JANUARY 2010 – Volume VIII, Number 1

A compendium of news, announcements, and, yes, some opinions.

Compiled and edited by Deb Miller Slipek, Ann Treacy, and Jane Leonard

—Across the Field
—Meetings & Trainings

Across the Field – Way Across to Australia! And More on Rural Urban Connections

by Jane Leonard

Next month I will be writing this column from Australia, on a long-awaited sabbatical, from January 20 to April 20 to study and share ideas on rural development, rural urban connections, innovation, community informatics, entrepreneurship and community economic reinvention – with colleagues from across the Land Down Under.

I was supposed to do this in January 2009, but breast cancer delayed that by one year (I am doing great – recovered and on my way!). Courage, grace, gratitude were the words, actions, and feelings that sustained me and continue to do so.

They fit as well for the economic battles we all continue to wage.  I don’t expect to find THE answer to economic recovery in Australia but we can learn a lot from a country that has less than a tenth of our population, a great desert and Great Plains in its mid-section, and population centers on the coasts (sound familiar?) with demographic and economic evolutions that mirror us.

It’s been crazy getting ready to be away for three months, but I think we’re crazy not to continue to be curious and connected to what’s happening in other parts of the world. 

What Australia has that we don’t have yet is universal health care and the guts to make other shared social and economic infrastructure investments. They get it – especially in the face of extreme economic woes — that government can help create conditions for innovation and enterprise development to develop, to knock the economy out of its doldrums.

For example, last April the Australian government announced it was investing $43 billion ($31 billion U.S.) — in one of the world’s largest state-sponsored nationwide broadband upgrades – to every one of the 21,000 million Australians, rural and urban alike. In contrast, with over 10 times as many people to reach, the U.S. Congress has allocated $7.2 billion for U.S. upgrades.

The Aussies aren’t afraid to create a publicly owned company to stimulate the build-out, in cooperation with the private sector (which was bidding to build a slower, less expensive network with fiber-optic cables reaching as far as local nodes – about a $10 million plan).

The Australian Prime Minister pushed instead for a superior network that would deliver broadband speeds of up to 100 megabits per second — fast enough to download multiple movies simultaneously — to 90 percent of Australian buildings through fiber-optic cables that extend directly to the premises. The remaining 10 percent get upgraded wireless access.

According to a New York Times article written last April, “analysts said the state-sponsored project would be the most ambitious fiber-to-the-premises network to have been undertaken by any nation and would be watched carefully by other governments considering Internet infrastructure spending as a way to stimulate economic growth as the global economic crisis continues.” http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9D06E5DE1E3EF93BA35757C0A96F9C8B63

Rural Urban Connections Project Underway – www.rurb.mn

In addition to the catalytic ability of common good actions like those in Australia, you have to share ideas to prime the innovation pump. That’s what I’m doing in Australia. Back on the home front, in another nod to learning more about innovation, the MRP, Inc. team is putting together the Rural Urban Connections project, now underway in cooperation with USDA Rural Development.

The simple idea is to share ideas, about rural urban connections in Minnesota – in your life and work – that help rural and urban people, places, and businesses and organizations thrive. There’s always been interdependency between rural and urban resources, producers, markets, but we don’t always deliberately call it out or intentionally build on it. 

We really need an integrated approach to rural, urban, and suburban community and economic development and planning in Minnesota, if we want to thrive – not just survive. Innovation and wealth creation in social and economic enterprise in Minnesota depends on a good understanding and application of the rural urban connections we have now and into the future.

Urban (including suburban) people have to face it. Access to and sustainability of the big three –food, energy, and water resources — all depends on having an understanding and support of, and respect for the rural people and places that steward those resources. 

This isn’t a new idea. In fact, back in May 1968, former Minnesota Governor and then-U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Orville Freeman gave a speech in Washington, D.C. to the leaders of the nation’s “rural-oriented industries” on the topic: “Rural/Urban Balance – Whose Responsibility?”  

Freeman said: “We are met here today to discuss this portion [rural] of America in a period when almost all of the national conscience is focused on yet another segment of the land, the great cities.

“It is almost as if we were two Nations; one rural, one urban, with separate problems, separate solutions, separate destinies. But in fact – as well as rhetoric – we are still one Nation, indivisible, with indivisible problems, indivisible solutions; with but one destiny. And unless we recognize this, we shall never overcome the terrible strains that threaten to rend the social fabric of our land.”

Powerful words. A powerful confrontation of reality, so relevant to our challenges, and opportunities today. We’ll be sharing more of that speech in the months ahead, so stay tuned.

To answer the 2010 question of rural urban balance, we will begin simply, to collect through videoconferences and other online forms of social gatherings – the stories, examples, experiences you have of rural urban connections in businesses, food and agriculture, arts, health care, education, telecom & info technology, workforce development, energy, environment, and other areas that emerge from these conversations and idea-sharing opportunities. Check the schedule (to be posted towards the end of January) and other ways to provide your input at www.rurb.mn

The first videoconference is in southeast Minnesota on January 19 from 4 to 5 p.m. Sites include Adams, Houston, Owatonna (pending) and the TIES offices in St. Paul. Contact Pam Matchie for specific location directions and to RSVP (pmatchie@decisionresourceassociates.com).

Along the way, with the help of our Graduate Research Assistant at the UM Center for Regional and Urban Affairs, we’ll start physically mapping those connection stories you contribute.  We’ll all either be astounded at the number and depth, or worried that not enough connections exist to prime the innovation pump and sustain our state.

And, mark your calendars and please attend the University of Minnesota, Morris, Center for Small Towns’ annual Small Town Symposium, June 9-10  http://www.morris.umn.edu/services/cst/symposium/2010

At the Symposium, we’ll be hosting the Rural Urban Gathering, to share what we’ve collected between January and May 2010 on rural urban connections, and to ask you to consider joining the Rural Urban Partnering Task Force, to keep supporting existing and emerging rural urban connections.

We are co-hosting the Small Town Symposium because we believe deeply in the work of the Center. They are a catalyst for the innovations happening at the University and in and around Morris on sustainable community development. The University of Minnesota Morris was GREEN before it was fashionable. They were GREEN because they knew western Minnesota needed to figure out how to reinvent its economy and what better lab than a university town with experiment and outreach centers.

We are co-hosting the Symposium because it was cancelled last year due to the poor economy. It’s crucial that people gather face-to-face to inspire, cajole, take risks together and go out better prepared to help their own communities do the same.   The worst thing we can do these days is to hunker down.  We have to go out and help each other reset to a new, better normal.

So – go to www.rurb.mn to do a couple of things:

  1. add your two cents to the discussion blog – stories, experiences, examples of rural-urban connections in your life and work
  2. sign up for a videoconference near you (the schedule will be posted later in January)


And please go to our Twitter site to join in the discussion at 140 characters or less! http://twitter.com/rurbmn

Minnesota Community Pride Contest Back for 2010!

We’ll provide more details in May, but start thinking now about entering your community in the 2010 Minnesota Community Pride contest, brought back by popular demand thanks to Minnesota Rural Partners, Inc., the Minnesota State Fair, and MinnPost.com.

All communities entered and winners will be recognized at the Minnesota State Fair on Sunday, September 5, in Carousel Park.  See www.reinventingminnesota.org to see which communities were award winners last year.  Share your ideas, share your pride with your neighbors statewide.


Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grants. The Minnesota Office of Energy Security requests proposals from Minnesota local units of government who are eligible for these stimulus program competitive grants. Funding is to reduce energy use, create or retain jobs, and to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. Applications are due Jan. 25. For more information go to: http://www.commerce.state.mn.us/EnergyRFP/EECBG.html

Energy Projects in Commercial, Industrial & Non-Profit Buildings.  The MN Office of Energy Security is requesting proposals for competitive funds to implement cost-effective projects that maximize energy savings, displace fossil fuel energy inputs and reduce the total energy demand of buildings. Applications are due Feb. 12.  For more information go to: http://www.energy.mn.gov [select: Active RFP]

 —New funding opportunities for three of Minnesota’s Regional Arts Councils!  As a result of new partnerships three additional granting opportunities for residents living in the counties associated with the East Central Regional Arts Council, the Central MN Arts Board, and the Southwest MN Arts and Humanities Council are available.  For more information please visit the grants page website (http://www.forecastpublicart.org/grants-program-info.php) and attend one of these upcoming workshops either in the Twin Cities or in your region! The deadline for all Forecast grants is February 6th, 2010! 

 · Wednesday January 13 – 6:30-8:30pm – at the Paramount in St. Cloud [ map ]
· Wednesday January 13 – 6:30-8:30pm – at SMAHC office in Marshall [ map ] 

Please RSVP to melinda@forecastpublicart.org  if you plan to attend a workshop and they’ll reserve a spot for you as well as keep you updated on workshop locations, parking information, and last minute changes.  Also, contact Melinda Childs, if you have specific questions about these funding opportunities by email or phone 651-641-1128.

–Indian Education: Professional Development Grants are available to non-profits and Institutions of Higher Education to improve the number and quality of Native American educators who teach Native American children and youth.  Deadline:  February 15, 2010.  For more information go to: http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2009/E9-30201.htm.  

–High School Equivalency Exam (HEP) funding is available to non-profits to help migrant and seasonal farm workers and their children obtain a general education diploma (GED) that meets the guidelines for high school equivalency established by the State in which the HEP project is conducted.  Deadline:  February 16, 2010.  For more information and to apply go to: http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2009/E9-29807.htm.  


–The Home Grown Economy 2010 – Equipping you to Build Community-Based Food Systems conference will take place February 15-16 at SW MN State University in Marshall.  Online registration is at www.regionalpartnerships.umn.edu or call Toni Merdan with questions at 218-847-5056.

–Webinar Series.  The Heartland Center for Leadership Development in collaboration with the RUPRI Center for Rural Entrepreneurship has announced a new Webinar series with the theme Strategies for Community Prosperity. Each Webinar will start at 12:00 PM Central Time and run for one hour.  The cost of each is $59.99 but you may purchase the entire series at one time for $250.00.  For more details and registration information about the Webinar series go to: http://www.heartlandcenter.info/webinar_reg/. The schedule is as follows:

January 21, 2010       Rural Communities Can Thrive in the 21st Century

February 18, 2010     Entrepreneurial Coaching–From Crisis to Economic Growth

March 18, 2010          Plowing New Ground–Refreshed Leadership Development for Revitalized Economies

April 15, 2010            Energized Youth–Energized Communities

May 20, 2010             People Count–Rebuilding Rural Communities with People Attraction Strategies     

–The MN Council of Nonprofits has a fantastic line-up of network lunches taking place all over the state. MCN’s network lunches are casual, one-hour long guided conversations about specific topics of interest to you and your colleagues. Network lunches are free and open to anyone who’d like to attend; no RSVPs or registrations are necessary. Just show up and join in.  Go to:  http://www.mncn.org/event_networklunches.htm  for a schedule.

–SAVE THE DATE: June 9-10 for the Symposium on Small Towns and Rural Urban Gathering — “Finding Solutions and Redefining Communities” at the University of Minnesota, Morris. The theme for this year’s Symposium on Small Towns will focus on leadership, capacity building, and practical solutions for improving small-town communities and strengthening rural-urban connections. In tough economic times, the importance of connecting with people and ideas outside of our local situations becomes vital.

Participants in the 2010 Symposium will learn about:

  • saving money by reducing energy costs and waste;
  • filling empty storefronts; and
  • creating effective partnerships and collaborations to address issues facing rural communities.

The University of Minnesota, Morris Center for Small Towns and Minnesota Rural Partners, Inc. and their Rural Urban Connections project are pleased to co-host this event. The Symposium will be a one day event on June 10, 2010. The Rural-Urban Gathering will be held on the evening of June 9, 2010 hosted by Minnesota Rural Partners, Inc.  and will continue as part of the June 10 program as well. The focus of the gathering will be on the development of the Minnesota Rural-Urban Partnership Task Force with its emphasis on education, workforce and entrepreneurship to increase innovation and wealth creation.  Scholarships are available to those who might need assistance with the already low cost to attend.  More information about the Symposium and the Rural-Urban Gathering is at http://www.morris.umn.edu/services/cst/symposium/2010 or call 320-589-6451.


Northeast Entrepreneur Fund will host a two-day Northland Flavor Marketplace in Duluth at the Holiday Inn Conference Center on Sunday, March 7, noon – 4:00 p.m. and Monday, March 8, 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

The Northland Flavor Marketplace will allow regional artists to display their products to potential retail buyers such as gift shops, bookstores, floral shops, jewelers, and similar outlets. This is a wholesale opportunity, not a retail event. Eligible artists will be provided a draped exhibit table to display their product lines to event visitors.

Potential event participants include but are not limited to crafters, visual artists, sculptors, potters, jewelry makers, photographers, musicians, specialty food producers, and writers. Cost for a two-day display table is $150.  To be eligible to display at the Northland Flavor Marketplace, an artist must:

  • Reside or work in the 11-county region served by the Northeast Entrepreneur Fund.*
  • Provide one or more reproducible product lines (i.e., a product that can be produced and sold in quantity).
  • Be able to take wholesale (not retail) orders for product lines during the event.
  • Have the capacity to fulfill wholesale orders from event attendees within a reasonable time.
  • Demonstrate experience in selling to a wholesale market, or attend one or more preparatory sessions sponsored by Northeast Entrepreneur Fund.

To learn more about Northland Flavor, please visit the Northland Flavor site. http://www.entrepreneurfund.org/northlandflavor.html


22 Minnesota GreenCorps Members Serving Statewide.  Minnesota GreenCorps is an environmentally-focused AmeriCorps program, coordinated by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. Starting in late September 2009, 18 full-time and 4 half-time AmeriCorps members are serving at host site locations throughout the state, including 4 members at the University of Minnesota, Morris. Members will be serving until the end of August 2010. The members hold one of the following five positions:

  • Local Government Energy Conservation
  • School Waste Prevention
  • Living Green Outreach
  • Local Food Systems
  • Urban Forestry

The 15 host sites include counties, cities, school districts and nonprofit organizations.  A detailed listing of all the member activities and host sites can be found at the web site above. Funding for Minnesota GreenCorps was provided through the Corporation for National Community Service (CNCS) and ServeMinnesota.

For more information about Minnesota GreenCorps, please contact Stephanie Souter, coordinator, at 651/757-2749 or stephanie.souter@state.mn.us  Another round of member and host site selection may occur in mid-2010 should the program be continued for the service year starting fall 2010.For more information go to:


–26 Minnesota GreenStep City Best Practices — in draft form for comment. Go to

http://www.MnGreenSteps.org   To be formally launched at the League of Minnesota Cities conference in June 2010, GreenStep Cities is an assistance program to support, encourage and recognize implementation of sustainable development best practices by Minnesota cities, especially small and medium-sized cities. Program developers include the MN Pollution Control Agency, MN Office of Energy Security, the League of MN Cities, the MN  Association of Small Cities, the Clean Energy Resource Teams, the Great Plains Institute, the Izaak Walton League-MN and the Urban Land Institute-MN.

Minnesota cities assisting in the program design/piloting to date are Pine River, Grand Rapids, Apple Valley, Bloomington, Edina, St. Louis Park, Victoria and Falcon Heights.

See a summary of draft best practices at http://www.MnGreenSteps.org organized into the categories of:

  • Buildings
  • Land Use
  • Transportation
  • Water & Solid Waste
  • Community & Economic Development

For each of 26 draft best practices, approximately 6 specific actions – options for how a city can implement the best practice – are being researched and very preliminary drafts have been posted for comment at  http://www.minnesotaikes.org/sustainability/sustainability.html These actions and best practices will be changing during the next six months, but comments are welcomed on the version posted by the Minnesota Izaak Walton League. Send comments to philipp.muessig@state.mn.us

 —Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation Launches Foreclosure Prevention Initiative.   The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation offers a free tool kit of information to help homeowners and the banking industry avoid unnecessary foreclosures and to stop scams that promise false hope to consumers at risk of losing their homes. The tool kit includes a new brochure entitled, “Is Foreclosure Knocking at Your Door?,” which encourages consumers facing difficulties to contact their mortgage servicers and apply for loan modifications.  Go to:  http://www.fdic.gov/consumers/loans/prevention/index.html

Financial Literacy Research Consortium is a research initiative launched by the U.S. Social Security Administration to better inform the public about retirement options. The consortium is made up of research centers at Boston College, the RAND Corporation, and the University of Wisconsin and will develop innovative materials and programs to help Americans plan for a secure retirement.  Go to:  http://www.socialsecurity.gov/pressoffice/pr/flrc-pr.htm

THE ASPEN INSTITUTE offers a free publication called Measuring Community Capacity Building: A Workbook in Progress for Rural Communities.  The document outlines the steps, defines terms and offers and examples and strategies for measuring capacity building.  Go to:  http://www.aspeninstitute.org/sites/default/files/content/docs/community%20strategies%20group/MEASURING_COMMUNITY_CAPACTIY_BUILDING.PDF.

 –If you’re new to – or have yet to venture into – social media recruitment, you might want to check out CareerBuilder’s recent webinar on the subject (now available on demand here http://insight24.com/clients/insight24/promo/career_builder.html). Not just a clever name, “Social Media Basics for Your Employment Brand,” gives a quick and easy-to-digest overview of what social media is and its value as an employment branding tool.  Hosted by Melissa Murray, emerging media consultant for Personified, CareerBuilder’s consulting arm, the webinar also covers such topics as: how companies are using social media to impact their business; how to begin creating a social networking strategy; and various policies and etiquette to follow. There’s even an informative Q&A at the end of the session.

Click to watch the first half of the two-part webinar on demand: http://insight24.com/clients/insight24/promo/career_builder.html Or for a quick sneak peek, check out the 10 steps to getting started with your social media strategy:

  1. Set a Goal – Determine where you want to create a presence, and what the purpose of that presence is.
  2. Master One Medium – There are a lot of social networking sites out there right now. So many in fact, that it can be overwhelming trying to decide where to start. Begin by simply picking one site on which to create a profile and get comfortable using before you venture elsewhere.  Explore the site to see what others might be saying about your brand. See if they’re engaging and if what they’re saying is negative or positive. Figure out how others are using the site and engaging on it.
  3. Manage Your Online Reputation – Once you’ve seen what people are saying, create a plan for responding to those comments.
  4. Create a User Experience – Create a Facebook page, for example, and post videos, photos or content that gives insight into what it’s like to work at your organization – information users wouldn’t find anywhere else. By providing them an inside look at your organization, you’re creating an exclusive user experience, engaging them and compelling them to want to work for you.
  5. Listen, Learn and Engage – This step denotes an ongoing process. Once you have a profile and are active on the site, you can start to listen to the conversations about your brand. Allow employees and job seekers to post questions about the company. You may find that they’re concerned about issues you never would have considered addressing before.  Don’t be afraid of criticism, either. This is an opportunity for you to respond and clarify misconceptions about your brand. (Because the truth is that people are going to talk about your brand – regardless of whether you’re there or not. At least now you have the opportunity to steer the conversation in your favor.)
  6. Highlight Specific Jobs – Use the medium as a platform to give information beyond just a job description. You can post employee testimonials, for example, of others who hold that position and be advocates for both the company and the job.
  7. Visually Stimulate – Sharing videos and photos of company events is a great way to give candidates snap shots into your organization – in ways they’ve never seen.  “Day-in-the-life” videos, for example, give would-be employees an idea of what it’s like to work for your company, and they resonate stronger than anything job seekers might read.
  8. Boost Your Rankings – Having a presence on multiple social networks can improve your rankings in Google search results, making it easier for job seekers to find you when they perform organic searches for either your company or your industry.
  9. Promote – Tapping into those passive talent streams and connecting with your ideal talent requires promotion – both internal and external. Use your social networks to market your open positions, company news, or other messages you want to get across to job seekers, and make sure to communicate internally, too, so your employees can further their efforts as brand advocates and push that information out, too.

10.  Dedicate Time and Effort – Whatever you to, keep at it. It takes time to build a following and generate engagement – and even longer to see a return on your business, but in the long run, you will reap the rewards for your efforts.

Source: Career Builder http://thehiringsite.careerbuilder.com/2009/12/11/10-steps-to-getting-started-with-social-media/#more-5983

Ever wondered how health might be linked to planning, how 20-Minute Neighborhoods could save the world, or what we can learn from the revival of a Gulf Coast town in Mississippi? These are just a handful of topics raised on the Orton Family Foundation’s new blog, Cornerstones.  Check it out at: http://www.orton.org/blog