February 2009 – Volume VII, Number 2
Compiled and edited by Deb Miller Slipek, Ann Treacy, and Jane Leonard


ACROSS THE FIELD – by Jane Leonard

Status of Minnesota Rural Partners

Some of you may be wondering, what’s happening with Minnesota Rural Partners? We’re still here and operating, keeping our ears to the ground and eyes to the sky to see what’s ahead and how we can help.

MRP took a hiatus of sorts while I was serving as Executive Director of the Minnesota Statehood Sesquicentennial Commission for the past two years. MRP volunteers worked in the background on several events and projects during that time and we kept the monthly Rural Round-Up newsletter going thanks to great assistance from Deb Miller Slipek and Ann Treacy.

MRP has also served and will continue to serve as the fiscal agent and co-organizer for the annual Freeman Forum at the Humphrey Institute. The last of five annual forums will most likely occur this fall.

We kept the Bizpathways and Minnesota Entrepreneurial Gateway online tools going until mid-2008 but could not find the funds or the partners to keep them operating. We continue working on the ideas we tested in the W.K. Kellogg Foundation grant we received to develop “An Interdisciplinary Framework for Community Economic Reinvention in 21st Century Rural Minnesota.

It integrates four key sectors essential to community success: FINANCE * CREATIVE CAPITAL * HEALTH CARE * COMMUNITY DESIGN, helped along by a Minnesota Community Enterprise/Connector Corps to unite young minds, ideas and energy with the experience of community leaders.

We have also maintained connections with the federal National Rural Development Partnership, the umbrella for all the statewide organizations across the country such as MRP. There has been no federal funding for the Partnership for many years, even though the program continues to be authorized and directed to be funded by Congress under the Farm Bill. So state organizations find their own funds and many operate as we do now, partly on a volunteer-basis and partly on a contract basis. In Minnesota we have no paid employees, me included.

In the months and years ahead, MRP will continue to serve as an umbrella for ideas, projects, and convenings that have a statewide heart. Minnesota is blessed with many resources for rural development that have regional or local focus. MRP will continue to be an organization that facilitates idea-sharing and cooperation across disciplines and across the state. We do this because no matter where we live in this great state, we are all Minnesotan who can and do care about one another.

Closing out the Sesquicentennial – Minnesota Real & Imagined, and “Many Voices, One State, a Sesquicentennial Plan for Our Future”

If you’ll indulge me one more mention of the Sesquicentennial — the 150th anniversary of Minnesota statehood – it is done. And we closed out with DVDs on our programs on “Minnesota @ 150, Real & Imagined,” and a very readable and comprehensive “Final Report of the Commission,” and a “Plan for Our Future” — all of which might be helpful viewing and reading if you want to know what Minnesotans in 2008 were thinking about their state and what they are willing to do to ensure a bright future.

But first, a quick report on the accomplishments of the Sesquicentennial. In two short years, we managed to raise $4.5 million in cash and in-kind investments in Minnesota to commemorate statehood and prepare for a demanding future. The Legislature, foundations, and corporations gave about half of those investments. The rest came through local fundraising and in-kind donations and work. All investment resulted in over 500 local events, 150 grant projects, and several statewide initiatives that expressed the creativity of our people, and the confidence and devotion we have in and to our communities and our state.

What was expressed through the Sesquicentennial outpouring of spirit and action is a personal and community dynamic that tells me we can get thru this current economic crisis, as long as we remember where we came from, and where we can head – together.

Get inspired. Here are links to the Final Report of the Commission and the Plan for Our Future. Thanks to everyone, especially State Senator Ann H. Rest and State Representative Morrie Lanning, who headed up the Commission’s Engage the Public, Plan for the Future Committee, and the young interns and Sesquicentennial Fellows who made so many contributions to the Sesquicentennial.

Thanks as well to the Regional Development Commission staff statewide that contributed their time and talents to hosting early community conversations across the state to get the Plan for Our Future started back in October 2007.

I’d also like to thank the Bush Foundation and the Minnesota Channel/tpt for their significant financial and in-kind support, and Jane Cunningham, who organized the Minnesota Real & Imagined project. If you would like to view the DVDs on “Minnesota @ 150 – Real & Imagined,” we have distributed them to every public library in Minnesota and you can also check local listings on the Minnesota Channel, as they will continue to broadcast them this year.

Commission Final Report:

Sesquicentennial Plan for Our Future

The goal of the Plan for Our Future and the Community Conversations was to engage Minnesotans across the state in a thoughtful dialogue about the next fifty years of statehood and to encourage them to imagine their role in creating a good future. At each meeting, participants answered three questions individually and then in groups. They recorded their individual responses on questionnaire sheets provided for them. The three questions were:

1. What do we want the future to be like for the next generations?

2. What are the “got-to deal with” issues if we’re going to make that future real?

3. What would you like to tell Minnesotans 50 years from now—at the state’s bicentennial—that you are personally working on today to ensure they have the same or better quality of life you have now?

Answers grouped into these overall categories, giving us an idea of priorities across the state (and the report gives more details on subcategories including concerns and ideas):

Environment: (22.3%)
Social Issues: (20.6%)
Economy: (17.5%)
Education: (14%)
Health Care: (10.7%)
Government: (7.7%)
Transportation: (7.2%)

Citizens also pledged to get engaged. At the 2008 State Fair, on a survey we did as part of the Plan for Our Future, 94% of the respondents took the Sesquicentennial Pledge: “During the Sesquicentennial year, I will endeavor to learn from the state’s past, reflect on lessons from both its successes and failings and get engaged in planning for Minnesota’s future well-being.”

If that number stays steady, Minnesota should be in good hands.

And a quick personal note from Jane: Many of you might be thinking that I am in Australia now, because in a previous column I wrote saying I would be there in early 2009 after I finished the Sesquicentennial. Unfortunately, I am not currently in the land down under.

The study trip I was planning got delayed by a year because I was diagnosed with what far too many women are dealing with – breast cancer. I am through surgery and into radiation treatments, which will be completed by the end of March. I am extremely lucky that we caught it early and I have a great prognosis. I feel good and am doing fine. Thanks to many friends & colleagues who have called or written. I really appreciate the support and your kindnesses. Let’s spread that goodwill across our state and world to all who are dealing with the extra challenges of life.


–Communities Creating Healthy Environments is a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, aims to prevent childhood obesity by increasing access to healthy foods and safe places to play in communities of color. The program will support community-based organizations and federally chartered tribal nations in the development of effective, culturally competent policy initiatives to address childhood obesity at the local level.

Examples of eligible proposals include action to increase public resources for recreation in underserved communities, and land-use and zoning policies that increase healthy food access in a community. Eligible applicants must have a track record of at least two years of successful community organizing and policy advocacy to address health-related problems in communities of color. Through this call for proposals, the Foundation will provide grants of up to $250,000 over a three-year period in up to ten communities.

The application deadline for brief proposals is February 26, 2009. Applications must be submitted online through the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation website at http://www.rwjf.org/applications/solicited/cfp.jsp?ID=20602.

–Economic Justice Grants – The Norman Foundation supports efforts that strengthen the ability of communities to determine their own economic, environmental, and social well-being, and that help people control those forces that affect their lives. The Foundation’s Economic Justice grants provide funding to social change organizations throughout the United States that promote economic development through community organizing. Priority is given to projects that arise from the hopes and efforts of those whose survival, well-being, and liberation are directly at stake. In addition, organizations with annual budgets of under $1 million are preferred. http://www.normanfdn.org/  Deadline: March 2, 2009.

— USDA Distance Learning Telemedicine Grants. Primarily for user equipment that functions via telecommunications systems for the purposes of connecting students and teachers or medical professionals and patients at separate sites. Examples are video-conferencing or teleradiology equipment. The Grant Program funds equipment that operates over telecommunications systems, but does not fund the telecommunications links themselves. In addition, it funds such things as the acquisition of instructional programming and technical assistance and instruction for using eligible equipment. See the current Application Guide for more complete information, eligibility information and program contacts at http://www.usda.gov/rus/telecom/dlt/dlt.htm. Application window is open with submission deadline of March 24, 2009.

–Micro-Energy and Conservation Home Improvement Loans – $10 million is available through 2008 state legislation to homeowners (whose annual income is under $93,100) for energy conservation and solar, wind and other renewable energy project loans to help cut energy costs. Loans of up to $35,000, for terms of up to 20 years, will be made by the Fix-Up Fund, a statewide program that offers low-interest loans through Minnesota Housing Agency’s large network of lending partners across the state, listed at http://www.mnhousing.gov. For more information go to: www.state.mn.us.

–USDA Rural Development offers Household Water Well Grants. Nonprofits must apply by May 31, 2009 for Household Water Well System Grants to establish lending programs. See Federal Register, 11/20/08, pp. 70315-21 or http://www.grants.gov.  

–The Qwest Foundation supports nonprofit organizations located in the communities served by the company in the states of Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming. The Foundation’s primary initiative, Qwest for Education, focuses on enriching the lives of children by supporting solid preK-12 educational programs. Grants are provided for programs that promote innovative models to strengthen K-12 public school education, effectively use technology, improve skills and leadership of educators and parents, and promote innovative early childhood education programs. Requests may be submitted at any time. The application guidelines and forms are available on the Qwest website at: http://www.qwest.com/about/company/community/foundation.html  

–The Minnesota Primary Care Loan Fund offers loans to clinics, hospitals, networks and others for equipment, working capital, expansion, start-up and other needs. The Office of Rural Health and Primary Care is a partner in the fund, which is administered by the Nonprofit Assistance Fund. Go to: http://www.nonprofitsassistancefund.org  

The Electronic Health Record Loan Program provides no-interest six-year loans to help finance the installation or support of interoperable health record systems. Funding is available to community clinics, rural hospitals, physician clinics in towns under 50,000, nursing facilities, and other health care providers. Applications are online http://www.health.state.mn.us/divs/orhpc/funding/index.html#ehrloan or contact Anne Schloegel at (651) 201-3850 or anne.schloegel@state.mn.us.


–2009 Funding Outlook for Minnesota Grantmakers and Nonprofits will be held February 13, 2009 from 1:00 – 4:30 p.m. at the DoubleTree Park Place Hotel, St. Louis Park. Cost: $35. Go to: http://www.mcf.org/MCF/grantmakers/programs/090213outlook.htm  

–MCN’s Philanthropy Leaders Series includes:
-Lauren Segal, Greater Twin Cities United Way, Thursday February 12
-Randi Ilyse Roth, Otto Bremer Foundation, Tuesday February 24
-Peter Hutchinson, Bush Foundation, Wednesday March 25
-Elizabeth Anderson, Thrivent Financial for Lutherans, Wednesday April 29
-Trista Harris, Headwaters Foundation for Justice, Wednesday May 27
-Joan Cleary, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota Foundation, Tuesday June 23
Fee: $45 per event or $240 for the series, for MCN members only. Contact Stephanie Haddad, Program Director, Minnesota Council of Nonprofits for more information at 651-757-3071.
–Minnesota Marketplace for Entrepreneurs will be held Monday, February 23, 8:30 AM – 4:30 PM at the Alltel Center in Mankato. The event will bring entrepreneurs together along with other business and service providers. There will be displays of entrepreneurs’ new ideas, training sessions and speakers. The event is free for entrepreneurs and the public. For more information please visit: http://www.mnmarketplace.org.

–Telecommunications and Information Society Policy Forum presents Minnesota Telephone Referendum Provision: Change It? Abolish It? Retain It? February 25, 2009 * 4:00 to 5:30 PM, Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, Roy Wilkins Room (Room 215)
310 19th Avenue South * Minneapolis, MN 55455

A statutory provision (237.19) in Minnesota requires a municipality to hold a public referendum which passes by 65% if it wants to construct a new telephone exchange to offer telephone service and a local exchange already exists. Critics argue a referendum requirement and especially the 65% approval level creates an unjustifiable barrier to entry and has a chilling effect on the emergence of competitive new broadband services, especially since telephone service has become part of a larger package of broadband services from most providers. Supporters argue it is useful to require specific community approval.

Panelists (to be announced) will present their views followed by an open discussion. Please RSVP to tisp@umn.edu

–“Volunteering Across the Generations” is a free training on Monday, March 2, 10:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. at Bremer Bank, 500 Willmar Ave SE, Willmar MN. Discover how Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Generation Y are different. Explore motivational differences between these generations and see how those differences can be used to recruit, support, and retain valuable volunteers. Registration Required by 2/26/09. RSVP: Marge Hanson mhanson@gslakesandpines.org or (320) 235-2125.

–21st Annual Multicultural Forum on Workplace Diversity “Diversity’s Challenge: Achieving True Inclusion” will be held March 3 and 4, 2009 at the St. Paul RiverCentre. This event is designed for professionals who are responsible for diversity within organizations of all sizes. It is also recommended for anyone working in a multicultural climate and those dealing with a diverse clientele. Register and more info at http://www.stthomas.edu/mcf  

–The 7th Annual Symposium on Small Towns “Communities 2050: Building a Livable, Renewable and Responsible Future!” will be June 2-3 at the University of Minnesota in Morris. Please check out the web site at www.centerforsmalltowns.org for periodic updates and on-line registration information or give Barb a call at 320-589-6451.

–The Minnesota Critical Access Hospital and Rural Health Conference “Rethinking Rural Health Care: A Community Effort” will be held June 15-16, 2009 in Duluth. For more in formation go to: http://www.health.state.mn.us/divs/orhpc/conf/2009/index.html

— The 17th Annual Joel Labovitz Entrepreneurial Success Awards recognize business owners and entrepreneurs in the Twin Ports and Arrowhead Region who have dared to dream, taken a risk, and made a difference. Nominations are sought in the following categories:
-Micro-entrepreneur Award
-Emerging Entrepreneur Award
-Established Entrepreneur Award
-Mature Entrepreneur Award
-Innovation Award

Nominations will be accepted through February 28, 2009. To nominate a deserving entrepreneur, visit http://www.umdced.com/labo. Entrepreneurs can nominate themselves. Awards will be presented at the Annual Awards Luncheon held at the DECC in Duluth on April 21.

— The Minnesota Critical Access Hospital and Rural Health Conference is seeking presentation proposals by March 13. For further information go to: http://www.health.state.mn.us/divs/orhpc/conf/2009/index.html
–The Purpose Prize, administered by Civic Ventures, provides awards to people over 60 who are taking on society’s biggest challenges. The prize recognizes those with the passion and experience to discover new opportunities, create new programs, and make lasting change. Five awards of $100,000 and five awards of $50,000 will be given to exceptional individuals who are channeling their creativity and talent to address critical social problems at the local, regional, national, or international level.

The winners may be working in public, private, nonprofit, or for-profit organizations devoted to tackling the hardest challenges of our time: homelessness, social justice and human rights, violence, poverty and hunger, health, education, and the environment, to name a few. Nominees must be legal residents of the U.S. who have initiated important innovations in an encore career. The nomination deadline is March 9, 2009. Nomination guidelines are available on the Civic Purpose website.


–MinnPost the online newspaper. If you want great, objective writing on news of the day from around the state and the country, check out http://www.minnpost.com. As a former journalist trained and working before the advent of the Internet, I (Jane Leonard) can tell you that these writers and reporters do a stellar job of reporting like the old days – in-depth, objective, intelligent, and reliable – and all available online. Sign up for a weekly emailed summary of news specifically from and/or about greater Minnesota (and news from around the state, as well) at http://www.minnpost.com/sign_up_for_daily_email/

–National Entrepreneurship Week – February 21-28, 2009! The Consortium for Entrepreneurship Education sponsors the third annual National Entrepreneurship Week from February 21-18. National Entrepreneurship Week encourages the growth of entrepreneurship education in our schools and communities and is a time for entrepreneurs, business owners, and those who support small business to celebrate the entrepreneurial spirit in America! Visit the official National Entrepreneurship Week website at www.nationaleweek.org  

— The Telephone Equipment Distribution (TED) program provides assistive telephone equipment to Minnesotans who are deaf, hard of hearing, speech impaired, or have a physical disability and need adaptive equipment to use the phone and have a household income at or below the state median. http://tinyurl.com/2ozqs5  

— Three new reports are on the ORHPC Web site: Rural Health Care: New Delivery Model Recommendations (PDF:251KB/42pges) http://www.health.state.mn.us/divs/orhpc/pubs/delivery.pdf  

–Community vs. Corporate Wind Economic Study. Findings developed by faculty at the University of Minnesota-Morris in this 25-page study from 2006 suggest that community-owned wind projects have 5 times the economic impact and 3.4 times the local job creation, when compared with corporate-owned projects.

Corporate wind ownership structures generally include large-scale wind projects, often 50 megawatts (MW) in capacity or larger, that are developed, installed, and operated by non-local owners or commercial utility companies. Local participation is often limited to a minor role in construction (e.g. cement contracting) and a continuing stream of land-lease payments.

Alternatively, while community wind structures tend to vary greatly, they are generally defined as locally-owned and operated small-scale projects of 20 MW capacities or less. For more information visit: cda.mrs.umn.edu. http://cda.mrs.umn.edu/~kildegac/CV/Papers/IREE.pdf  

–2009 Outlook Report – After several years of increased giving, Minnesota foundations and corporate giving programs expect a decline in grantmaking to nonprofit organizations in 2009 versus 2008. 40 percent of grantmakers anticipate a decrease in giving, 41 percent expect their giving to remain the same, and 15 percent hope to increase their grantmaking in 2009. Read the report at: http://www.mcf.org/MCF/giving/outlook.htm  

–Handout Available from Briefing by State Economist Dr. Tom Stinson, regarding the economy and state budget. He noted that the projected state budget deficit of $5.5 billion when inflation is included will likely increase in the February forecast, as the economy has worsened more than expected. You can download his powerpoint presentation http://www.mncn.org/bp/stinsonforecast.pdf

–Travel Green Minnesota Website – A new website with resources for tourism businesses & communities Travel Green Minnesota provides tools, information and best practice examples to help you implement green practices that are good for the environment and your business! www.travelgreen.umn.edu.

–Announcing the launch of the Health Workforce Information Center (HWIC), funded by the Health Resources and Services Administration, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. HWIC provides free access to the most recent resources on the nation’s health workforce in one easy-to-use online location – www.healthworkforceinfo.org  

HWIC’s comprehensive online library offers the latest on:
-health workforce programs and funding sources;
-workforce data, research and policy;
-educational opportunities and models; and
-news and events.

The HWIC Call Center – If you need help finding information or experts, HWIC’s information specialists provide FREE assistance customized to your specific needs. Also, sign up for HWIC’s monthly e-mail newsletter, Health Workforce News.

–Columbia: A New Ethanol Producer on the Rise? Colombia’s sugarcane-based ethanol industry, after operating for only 3 years, is the second most developed in the Western Hemisphere. Most Colombian ethanol plants are energy self-sufficient and even generate surplus power that is sold to the national electric grid. Colombia’s sugarcane-based ethanol production is increasing: proposed expansion projects have the potential to more than triple daily production from 277,000 gallons in 2007 to almost 1 million gallons in 2010.

Most of the expansion is intended for exports, principally to the United States. However, it is unlikely that Colombia could export ethanol anytime soon because domestic production is insufficient to meet nationwide requirements that gasoline contain a 10-percent ethanol blend. See http://www.ers.usda.gov/Publications/WRS0901/  

IF YOU HAVE NEWS, EVENTS, ITEMS OF INTEREST TO SHARE ON THE MRP RURAL ROUND-UP, please send it to jleonard@minnesotaruralpartners.org.  

Jane Leonard
Minnesota Rural Partners
1533 Grantham St.
St. Paul, MN 55108
phone (651) -303-5263