May 2010

In tough economic times, the importance of connecting with people and ideas outside of our local situations becomes vital. Join with us this June in Morris, Minnesota, to engage our shared ingenuity and optimism at the 2010 Symposium on Small Towns and Rural-Urban Gathering entitled “Finding Solutions and Redefining Communities.”

We’ll be focusing on leadership, capacity building and practical improvements for small communities and strengthening rural-urban connections to build back a thriving Minnesota for all.

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 begins the evening of June 9.

Highlights this year include:

  • Gubernatorial candidates discussing “How Public Policies are Improving Rural Small Town Viability” during the popular policy forum;
  • Colleen Landkamer, Minnesota State Director for USDA Rural Development and former President of the National Association of Counties as a featured speaker;
  • A featured panel that will emphasize small communities with big success stories; and
  • Information-packed small breakout sessions and a festive Showcase
    Fair. Please contact the Center for Small Towns to learn more about Showcase opportunities for your community or organization.

The Rural-Urban Gathering will be held on the evening of June 9, 2010, hosted by Minnesota Rural Partners, Inc . The focus of the gathering will be on the formation of the Rural-Urban Partnering Council with its emphasis on education, workforce and entrepreneurship to increase innovation and wealth creation across Minnesota. All are welcome to attend and to consider becoming a member of the inaugural Council.

The Symposium and Rural-Urban Gathering will include a good mix of people with a wide range of perspectives, practical ideas for conserving resources, small breakout sessions to spur your imagination to help your own communities and wholesome local food! The location is on the open landscape of University of Minnesota Morris and the City of Morris which have become a hub for discussions on the status of small towns and home to exemplary research and demonstration programs on renewable energy and sustainability initiatives.

Visit our websites at and for the full Conference Schedule and more information and to register for this event .

Registration is only $65 for the Symposium on June 10; join in on the Rural-Urban Gathering on the evening of June 9 for no additional fee.

Generous contributions from sponsors are making numerous scholarships available with the already low cost to attend. Please check the box on the Registration page to indicate your interest.

The participation level is very encouraging; we are excited to see you all here! If you have any questions, please feel free to call Barb at the Center for Small Towns at 320-589-6451 or email her at

Center for Small Towns

The University of Minnesota is an Equal Opportunity Educator and Employer.

Minnesota Rural Partners, Inc.

May 2010 – Volume VIII, Number 5

Compiled and edited with loving care and devotion by Deb Miller Slipek, Ann Treacy, and Jane Leonard

–Across the Field – Showcase Your Community Pride This Summer!

Across the Field: Showcase Your Community Pride This Summer!

by Jane Leonard

We are delighted to announce that the “Reinventing Minnesota — Minnesota Community Pride Competition” will again open for applications beginning June 1, 2010, with winners announced and cash awards distributed August 29 at the Minnesota State Fair. Applications will be due in mid-July.

The program is co-sponsored by the Minnesota State Fair,, and Minnesota Rural Partners, Inc (MRP) and is open to all Minnesota communities, including neighborhoods.  Special categories this year include Rural Urban Connections to Help Minnesota Thrive and Youth.

The contest is part of MRP’s Reinventing Minnesota initiative to recognize communities statewide for their efforts to move beyond the current economic challenge with creative and proactive community and economic development innovations. Sharing these best practices with neighbors across the state –and across America –is equally important.

Minnesota Community Pride is an old-fashioned community improvement competition to reward, inspire, showcase and share the (re)inventive good work already going on in Minnesota towns and neighborhoods. 

Judging takes place in two phases. The first phase is conducted by persons knowledgeable in the categories of competition, to develop a list of finalists. The second phase involves online voting via so that everyone and anyone can read about the projects and cast their vote for the best of the finalists in each category.

All communities participating will be recognized and winners will be announced publicly at the 2010 Minnesota State Fair, which will feature Minnesota Community Pride on Sunday, August 29 at Carousel Park in the fairgrounds.  Communities will have display space at the State Fair to show off their communities and their best practices to thousands of fairgoers on August 29. Top winners in each category will receive cash prizes and award plaques donated by the Minnesota State Fair.

Category-Specific Awards are for existing or emerging projects that fall within specific categories such as arts, broadband, entrepreneurship and more and take place in a community or neighborhood.  Communities of all sizes are invited to nominate a project, including neighborhood associations within larger towns or cities.

Comprehensive, Community-Wide Awards are for existing or emerging efforts in a community or neighborhood. In this community-wide improvement recognition contest, communities compete with other communities based on population size. The criteria mirror the 1980s Community Pride Awards process, which included evidence of citizen engagement in problem-solving, community assessments and planning, and action plans. Communities can generate submissions based on other community engagement, assessment and action models (e.g., Horizons, Healthy Communities, Value-Added Communities, etc.) or community-wide efforts that don’t follow a prescribed model.

Weaving through all submissions should be evidence of the Reinventing Minnesota motto:  Connect, Create, Thrive.

Check out the website at on June 1 for more information and to download applications.

Check out now, to see the 2009 participants and descriptions of their award-winning projects.


–Local Government and School District Renovations (Facility Cost-Share) Grant Program application deadline is May 24, 2010 with up to $9,700,000 is available. The Minnesota Department of Commerce, Office of Energy Security (OES) requests proposals from Minnesota school districts, park districts, towns, cities, counties, and townships for the Local Government and School District Renovations Program. Grants will be awarded on a competitive basis to assist in the cost of making energy efficient improvements to existing buildings and facilities.  Eligible projects include: 

– Energy-Efficient Window Replacements
– Building Energy Efficiency Retrofits (including insulation, door repair, HVAC upgrades, purchase and installation of ENERGY STAR appliances, interior lighting and control improvements, and other activities listed in the RFP) 
– Exterior Lighting Improvements
– Traffic Signal and Street Lighting Retrofits
– Other energy efficiency improvements to local government facilities (such as pumps or motors).
Emphasis is placed on projects that are ready for immediate implementation and that are cost-effective; a 50% cost-share will be required. Eligible activities and requirements to receive a grant are defined in the Request for Proposals (RFP) which is available for download through May 24, 2010 at the web site above or directly at:    
Proposals must be received no later than 4:00 p.m. CST, May 24, 2010.  All questions concerning the RFP should be submitted to Natalie Buys, MN Department of Commerce, at  

  —Solar Energy Legacy Grants for MN Local Governments – The MN Department of Natural Resources is providing grants to local units of government for solar energy projects within parks and on trails of regional or statewide significance. Applications are due May 28, 2010. 

Eligible projects include purchase, installation, and subsequent interpretation of solar energy projects within parks and on trails of regional or statewide significance. This includes projects for solar electric, hot water, and space heating, including air heat. Eligible applicants include counties, cities, townships, and legislatively designated regional parks and trails taxing authorities.  Grants are reimbursement based up to 75 percent of the total eligible project costs, and recipients must provide a non-state cash match of at least 25 percent. The minimum grant request is $10,000 and the maximum grant award is $150,000.  In FY 2011, approximately $585,000 is available for solar energy projects.  Priority will be given to solar energy projects that make efficient and effective use of solar energy, that incorporate public interpretation and/or education, and incorporate energy efficiency improvements.   For details go to

–2010 GRAFFITI HURTS® National Grant Program’s deadline is June 1, 2010. Grants of $2,500 are offered in three categories – communities under 75,000 population, communities between 75,000 and 250,000 population, and communities over 250,000 population. The funds must be used for projects that will be initiated in Fall 2010 and completed no later than December 31, 2011. For more information, go to:

–USDA has issued a Notice of Funding Availability for Section 515 Rural Rental Housing Program for New Construction in Fiscal Year 2010. Deadline: June 14, 2010. For more information, see the Federal Register at:

–Nature of Learning Grants – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service National Wildlife Refuge System, the National Conservation Training Center, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and the National Wildlife Refuge Association are requesting proposals from organizations interested in initiating The Nature of Learning in their communities, a community-based environmental education initiative. The 2010 theme is Climate Change and Citizen Science, to support education projects focused on the causes and effects of climate change on wildlife refuges and build citizen science partnership programs. Individual grants up to $10,000. Applications are due June 14, 2010. For more information, see

–USDA’S RURAL HOUSING SERVICE has announced the availability of Section 533 Housing Preservation Grants to enable very low- and low-income homeowners to repair and rehabilitate their homes in rural areas. Deadline: June 28, 2010. For more information, go to:

–USDA Rural Development is now accepting applications for Rural Business Opportunity Grants (RBOG). The RBOG program provides grants for technical assistance and planning activities to improve economic conditions in rural cities or towns of 50,000 people or fewer. The deadline for applications to be into the Rural Development state office is 4 p.m. on June 28, 2010.

RBOG funding can be used for economic planning, technical assistance, and training for rural communities, entrepreneurs or economic development officials. Under the current round of funding, priority consideration will be given to applications that demonstrate strong regional or multi-jurisdictional collaboration, referred to as “great regions.” Other funding priorities include projects that build leadership capacity and those that represent varying demographics (including underserved and under-represented communities). There is $2.48 million in funding available.  To be eligible for funding, an applicant must be a public body, non-profit corporation, Indian Tribe or cooperative with members that are primarily rural residents. Applicants must also have significant expertise in the activities proposed and the financial strength to ensure the objectives of the proposed grant can be accomplished.  

–Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food – USDA Rural Development has funding available, awarded on an ongoing basis, for community facilities owned and operated by nonprofit groups, public bodies and federally recognized tribes. Facilities such as hoop houses, community gardens, food processing and distribution centers, community kitchen equipment and similar types of resources will qualify for this program. For more information, go to the website at:

–USDA Rural Development  is seeking applications from farmers, agricultural producers and owners of rural small businesses to purchase renewable energy systems and make energy efficiency improvements. The funding is provided through Rural Development’s Rural Energy for America Program (REAP).  Eligible projects include installing renewable energy systems such as wind turbines, solar, geothermal, biomass, anaerobic digesters, hydroelectric or hydrogen systems.  Funding may also be used to purchase energy-efficient equipment. Examples include adding insulation, refrigeration upgrades and heating and cooling system improvements.  Under REAP, grants are also available to intermediaries to help owners of rural businesses and farms conduct energy audits.  Eligible applicants include a unit of State, tribal, or local government; institutions of higher education; rural electric cooperatives; or a public power entity. The program is designed to provide energy audit assistance to farmers, ranchers, and rural small businesses. More information on energy audits, as well as information on feasibility studies, can be found at the bottom or Minnesota’s REAP website. For more information, view the complete NOFA in the Federal Register.


–Register Now & Scholarships available for the 2010 Symposium on Small Towns and Rural Urban Gathering, June 9 & 10, University of Minnesota Morris —

Greening the Heartland will be held in the Minneapolis Convention Center in Minneapolis, May 19-21, 2010. The event is presented by the Minnesota Chapter of USBGC and Minnesota Green Communities and will promote sustainable design, construction and management strategies by encouraging joint leadership by the private and public sectors throughout the Heartland Region. For more information, please visit

A Community Development Forum on Maximizing the Neighborhood-Tenant Connection A Thought-Provoking Perspective on Expanding Affordable Rental Housing will be held on Wednesday, May 26 from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.  It will feature the Urban Institute’s Margery Austin Turner. Known for her seminal work on the interplay between neighborhood context and affordable rental housing, Turner will address such thorny questions as: How can we expand affordable rental housing in a way that brings maximum benefit to tenants and homeowners?  Attendance is $20 per person.  To register, complete and send our Registration Form [PDF].   Or go to:

–At the 2010 Nonprofit Leadership Conference: Thriving in the New Normal, will be held Thursday, June 3 from 8:30 a.m. – 4:45 p.m. (registration begins at 8 a.m.) at McNamara Alumni Center  at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.  For more information and registration, visit the conference Web site.   You and your colleagues can take stock, learn, and explore changes and innovations in organizations and the sector that are currently underway, as well as imagine possibilities for the future.  This day-long conference is geared towards leaders in all roles within organizations – including senior leadership, those who are leading from the middle, and emerging leaders.

–The MN Council for Nonprofits is sponsoring two upcoming workshops.  Fast Fundraising Facts for Fame and Fortune is about current and emerging topics in fundraising.  The ABCs of Building Better Boards is about the fundamentals of nonprofit governance – what you should know, and how you can improve your board and organization.

Tuesday, June 8, Mankato  – Fast Fundraising Facts for Fame and Fortune 9 a.m. – noon

Country Inn and Suites Conference Center
1900 Premier Drive, Mankato, MN 56001
Fees: $45 for MCN members; $65 for nonmembers 

Tuesday, June 8, Mankato – The ABCs of Building Better Boards
1:30 – 4:30 p.m.
Country Inn and Suites Conference Center
1900 Premier Drive, Mankato, MN 56001
Fees: $45 for MCN members; $65 for nonmembers

Wednesday, June 9, St. Cloud – Fast Fundraising Facts for Fame and Fortune
9 a.m. – noon
Best Western Kelly Inn
100 4th Ave. S., St. Cloud, MN 56301
Fees: $45 for MCN members; $65 for nonmembers 

Thursday, June 10, Grand Rapids – Fast Fundraising Facts for Fame and Fortune
9 a.m. – noon
Timberlake Lodge Hotel
144 SE 17th St., Grand Rapids, MN 55744
Fees: $45 for MCN members; $65 for nonmembers 

For more information visit MCN’s Web site at

MN Campus Compact 2010 Summit and Awards Luncheon featuring the 2010 presentation of the Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Partnership Award for Campus-Community Collaboration will be Thursday, June 17 at the Earle Brown Heritage Center in Brooklyn Center.  Special Guest: Minnesota Supreme Court Justice, Alan Page.  The awards luncheon will also include the inaugural Minnesota Campus Compact Presidents’ Awards, recognizing students or student organizations, community partners, and faculty or staff “stewards” of civic engagement.  To register go to: 

MN Rural Health Conference “Leading Change for Rural Health” will be held in Duluth on June 28-29.  For more information and to register go to:

Go Run 2010 training will be held in Duluth, Minnesota on September 10-12, 2010.  Everyone Go Run is a weekend training to demystify the political Process and inspire a richly diverse group of women to join the leadership pipeline.  Go Run teaches the nuts and bolts of running for political office – communications, fundraising and campaigning – skills you can also use in your work and in your community today and up to the day you decide to run! Join with women from over 50 cities and towns across Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota and Iowa for an unforgettable leadership training experience.  Build a network of women leaders that will last a lifetime. Apply Now! For more information contact Liz Johnson 612-819-9898 or Nevada Littlewolf 218.750.0389

The MN Council of Nonprofits 2010 Annual Conference “The Nonprofit State Fair” will be October 7-8 in Duluth.  For more information go to:   

–Save the Dates – Volunteer Impact Leadership Training SeriesOctober 19 and 20 in Willmar and the Minnesota Conference on Volunteer Administration- May 18- 20, 2011 in St. Cloud.  Visit for more information!


–The Minnesota Cup, a statewide competition that seeks out Minnesota’s newest and most innovative business ideas, is asking entrepreneurs, inventors and new businesses to submit their breakthrough business idea at by May 21, 2010.   More than $130,000 will be awarded across six divisions: High Tech, BioSciences, Clean Tech & Renewable Energy, Social Entrepreneurship, General and Student. A finalist from each division – with the exception of the student division – will be awarded $20,000. The winners of each division will compete for an additional $20,000 grand prize. The student winner will receive $5,000 and be eligible for the grand prize. Since the contest’s inception in 2005, nearly 4,000 participants have entered. Last year’s winner’s have gone on to secure $8 million in new funding as well as securing numerous new partnerships, patent applications and distribution agreements. For complete contest rules and to submit your breakthrough business idea, please visit


2010 Minnesota Grown Directory. The 2010 Minnesota Grown Directory is now available and is bigger and better than ever! It includes 840 locations where you can purchase directly from the farmer, including farmers markets, CSA (community supported agriculture) farms, garden centers, berry farms, orchards and much more. 

To order one or more free copies of the printed directory, visit the web site or click directly on

Strengthening the Rural Economy  A report published in April 2010 from the Executive Office of the President Council of Economic Advisers surveys the current state of rural America and describes the Obama Administration’s policies for strengthening the rural economy. Many of these policies are already being implemented through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. It identifies additional work that remains to ensure the prosperity and vitality of rural America.  Go to:

Saving the Small Town Grocery Store on the website for the Center for Rural Affairs includes articles, information and other resources aimed at preserving grocery stores in rural areas. To learn more, go to

Small Employer Health Care Tax Credit – The new health care reform law lets smaller nonprofits claim up to a 25 percent tax credit when they pay for at least half of the health insurance premiums for their employees. To claim the credit, the nonprofit must have 25 or full time equivalent (FTE) employees who earn less than $50,000 in average annual wages and the nonprofit must pay at least 50% of the insurance premium cost for employees. Further guidance is anticipated from the IRS on how exempt organizations may claim the credit. To learn more, including how to calculate FTEs and average annual wages go to:

HIRE Act the Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment (HIRE) Act  has been signed in to law by President Obama, and may have an impact on your nonprofit’s hiring decisions.

The new law creates a $5,000 tax credit for any business or nonprofit organization for every net new employee that they hire in 2010. The total amount of the credit for any one firm or nonprofit is capped at $500,000, to ensure that the majority of the benefit is targeted at small businesses and nonprofits. Businesses and nonprofits can also earn the tax credit by raising wages or increasing the hours of their current employees. These temporary tax credits will expire at the end of this year.

For more information, you can go to MCN’s HIRE FAQ page to see answers to frequently asked questions about the new jobs and wages tax credits in the HIRE Act

FEDERAL FUNDS – This product contains information from the Census Bureau’s Consolidated Federal Funds Reports on Federal expenditures and obligations for grants, salaries and wages, procurements, direct payments, direct loans, guaranteed loans, and insurance obtained from Federal Government agencies. ERS screens the data for each Federal program for accuracy at the county level and then presents the data by function and type of program for each county and State. Go to: