project, which pulls together 12 cities and our region in the state of Minnesota and Germany’s state of North Rhine-Westphalia, for connecting us with this amazing opportunity!
MnDOT announces new “Let’s Move Safely Together” pedestrian safety campaign
Reducing fatalities among people walking and improving safety for all travelers is the focus of a new statewide pedestrian safety campaign released by the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

The theme for the campaign is “Let’s Move Safely Together” and it highlights safety tips that remind people to use extra caution when driving and walking.

So far this year, 24 people have died while walking on Minnesota roads and 224 people lost their lives in vehicle crashes.

“One life lost on our roadways is too many. When we work as a team and watch out for each other, we can save lives and make progress Toward Zero Deaths,” said MnDOT Commissioner Margaret Anderson Kelliher. “That means drivers need to slow down and stop for people crossing the road. When you’re walking, look all ways before crossing and stay alert because people driving may not see you.”

Minnesotans will see and hear the pedestrian safety campaign on MnDOT’s social media channels and through T.V., newspaper, digital and radio ads across the state now through October.

See a list of safety tips for all travelers on MnDOT’s Pedestrian Safety Education website.
Empower students to solve your community's environmental challenges with YES! Youth Eco Solutions
By Deb Groebner, YES! coordinator for southern Minnesota
Water pollution…invasive species…soil loss…disappearing pollinators…plastic waste…flooding…climate change…it’s no secret that southern Minnesota is wrestling with complex environmental issues that threaten community sustainability and livability. Who has the energy, vision, and creativity to tackle such daunting challenges? Kids!
YES! (Youth Eco Solutions) is a statewide, hands-on learning program for students in grades 7 -12. Guided by an adult coach, participants identify environmental issues in their community and then work together on solutions through action projects. Three teams are active in Region 9; their projects are both inspiring and impactful. For example:
  • Mankato West YES! students replaced 1,333 energy-hungry fluorescent tubes with 15-watt LED lighting in the school’s common areas, saving the school $5,125 annually and reducing the amount of carbon emitted from energy produced to power the lights by an estimated 44.82 tons of CO2 per year.
  • Sleepy Eye YES! students collected data on water quality in a county drainage ditch and the Cottonwood River and submitted it to the MN Pollution Control Agency. The team established native prairie plants at three sites to protect soil and create natural habitat enjoyed by pollinators, birds and people.
  • Springfield YES! students reduced landfill waste by collecting and recycling more than 5,350 pounds of old holiday lights over the past ten years. They reduced plastic waste by installing a hydration station at school and persuading students and staff to use reusable water bottles.

As part of a YES! team, students learn how to collaborate with other people to achieve goals. They learn about careers and gain skills and self-confidence for lifelong success. By seeking solutions for locally-important ecological challenges, YES! students build resilient and thriving rural communities.
Help youth lead your community to a sustainable future! Talk to school administrators, teachers, or students in grades 7-12 about forming a YES! team for 2021-22. Support a team by volunteering for a project, offering expertise, hosting a tour, or raising funds to offset the team fee. Make a tax-deductible donation to help YES! provide teams with educational workshops, project seed funds, prize awards, and other support. To learn more, visit www.yesmn.org or contact southern region YES! coordinator Deb Groebner at (612) 716-8438 or deb@yesmn.org.
YES! is a program of Prairie Woods Environmental Learning Center in partnership with Ney Nature Center. Major support for YES! is provided by the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund (ENRTF), LYFT Career Pathways, and Clean Energy Resource Teams (CERTs).
Community brainstorms economic development projects at countywide session

By Carson Hughes
Building out broadband connections, linking communities with trails, promoting tourism and more were on the minds of the community on July 15.

Out of the Le Sueur County Fairgrounds in Le Center, the Blandin Foundation and Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation hosted a countywide envisioning forum to brainstorm ideas for economic development projects. City officials from Le Sueur, Le Center and Cleveland, Le Sueur County commissioners, economic development leaders and state representatives Brian Pfarr, R-Le Sueur, and Todd Lippert, DFL-Northfield, joined with county farmers and business owners for the opportunity to affect change in their county.

Using community insights, a steering committee of county leaders will develop projects to be completed within the next one to two years focused on strengthening the county's economy. Before providing feedback, participants took part in an asset mapping of the community. Hosts told the attendants to list assets within the community that could serve as a draw for business and new families. Participants also listed organizations and individuals who could be a source of funding for community development projects. From there, attendants formed discussion groups to develop ideas to be voted on by the larger committee.

“Doing the asset mapping really was a learning experience, because there were so many different people here from different places in the county that were here for different lengths of time,” said Meg Stuedeman, a farmer from Derrynane Township. “Some people were born here, some just moved in, so I was surprised by a lot of the assets that came up.”
The Lending Specialist will assist in the administration of the Revolving Loan Fund program, and other duties as it relates to fostering entrepreneurship and providing access to capital. This position will facilitate a department transition of the program and will advance to the primary administrator of the lending program.

Work areas may include providing technical assistance to local units of government, businesses, and the general public on a variety of planning and development topics, such as Revolving Loan Funds, economic development, workforce development, and community development.
In the Media
Names & Notables: U of M Center
for Transportation Studies- Read More

Investing in our region’s smallest communities-

$$ Grant Opportunities $$
Community Heart & Soul Seed Grant

The Community Heart & Soul Seed Grant Program provides $10,000 in startup funding for resident-driven groups in small cities and towns to implement the Community Heart & Soul model. Grant funding requires a $10,000 cash match from the participating municipality or a partnering organization. 

Deadline: 11:59pm of the last business day of each month
Airport Infrastructure Renewal (AIR) Program

The Airport Infrastructure Renewal (AIR) grant program is created to provide grants to counties, airport authorities, or cities to keep or enhance jobs in the area, increase the tax base, or expand or create new economic development.

An information session on the program and the application process will be held on August 18, 2021, 10:00-11:00 a.m.

Deadline: 4:00 p.m. on October 29, 2021
Calendar of Events
August 20: TAC Meeting
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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