Happy Holidays from Region Nine
Rural Economy: The Full Picture
Nicole Griensewic Mickelson
Nicole Greinsewic Mickelson,
Region Nine Executive Director
Throughout my five years as the Executive Director of Region Nine Development Commission, a question has constantly been asked, "Who speaks for rural MN?". There is not a single entity capable of doing that; however, each region does need to ensure the overall message of its economic development is accurate. For instance, the assumption we often hear is that our region's college students migrate to the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. This is not completely accurate. While some of the data shows that we do lose some of our college students after they graduate, these numbers alone do not paint the full picture. Our region in south central Minnesota is actually quite competitive compared to other metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) in Minnesota. This narrative is too often not shared.

When a college student is assessing where to find work after graduation, there are several factors that come in to play. Factors such as wage, amenities and cost of living. Looking at wage, Mankato/North Mankato MSA (Blue Earth and Nicollet counties) has 52 occupations which have higher wages than the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. Those 52 occupations equate to an estimated 6,650 jobs in the MSA alone.  The cost of living in our region is also much lower than compared to the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. For example, a Mankato resident would have to pay nearly $80,000 more to live in a $250,000 home in Minneapolis-St. Paul, as well as pay 15-16 percent higher utilities and transportation costs.

While our region is competitive, we are not immune to retention challenges and workforce shortages. Economic developers, employers and organizations like Region Nine need to ensure we are promoting the area's high-paying occupations and low cost of living in order to show new college graduates that this is a place they can grow their careers. 

Brent Pearson, Resource Development Planner for Region Nine, has taken a deeper dive into the data behind where the Mankato/North Mankato area compares to Minneapolis-St. Paul area and where our college students are going or staying. To read his full report, visit rndc.org/rural-economy-full-picture
Next month's issue will include an article on the Innovation Index. 
Region Nine Welcomes Jessica O'Brien

Jessica O_Brien
Jessica O'Brien
(507) 389-8870
Region Nine welcomes Jessica O'Brien as a new Community Engagement Manager for the organization. Her primary role will be to coordinate community engagement sessions, planning activities and resource development within the nine-county region in south central Minnesota. O'Brien previously served for five years as the Associate Director for Mankato Refugee Services at the Minnesota Council of Churches. 
Region Nine and YWCA Mankato to Host Dialogues Around Equity

More than half of Minnesota rural residents surveyed feel their community's ethnic or racial makeup has become more diverse over the past five years (Rural Pulse, 2016). As the population of rural Minnesota increases in diversity, communities face a leadership challenge and an opportunity. This demographic change is happening quickly and intensely as aging white populations are increasingly replaced with young families of color, still in their child-bearing years. The agriculture and food packing/distribution industries attract job seekers from other parts of the country, many of diverse ethnicity, looking for opportunity and a better life. Likewise, New Americans often choose rural communities because they feel more like home than densely populated urban areas. Specifically, in Region Nine's service area, eight out of nine counties are expected to double from population of less than 10 percent people of color to almost 20 percent people of color within the next 16 years. The one exception, Watonwan County, is expected to grow from about 30 percent people of color to close to 50 percent people of color in the same time frame.

The future of rural communities depends on an ability to develop new skills around inclusion and equity, understand the realities of racism today and to commit to action. Through a partnership with the YWCA Mankato and Blandin Foundation, Region Nine will engage eight rural communities in It's Time to Talk, Conversations on Race
It's Time to Talk is a trademarked racial dialogue facilitation process that involves trained facilitators leading small dialogue circles about race and justice. Participants exchange ideas through a series of questions designed to engage them in authentic introspection and discussion within a constructive and non-threatening environment.

To learn more about this initiative and how you can get involved, contact Jessica O'Brien at (507) 389-8870 or jessica@rndc.org
A Quiet Crisis: Minnesota's Child Care Shortage

"A crisis has been quietly brewing throughout Minnesota and the nation for many years now. People have been getting out of the in-home family child care business at a disturbing rate, creating a severe shortage over most of the state. And while statewide data makes it appear that growth in child care centers is picking up the slack, that is not the case in much of Greater Minnesota." 
- Rural Reality: Child Care Shortage

On Wednesday, January 11th, Marnie Werner, Research Director for the Center for Rural Policy and Development, will present their report on the child care shortage to the Region Nine Commission at the quarterly meeting in the Intergovernmental Center, Mankato. 

Sheltering Exercises Held Throughout Southern Minnesota

Dog in Kennel
The scenario: The City of Albert Lea has experienced excessive winds speeds that has caused the entire city to lose power. The current temperature is 96 degrees. Due to the severity of the situation, Fillmore County has opened an emergency shelter for people who can not stay in their home until power is restored. 

On Monday, December 12th, the above scenario was played out at the Albert Lea Armory. Representatives from organizations such as the American Red Cross, Freeborn County Public Health, Steele County Community Emergency Response Team, Salvation Army, Albert Lea Police, Freeborn County Sheriff, and Freeborn County Emergency Management walked through the steps in activating an emergency shelter. Facilitated by Region Nine's Scott Reiten, Region 1 Emergency Management Planner, participants were given mock roles to play during the exercise, including citizens seeking shelter. The purpose of this experience is to help the city and county determine what procedures work best during a real emergency, supplies needed and policies that may need to be in place. 

Shelter exercise
"Region 1 Homeland Security Emergency Management has conducted three similar sheltering exercises in south central and southeastern Minnesota," shared Reiten. "These real world exercises help cities, counties and organizations to be prepared in the event of a disaster."

To learn more about sheltering exercises, contact Scott Reiten at (507) 389-8880 or scott@rndc.org
GMNP Determines Policy Positions

Greater Minnesota Partnerships (GMNP) has adopted its 2017 policy positions. These policy positions will guide the GMNP's lobbying efforts for the upcoming legislative session. The GMNP is currently planning to focus its advocacy work on workforce housing, adequate and equitable  funding for statewide economic development programs, increased and ongoing funding for job training, funding for the Greater MN Business Development Public Infrastructure Grant Program and improving the Greater MN Business Expansion Program. 

Grant Funding Opportunities
Parks and Trail Grants The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) announces grant funding opportunities for park and trail projects across Minnesota. Applications are now being accepted for the following grant programs: outdoor recreation, regional trail, local trail connections and federal recreational trails. These grants help local governments throughout the state create partnerships with the DNR to fund projects ranging from local parks, regional trails to trail connections. Eligibility requirements, deadlines and other details can be found on the DNR website at mndnr.gov.

Greater Minnesota Childcare Grants:  The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development are accepting proposals for grants to local communities outside the metropolitan area to increase the supply of quality child care providers in order to support regional economic development. The maximum award is $150,000. Recipients must match state funds on a dollar-for-dollar basis
Deadline: Friday, January 6, 2017
  Learn More
Upcoming Events
Hamilton Hall, 209 S. Main Street, Blue Earth

December 26 | Office Closed - Christmas Observed

January 2 | Office Closed - New Year's Observed

January 11 | 5:00 - 6:00 p.m.
Region Nine Full Commission Meeting
Mankato Room, Intergovernmental Center, Mankato