March 2020
Friends of Region Nine,

You’ve probably already received three dozen COVID-19 updates from other distribution lists, so I won’t bother reminding you to wash your hands or shelter in place. Rather, I want to reassure you that our team members are brainstorming how Region Nine Development Commission can best help small businesses, manufacturers, and communities throughout the area.

In order to do that best, we need to hear from you. We need to understand your greatest concerns. How we can best meet technical assistance gaps? What do our loan and grant partners need right now? What are the biggest struggles facing communities and counties? We’re here to listen and respond as quickly and effectively as we can.

We pledge to share new resources as announcements are made. Stimulus and assistance packages continue to roll out, so please stay tuned for ongoing updates.

Before we get to some resources rolled out in the last week, please allow me to communicate a few housekeeping items:

  • All of our team are working remotely because health and safety come before all else. However, be assured we’re all working harder for you than ever before during these hard times.
  • Our office doors are closed until further notice—even if you happen to notice some movement inside. Again, health and safety come first.
  • We’re at your service. We’re here (virtually) to listen. To advise. To take advice.
  • Speaking of taking advice, please connect with any suggestions on how our talented staff of grant writers, lending coordinators, economic developers, and overall compassionate team members can help. We know this is rough, and we really, truly want to hear from you on how we might be able to help.
  • You can follow us on Facebook and LinkedIn for updates as they happen, check our COVID-19 response webpage, and you can get to us very quickly by emailing or Tweeting @RegionNineDC.

Okay. We promised some resources: both the federal and state governments have announced long-term, low-interest loans for small businesses to help meet debt obligations, cover inventories and rents, and keep employees paid through this unprecedented pandemic.
A few tools we can help with right now are:

  • Low-interest loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) of the U.S. Department of Commerce. These loans were just made available to Minnesotans on Saturday and offer up to $2 million over 30 years at 3.75 percent interest. Nonprofits are also eligible and would receive a 2.75 percent interest rate. Details are available at
  • Similarly, the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) on Monday announced zero-interest loans of up to $35,000 for small businesses affected by state-ordered closures due to COVID-19. Applicants to these “Small Business Emergency Loans” must have been denied credit from another lender. Additionally, applicants are encouraged—but not required—to be in the process of applying for the federal SBA loans mentioned above. These “Small Business Emergency Loans” are available to businesses that have applied for (or are in the process of applying for) the SBA loans mentioned above. Terms and conditions are available here:

We are standing by to take questions on both of these offerings, and anything else. And, we’re prepared to help with connecting you with organizations and individuals who can help with applications.

Also, please know we are staying close to our other organizational partners, such as the MN Association of Development Organizations (MADO), National Association of Development Organizations . (NADO), and the federal Economic Development Administration (Federal EDA).

Together, as organizations, 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.

We also continue to draw on the experiences and expertise of our national and international partners and networks. Examples include:

Please follow our updates on social media and check our home page regularly. You may have already received some of this information from the SBA , DEED , or other sources. However, sharing resources is paramount, so we will continue to update you as new resources become available.

Small businesses—including owners and employees—are the backbone of this regional economy, and Region Nine has your back.

We all need each other right now. We hear you. We’re here for you. Please take a moment to let us know how we can help.

Respectfully yours,

Nicole Griensewic
Executive Director
Support Local Businesses
Amidst the COVID-19 outbreak and business closures, you might have seen different news segments on the impact this will have on workers and businesses. So you might be asking yourself, "How can I support small businesses right now?"

The answer is simple: do what you CAN. Here are some simple ways you can support local business during this outbreak and closure.

1) Shop online. Take advantage of the online discounts you are seeing!

2) Order carry-out or delivery. So many restaurants, even if they hadn't offered it in the past, are switching over to this model.

3) Remember those gift cards you buy at Christmas? Buy them now and keep them as gifts throughout the year.

4) This one is truly free to do. Follow them on social media! Like, share, and comment on their posts. This might be a small gesture but it can have a major impact!

5) Support not only the business but the workers. If you are able to, tip a little extra.
Clean Energy Tour with Guido Wallraven
Guido Wallraven, technical director for the City of Saerbeck's climate-smart municipality project since 2009, was in southern Minnesota on March 10 as part of a Clean Energy Tour hosted by Region Nine and part of an exchange program through the University of Minnesota Institute on the Environment that partners cities in Germany and Minnesota to try to better identify avenues of sustainability and use of renewable energy.

The day started in Le Sueur at Hometown Bioenergy with a site tour of the 8MW biomass facility before heading to Waseca for a discussion on how the City of Saerbeck has excelled in renewable energy on a community level as well as opportunities where Minnesota can do the same. The tour ended with a site tour at Midwest Extractions and the actions they are taking at local, state, and federal levels to create regulations that will benefit the hemp industry.
Welcoming Communities Project
On February 27 a Welcoming Communities Project meeting was held where they had participants get oriented with diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). Both large group and small group activities were done including discussing key terms and the art of listening. At each session, participants are asked to complete both individual and group homework. Individual homework for this session included holding one conversation with someone and identifying three things to try throughout the month based on what they learned at the meeting. Individuals were also asked to take a picture that represents what community means to them. Group homework included determining group norms that will be used throughout the program.
SMIF Announces New Prosperity cohort

The Prosperity Initiative is a program that promotes inclusive entrepreneurship and minority-owned business growth in southern Minnesota. The program provides regular education, coaching, and business resources to minority and new immigrant business owners in SMIF’s 20-county region . According to the US Census Bureau, 29% of Minnesota’s population will be people of color by 2040, an increase from only 4% in 1980. The Prosperity Initiative was designed to respond to this rapid growth and help remove barriers to success for entrepreneurs. This is the fifth cohort of clients to go through the Prosperity Initiative program.

After going through a competitive application process, eleven businesses were selected to join the 2020 cohort. The entrepreneurs include:

  • Alan Farah; Darawish (clothing shop) in Faribault
  • Claudia Chavez; Claudy’s (restaurant) in Faribault
  • Custodio Serrano Vazquez; Tienda Y Taqueria Guerrero (grocery store and restaurant) in Austin
  • Elida Tellez; Casa Reyna Sweet Designs (cakery) in Kenyon
  • Gloria Isabel Ortega Lozano; Isaa Bows (children’s fashion accessories) in Faribault
  • Krystal Rose Hernandez; Fiesta Market (grocery store) in Madelia
  • Luz Maria Romero; Luz Cleaning Service in Faribault
  • Mahad Abdulle; Golden Star Coffee (coffee shop) in Faribault
  • Margarita Trevino Lopez; Margarita’s Cleaning Service in Montgomery
  • Mercedez Vilma Alpirez Ramon; Casa la Buena Fe (child care) in Faribault
  • Ronald Griffin; RANAS Breakthrough Counseling (specialty counseling cards) in Rochester

“We are excited to welcome these new clients representing six communities in our region,” said Pam Bishop, Vice President of Economic Development at SMIF. “We look forward to seeing how their businesses develop over the next year.”

The Prosperity Initiative is a collaborative program of  Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation Faribault Diversity Coalition and Region Nine Development Commission  and is made possible by generous funding from  CliftonLarsonAllen Foundation , Dan and Angie Bastian, Krahmer Law Firm, PLC (Fred W. Krahmer and Michelle Krahmer),  McKnight Foundation Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development Target Foundation and  Wells Fargo .

For questions about the Prosperity Initiative please contact Pam Bishop at or 507.214.7011.

Pictured: Faysel Ali, owner of Ounsi Fragrances and 2019 Prosperity Initiative client.
Study Shows MN Public Airports Generate $18.2 Billion in Annual Economic Activity
March 2, 2020

The Minnesota Statewide Airport Economic Impact Study measures the annual economic impact provided by the state’s 133 public airports, most of them located in Greater Minnesota.

Minnesota’s public airport system generates $18.2 billion in annual economic activity statewide, according to a new study the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) released Feb. 26. The report details the economic impact of the state’s 133 public airports. The findings could bolster 2020 bonding requests related to airport improvements.

The Minnesota Statewide Airport Economic Impact Study documents the broad economic impacts of the statewide system, and provides detailed reports on the local economic activity generated by 126 of those airports. The last statewide airport economic impact study was published in 2011.

Additional study findings include:

  • The 126 public airports outside the seven-county Twin Cities Metropolitan Area support more than 13,000 jobs and more than $570 million in annual payroll.
  • The seven Metropolitan Airport Commission airports, including Minneapolis-St. Paul International, support more than 80,000 jobs and more than $3.9 billion in annual payroll.
  • Public airports create economic efficiencies that help many Greater Minnesota businesses compete nationally and globally, and create local jobs that support local economies.
  • Public airports support medical services essential to Greater Minnesota hospitals, including medical airlift, quick access for doctors, and fast organ delivery.
  • Public airports provide infrastructure needed to deliver fast, efficient aerial firefighting and other emergency services throughout the state.
  • Public airports are essential to many aerial spray applicators, commonly known as “crop dusters,” that serve Minnesota’s agriculture economy.

MnDOT commissioned the Minnesota Statewide Airport Economic Impact Study to measure the annual economic impact provided by the 126 public airports outside the seven-county Twin Cities Metropolitan Area. The study also includes data the Metropolitan Airports Commission provided for seven public airports in the metro, including Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. The study was completed in partnership with, and funded with grants through, the Federal Aviation Administration.

Gov. Walz and Lt. Gov. Flanagan have proposed $19.2 million in the Local Jobs and Projects Plan this legislative session for airport projects in Brainerd, International Falls, and Rochester. These investments would make key improvements at those airports and enhance the economic impact in the communities they serve.
In the Media
Al in the Afternoon interview with Nicole Griensewic Mickelson on COVID-19 Response - Listen to the KTOE Podcast

Minnesota partners with Germany to better sustainability and use of renewables -View the KEYC video

Al in the Afternoon with Sabine Engel, Guido Wallraven, and Nicole Griensewic Mickelson - Listen to the KTOE Podcast

Welcoming Communities Project moving to individual community groups - Read the Sleepy Eye Herald-Dispatch article

Spotlight interview with Nicole Griensewic Mickelson - Listen to the KTOE interview

Welcoming Communities Project continuing - Read the Journal article

SMIF Announces new Prosperity Initiative cohort - Read the SMIF press release
$$ Grant Opportunities $$
SBA Disaster Assistance

The U.S. Small Business Administration is offering designated states and territories low-interest federal disaster loans for working capital to small businesses suffering substantial economic injury as a result of the Coronavirus (COVID-19). Upon a request received from a state’s or territory’s Governor, SBA will issue under its own authority, as provided by the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act that was recently signed by the President.
MN DEED Small Business Emergency Loans

Following Executive Order 20-15 , DEED has established a loan program to assist small businesses directly and adversely affected and whose industry is named in Executive Orders 20-04 and 20-08 following the COVID-19 pandemic. Small businesses are a vital part of Minnesota’s economy and this program will provide a source of working capital to help businesses sustain operations during this challenging time.
Calendar of Events
Due to precautions for COVID-19, in-person meetings have been cancelled until further notice. This includes the March 27 Social Media Breakfast - New Ulm event and the April 8 Full Commission meeting.

For questions on upcoming events, call 507-387-5643.
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
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