October 2021
Region Nine Tele Mental Health Portal
The 2021 statewide conference on broadband, “Building on Broadband,” took place on October 12-14 via Zoom. Hosted by Blandin Foundation with support from the Minnesota Office of Broadband Development, the three-day conference examined the state of rural broadband in Minnesota.

Region Nine was invited to present at the annual conference. Senior Regional Planner Kristian Braekkan and Economic Recovery Planner Alejandra Bejarano presented on the Tele Mental Health Portal project conducted in spring 2020, thanks to funding from the Blandin Foundation. The presentation centered on how tele-mental health services can augment existing services in rural areas, lessons learned, discovered needs, and ideas for future considerations.

View notes and the video of the session here.
FY2021 Annual Report
As we enter yet another uncertain year and adjust to this new "normal," Region Nine Development Commission (RNDC) remains committed to supporting and building more resilient, thriving communities. Within this Fiscal Year 2021 Report, you will find examples of our team's efforts to establish new partnerships with diverse stakeholders and projects that will create long-lasting progress across the region.

In response to pandemic needs, RNDC was awarded Revolving Loan Funds to establish a disaster and economic recovery plan for the region, a staff member was detailed to support the State Emergency Operation Center, a COVID-19 resources page was created, and more. Additionally, we worked to forge new partnerships like the Climate Smart Municipalities group and Minnesota State University, Mankato. Finally, we worked to take on new projects in the form of feasibility and industry studies and creating welcoming communities to pave the way for a more sustainable, resilient region.

Together, as organizations and partners, we are strongest when we share ideas, collaborate on best practices, and create innovating solutions that best meet our communities’ needs. We pledge to continue these efforts on your behalf.


Nicole Griensewic
Executive Director
NADO Annual Training Conference
2021 Aliceann Wohlbruck Impact Award

Region Nine has received a 2021 Aliceann Wohlbruck Impact Award from the National Association of Development Organizations (NADO) for the Minnesota State Polytech Institute during the Annual Training Conference, October 16-19, in Portland, OR.
Region Nine has been working with Minnesota State, a system of 30 state colleges and seven state universities, to develop a Minnesota Polytech Institute. The Minnesota Polytech Institute will be a project-based learning module for applied teaching and research to better serve industry and community needs in a rapidly changing economic environment.
Beginning in November 2020, Region Nine has been partnering with Minnesota State University, Mankato (MSU) and the Minnesota State system to assess opportunities for redevelopment of programs on and off campus as well as to evaluate possible avenues for the establishment of a polytechnic institute. An initial report was developed, in partnership with Industry Relations Director Molly Schaefer from MSU’s Department of Integrated Engineering and Region Nine’s Senior Regional Planner Kristian Braekkan in consultation with MSU’s Interim Associate Provost & Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs Brian Martensen, on demographic, socioeconomic, and market changes. In spring 2021, RNDC engaged with various stakeholders to identify existing strengths, possible sources of future competitive advantages, and avenues to explore. The work has moved into a new phase when Molly Schaefer was onboarded on July 1, 2021, as the first-ever operations director of the polytechnic institute and the implementation of programming formally beginning.

Interested in learning more about this award-winning project? Contact Kristian Braekkan at kristian@rndc.org.
Region Nine Representatives Present During NADO Annual Training Conference

During the conference, Alejandra Bejarano, Sue Harris, and Pat Branstad presented, Embracing Change - Strengthening Communities in Rural America. The presentation focused on discussing how a group of committed and caring residents of St. James have chosen to embrace the changing population demographic in their small town, and view the change as an opportunity. In the process of getting to know one another’s stories and working on projects designed to recognize and celebrate the diverse cultural heritage of the town’s residents, trusting relationships formed that have built bridges between diverse community members, creating a more welcoming community for all. Local Community Education Director Sue Harris and facilitator for the multicultural community organization, Uniting Cultures/Uniendo Culturas, Pat Branstad shared the community’s successes and challenges through its equity work and the ripple effects inspired by the work of these dedicated community champions. Additionally, Economic Recovery Planner Alejandra Bejarano discussed findings from a labor study she conducted last fall that seeks to understand the current state of the workforce in the South-Central Minnesota region.
Executive Director Nicole Griensewic took part in a plenary session, where she was on a panel that discussed communicating effectively to a Regional Development Organization's target audiences. During the panel, Griensewic discussed the importance of using multiple media channels such as radio and using videos for better storytelling. However, she noted storytelling is not all that matters. Making sure that information is accessible, by offering multiple languages and making it ADA compliant, as well as updating websites, so they are easy to navigate is crucial when reaching your target audience.
Americas Competitiveness Exchange Colorado Final Report
Executive Director, Nicole Griensewic, was selected to participate in the 13th Americas Competitiveness Exchange on Innovation and Entrepreneurship (ACE) in Colorado, as an ACE Ambassador, from August 1-6, 2021. ACE Colorado was hosted by 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) and in partnership between Jefferson County Economic Development Corporation (Jeffco EDC), the City and County of Denver, and El Paso County.

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 reconnects communities with international trade, potential investors, and supply chains, which are urgently needed in order to recover.

View the final ACE Colorado report here to read about the participants, what happened during the trip, results so far, and more!
CSM Bike Blast
By Sabri Fair, Sustainability Fellow with Region Nine
On Friday, October 8th, Region Nine welcomed two Climate Smart Municipalities (CSM) leaders, Dr. Christof Wetter from Münster University of Applied Sciences and Dr. Sabine Engel of the University of Minnesota's Institute on the Environment. Mankato was the last stop on their weeklong tour of Minnesota, visiting other CSM partners including the cities of Duluth, Rochester, and Morris. Since Münster is considered the bike capital of Germany, Region Nine hosted a bike tour to share information about the region and its climate-smart practices.

In the spirit of all things sustainability, the bike tour highlighted unique initiatives, programs, and of course, locally sourced food and beverages. The tour’s first stop was the Eide Bailly building, which features the only electric vehicle fast charger in Mankato. In addition to supporting alternative fules, the profits from this charger serve as a fundraiser for the Mankato Area Foundation. From Eide Bailly, the group pedaled to Reconciliation Park and shared the history of the site and its significance to the region. Then it was down onto the river trail which took the group through Riverfront Park, up to Mom & Pop's for some hard-earned ice cream, and then into the Key City Bike Co-Op. Key City Bike, which recycles and revamps donated bicycles, was a highlight of the tour for Dr. Wetter who was not aware of any such organizations in Münster. The group’s last official stop was Bridge Plaza, where Wooden Spoon catered a lovely meal and attendees heard presentations from community members.

The first presenter was Deb Groebner of Youth Eco-Solutions (YES!) who highlighted projects that local students have done on waste reduction, energy conservation, and water quality. Region Nine’s Joel Hanif presented ongoing work the Growers Network which supports local food production as well as Region Nine's progress on becoming a SolSmart designated region. Lastly, Jason Bruns of the Minnesota State Engineering Center for Excellence shared his work on introducing engineering curriculum to underrepresented groups at all levels of education. To cap off a successful afternoon, the group enjoyed some local music on the Wine Café patio.
Have questions about the development of Region Nine's Comprehensive Economic Development Strategies (CEDS)? Contact Community Development Director Leah Petricka at lpetricka@rndc.org.
Global Entrepreneurship Week 2021
Building one global entrepreneurship ecosystem
Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN) operates a platform of projects and programs in 180+ countries aimed at making it easier for anyone, anywhere to start and scale a business.

By fostering deeper cross-border collaboration and initiatives between entrepreneurs, investors, researchers, policymakers, and entrepreneurial support organizations, GEN works to fuel a healthier start and scale ecosystems that create more jobs, educate individuals, accelerate innovation, and strengthen economic growth. GEN divides into four distinct categories: celebrate, understand, support, and connect.

Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW) is an awareness campaign engaging millions of people each November through various activities, celebrating the efforts of entrepreneurs, and inspiring others, particularly those who face structural barriers or have never considered the idea of launching their own startup, to follow in their footsteps.

This year, 15 events are coming to the Mankato area as part of GEW 2021 due to the partnership and planning of more than 13 local organizations and groups. Region Nine will be hosting our own event, Growing Local Food Growers, on Monday, November 8th at 4:00pm. During this event, Region Nine planner Joel Hanif and consultant Anne Ganey will be giving an overview of the South Central Minnesota Growers Network. The Growers Network is a collective of local food producers that meet regularly to exchange ideas, create professional relationships, and gain valuable insight on small farm business operations. Additionally, plans to expand and incorporate historically underserved farmers into the group through a USDA grant will also be discussed.
AB Women's leadership presentation
Every year, the YWCA of Mankato holds the Elizabeth Kearney Women’s Leadership (EKWL) Program, a gender-specific leadership program that takes a cohort of women through 10-months of leadership development. Cohort participants increase their leadership skills, learn about community and civic engagement, and leave prepared to address common leadership challenges and the unique hurdles that women in leadership face. The program is currently in its 13th year.

For this year's EKWL program, Alejandra Bejarano was invited to join as a workshop facilitator and speaker during October’s cohort meeting, taking place at the Blue Earth County Historical Society. October’s session centered around “Leadership in Place”, a topic that looks at how, where, and who we are impacts our ability to lead. The cohort also delved into the history and current context of Mankato and the region. Alejandra joined the EKWL’s cohort and shared about Region Nine’s current initiatives, the regional economy, and her listening tour, as well as her personal experience as a newcomer to the region.

Learn more about the Elizabeth Kearney Women’s Leadership Program here.
Get to know the Southeast RSDP
The University of Minnesota Extension’s Southeast Regional Development Partnership (Southeast RSDP) has been serving Southeast Minnesota since 1977. The Southeast RSDP is part of the statewide Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships that work regionally with residents of rural communities to  leverage U of M resources to support projects that create and sustain healthy ecosystems, strengthen local economies, and nourish vibrant, sustainable, self-reliant communities. The SE region generally includes, but is not strictly limited to, the following counties: Blue Earth, Faribault, Dodge, Freeborn, Goodhue, Houston, Le Sueur, Mower, Nicollet, Olmsted, Fillmore, Rice, Steele, Wabasha, Waseca and Winona. It also includes the sovereign Native Nation of Prairie Island Indian Community (Dakota). 

The key focus areas of the Southeast RSDP that guide funded community projects are: sustainable agriculture and food systems, clean energy, natural resources, and resilient communities. The broad definition of sustainability makes space for the RSDP to support projects and ideas across the region that also include sustainable tourism, transportation, affordable housing, education and play, gender equality initiatives and more, including welcoming and inclusive communities. So how does this work? Community members and organizations can share their sustainability ideas with the Southeast RSDP at any time. For all projects, RSDP helps applicants make connections to the U of M to bring university resources to enrich the projects and help them meet community sustainability needs. Funding decisions are made by a board of directors made up of Southeast Minnesota communities. 

Southeast RSDP welcoming a new Executive Director, Andi Sutton, who is eager to engage and converse with people interested in sustainability challenges and looking forward to building connections. In her new role, Sutton will lead a regional board of directors and work with local governments, nonprofits, community groups, foundations and a variety of partners across Southeast Minnesota to connect local sustainability projects to research, education and resources at the University of Minnesota.

Learn more about the Southeast RSDP at https://extension.umn.edu/regional-partnerships/southeast
Get to know the new RSDP Executive Director
Sutton brings extensive experience working across sectors and higher education institutions to advance knowledge of and engagement in water, food, agriculture, climate change and social justice issues. She grew up in Minnesota, and has most recently served as communications and program manager at the Abdul Latif Jameel Water and Food Systems Lab (J-WAFS) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Sutton merges her passion for sustainability with service as a community-based public artist. She has gathered stakeholders in Minnesota to share their care for and connections to water systems throughout the state, and brought together CSA farms to grow bitter melon as a cultural awareness, contemporary art and economic development activity.

To connect with Sutton and learn more about the work of the Southeast RSDP, visit: rsdp.umn.edu/Southeast  
Rural Engagement Initiative
The Rural Engagement Initiative (REI) is a group of young professionals, led by Region Nine interns, fellows, and associates, that looks at topics of diversity, inclusion, equity, and sustainability. REI aims to highlight community members, businesses, and community projects and practices within South Central Minnesota that support community, economic, and sustainable development. The group will be presenting new and engaging content that will resonate with all age groups. REI believes that engagement from all community members will not only help, but is essential, for regional resiliency and growth.
Upcycling & Bicycling
by Aaron Pacheco, Research Associate with Region Nine
An outsider perspective on bicycle infrastructure in Minnesota

As a kid in California, I was raised on two wheels. I grew up riding along some of the same tracks where the first pioneers of mountain biking invented the sport. Before cell phones, BMX bicycles splayed across a front lawn was how my friends knew where to meet. Our BMX bikes cut up the city, our mountain bikes carved the local trails, and as we watched it explode in popularity with local legends like Levi Leipheimer, road biking erupted in popularity with my friends picking up vintage steel to slice across town at lightning speeds.

As a Californian, Minnesota was famous for being a flat ocean of corn and soybeans in the south, while in the north, either a saturated marshland in the summer or frigid tundra in the winter. Moving here, I doubted the existence of a significant bicycle culture. Nevertheless, we loaded the car, bicycles and all, and cried out, “Wagons East!”.

We settled in Mankato in the southern half of Minnesota. Though still apprehensive of bicycling opportunities, I was quickly proven wrong. My first (and admittedly ignorant) impression of this small city was as an oasis of natural beauty within an endless sea of flat unvarying farmland. It would take a few rides at local mountain bike parks and along the far-stretching trails interconnecting much of Minnesota before I discovered the true marvel.
In the Media
Minnesotans Yearn for Connectivity in Small Cities Not Traditionally Considered Rural - Read More

Wells admin options - Read More

Lead for Minnesota fellow works with Worthington immigrants and the community - Read More
$$ Grant Opportunities $$
Targeted Community Capital Project Grant Program

The Department of Employment and Economic Development, through its Employment & Training Division, is seeking proposals from qualified responders for complex and costly capital projects that might not occur without public financial assistance. Capital projects utilizing these funds must result in providing, increasing, and/or expanding access to economic development, education or workforce development programs or services to underserved communities or economically disadvantaged persons or groups.

Deadline: December 6
RSDP Grant Program

Do you have an idea to improve sustainability in your community?

Southeast RSDP’s statewide project application period takes place from January 1 to February 14 each year. Ideas can be submitted any time, but many funding decisions for the year are made following this statewide application period.

Deadline: February 14
Calendar of Events
November 11: Office Closed
November 16: True Tuesdays
November 25-26: Office Closed
November 30-December 1: Rural Equity Summit
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.
Follow Region Nine on social media to stay up-to-date on events, news, and more!