November 2010 – Volume VIII, Number 11

Compiled and edited by Deb Miller-Slipek, Ann Treacy & Emily Kissane

With special thanks this Thanksgiving season to our readers!

–Across the Field


–Meeting & Trainings


Across the Field:  Rural Urban Partnering Framework Emerging

–by Emily Kissane

Last month we told you about the kick-off meeting in September, 2010, of the Rural Urban Partnering Steering Committee, a group of people from across our state working with Minnesota Rural Partners, Inc. (MRP) to create and chart the course for a statewide framework that will generate both interest and ideas for leveraging rural-urban connections.  The committee emerged after a series of videoconferences were held throughout the state from January to April, 2010, and continued to take shape after the Symposium on Small Towns and Rural Urban Gathering in Morris in June.

The steering committee is a component of the Minnesota Rural Urban Connections Project, which MRP is developing with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development.  Over the past year we have:

—started Minnesotans talking and thinking about the crucial interdependence between rural and urban areas, as well as future opportunities arising from stronger rural-urban connections;

—mapped existing rural-urban connections with the help of individual Minnesotans, businesses, agencies, nonprofits, economic development groups, academic institutions, foundations, associations, and related groups; and

–started a framework for supporting existing and emerging rural-urban partnerships that can lead to new connections, coordination and collaboration to benefit the state.

–And, please watch this newsletter in January when we announce the completion of an exhaustive report on workforce, education, and enterprise development in Minnesota that highlights the interdependent dynamics between rural and urban people, places, and organizations that fuel our economy.

We would like your help in designing the Rural Urban Partnering Framework so that it is best positioned to promote innovation and job creation for the state as a whole.

–What are your initial reactions to the idea of a Rural Urban Partnering Framework? (Note: we are not calling the framework a “council” because thus far, steering committee members have expressed an interest in a group configuration that is more informal and adaptive.)

–Can you give us an example of an existing rural-urban connection—an organization, program or project that successfully brings rural and urban Minnesota together?

–What do you think should be priorities for a Rural Urban Partnering Framework to address?

Please send your ideas to Emily Kissane (; comments will be shared with steering committee members.

Please watch this space for news from the steering committee and about other Rural Urban Connections activities.


— Rebates Up to $10,000 Available with Home Improvement Loans for Energy-Saving Improvements. Minnesota Housing has recently announced $2 million of additional federal funds today for energy saving improvements in conjunction with the agency’s home improvement loans. This is the third funding phase of this popular energy saving program and funds are expected to be used quickly. The program began September 30 and interested homeowners can contact a Minnesota Housing lender partner to apply.

Qualified homeowners can receive a rebate of 35 percent of the cost (up to $10,000) for eligible improvements financed with a Fix-up Fund loan. Eligible improvements include high efficiency furnaces, boilers and central air conditioners, Energy Star replacement light fixtures, insulation in conjunction with air sealing, and water heaters if “orphaned” due to furnace replacement. Energy Star replacement windows and replacement exterior doors now qualify for a 25 percent rebate of costs financed with a Fix-up Fund loan.

The unreserved rebate program is designed to help homeowners with household incomes up to $96,600 improve home energy efficiency. Owner-occupied single family, condominium, duplex, triplex, or fourplex homes are eligible for the program. The Minnesota Housing Fix-up Fund offers affordable, fixed-rate loans to homeowners to make home improvements.   Interested homeowners can visit for more information about participating Fix-up Fund/Energy Saver Rebate lenders can visit click directly on or call Minnesota Housing at (800) 710-8871.

–Minnesota Main Street Accepting Applications. Minnesota Main Street is opening up the second application round for a maximum of five additional designated main street programs in 2011. If your community or organization is considering applying to become a Main Street Program, please e-mail Emily early in the process. Submit application by November 19 for pre-review. Final application and attachments are due by December 13, 2010 at 5:00 p.m. For more information and application materials go to:

HUD is offering SNAPS-TA funding to states, local governments, public housing agencies, intermediaries and nonprofits to provide technical assistance for McKinney-Vento homeless programs or for the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program. Deadline: November 22, 2010. For more information, see:

Source water protection grants for non-community transient public water suppliers.  The Minnesota Department of Health is offering funding to support source water protection grants for non-community transient public water suppliers (see to learn more about these types of suppliers, which can include restaurants, motels, highway rest areas, and other locations.)
Transient non-community systems are defined as public water suppliers that serve at least 25 people at least 60 days of the year, but do not serve the same 25 people over that period of time. Source water protection activities that are funded under this grant program must support measures that address a potential contamination source that presents a high risk to a source of drinking water as determined by the Minnesota Department of Health. The total amount of funding that is available is $125,000 and the maximum amount for any grant is $10,000. Applications must be received by November 29, 2010.  For more details on these grants go to:

— AgStar Fund for Rural America grants. The AgStar Fund for Rural America was created to extend the company’s commitment to the agricultural community. This special program underscores AgStar’s dedication to agriculture and rural communities, and addresses the issues facing rural America. Funding is limited to $10,000 per organization per year. The giving program in focused in four major areas:

* Education – Educating young, beginning or future farmers.
* Environment – Maintaining or improving the quality of the rural environment.
* Technology – Supporting the advancement and utilization of technology for the benefit of farmers and rural communities.
* Quality of Life – Programs or initiatives that enhance the quality of life for farmers and rural communities.

AgStar’s giving programs are concentrated in its local service area (in portions of Minnesota and Wisconsin). Those who meet the guidelines and criteria are encouraged to apply online by November 30, 2010. For more details or to apply, see:

–HUD has announced the availability of funding for Housing Choice Vouchers to Keep Public Housing Families Together. Deadline:  December 1, 2010. These grants enable Public Housing Authorities and Indian Housing Authorities to create vouchers for families for whom the lack of adequate housing is a primary factor in the imminent placement of the family’s child, or children, in out-of-home care; or the delay in the discharge of the child, or children, to the family from out-of-home care. For more information, go to

–The Department of Labor has announced the availability of grants for public and nonprofit agencies for vocational training of at-risk youth and/or young adults, aged 16-24, in the construction or rehabilitation of affordable housing units, with a special emphasis on green jobs skills training. Deadline: December 3, 2010. For more information, please visit:

New State Program Funds Highway Improvements. Minnesota’s New Transportation Economic Development (TED) Program makes $39 million available to communities (government entities) for highway and public infrastructure improvement projects that create new jobs and support economic development. The program is collaboration between the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) and the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT). Up to 70 percent of the costs for trunk highway interchanges and trunk roadway improvements and up to 50 percent of the costs for related public infrastructure may be eligible. DEED also has additional public infrastructure grant dollars available (Minnesota Business Development Public Infrastructure program). The Phase I Grant Applications are due December 10, 2010. For more specifics, please refer to:

–Applications Open for General Mills Foundation 2011 Champions for Healthy Kids Grant Program. The General Mills Foundation partnership with the American Dietetic Association Foundation and the President’s Council on Physical Fitness, is accepting applications for the 2011 Champions for Healthy Kids grant program.

This national program annually awards fifty grants of $10,000 each to community-based groups that develop creative ways to help youth adopt a balanced diet and physically active lifestyle. Applicants must be nonprofit organizations with 501(c)(3) or 509(a) status. Local organizations that work with youth are encouraged to apply. These may include park districts, health departments, government agencies, Native American tribes, municipal organizations, churches, schools, Boys & Girls clubs, etc.

The target audience must be youth between the ages of 2 and 18. Proposals must have at least one nutrition objective and at least one physical activity objective. A registered dietitian or dietetic technician must either be directly involved or serve as an advisor to the program.   Visit the General Mills Web site for complete program guidelines and application. Contact:  Link to Complete RFP Deadline: December 15, 2010.

Over $6.2 million in grants are available through Rural Development’s Rural Community Development Initiative (RCDI) program. RCDI grants are made to intermediary organizations. These intermediaries then provide financial and technical assistance to recipients that want to undertake projects related to housing, community facilities and economic development.  Applications must be submitted to the State Office by 4 p.m. on December 22, 2010. Changes to the RCDI program for this fiscal year include additional points for projects in local communities, additional points for projects that promote “Great Regions” as outlined in the NOFA, and additional categories added to average recipient median income.  For more information on the RCDI program, contact Rick Jackson at the USDA RD State Office in St. Paul.

–USDA Technical Assistance and Training Grant Program Funding is available to support activities that facilitate efforts by rural communities to access Recovery Act funding for critical water and waste disposal infrastructure projects, particularly those communities in smaller, lower income, and persistent poverty areas. Deadline: January 11, 2010. For more information and to apply, go to:

–HUD has announced the FY 2010 NOFA for the Education and Training Community Facilities program as a part of the Public Housing Capital Fund. Public Housing Agencies will receive grant funding up to $5 million to develop facilities to provide early childhood education, adult education, and/or job training programs for public housing residents based on an identified need for such facilities through either new construction or rehabilitation of existing structures. The deadline for applications is  January 14, 2011. To read the full announcement, go to:

–Otto Bremer Foundation grants.  The Otto Bremer Foundation assists people in achieving full economic, civic, and social participation in and for the betterment of their communities.

For grants in the Twin Cities Metro Area: funding is focused on programs and initiatives to relieve poverty, including emergency assistance and longer-term poverty reduction.

For funding in other communities: Grants and program-related investments respond to community needs by supporting programs, initiatives, and partnerships that address immediate concerns and/or long-term strategies. Grants support the following purposes:

* Program or project development
* General operations
* Organizational effectiveness
* Civic engagement
* Capital
* Challenge/matching grants
* Program-related investments

Applications are accepted anytime during the year. For details see:


The African Development Center will host their first Rural Community Economic Development Summit in Marshall, Minnesota, on Thursday, November 18th, and Friday, November 19th.   Attendees will hear from public officials and private sector leaders on topics such as emerging markets, the challenges and opportunities facing businesses in rural communities, and strategies for closing the housing gap in Greater Minnesota.  The summit will be held at the Ramada Inn in Marshall. Speakers and other details are posted at

–Common Cents: Minnesotans Weigh in on Taxes and Spending. With funding from the Bush Foundation, the Citizens League is launching a series of 25 statewide community workshops, giving Minnesotans an opportunity to weigh in on the troublesome state budget crisis. For a schedule go to:

The workshops are informative, fast-paced and interactive — illuminating the current reality of the state budget, examining future trends, and asking participants to identify values and priorities they think should help frame state budget decisions for the coming decade and beyond.  Findings will be presented to our newly elected governor and Legislature in January 2011.  For more information contact: Stacy Becker at or 651-295-4033.

—A Center for the Arts, among many other regional organizations (called the Rural Culture Alliance) is planning a Rural Arts & Culture Summit for June of 2011. The Summit will be about: BUILDING CULTURAL CAPITAL: CONNECTING RURAL ARTS, CULTURE, AND HERITAGE THROUGH EDUCATION, EXCHANGE, and CRITICAL DIALOGUE AND CELEBRATION. Organizers are currently looking for input on what people would like to see at this event. Please take a moment to fill out this survey:


Is your organization, city, or school looking for assistance? The Center for Small Towns (CST) and the Office of Community Engagement (OCE) at the University of Minnesota, Morris are collaborating with MN Campus Compact to provide an AmeriCorps “Students in Service” program in west central Minnesota.   The Students in Service (SIS) program encourages and supports college and university students to enroll as part-time AmeriCorps members who provide valuable service in their communities.

SIS goals are to get more college students involved in serving their community, and encourage members to develop their civic skills and attitudes as well as their transferable work skills while serving.

Local units of government, K-12 schools, or non-profit organizations within 60 miles of Morris are eligible to apply for SIS assistance. SIS members can assist with services such as project administration, marketing, data collection and entry or other needs of an organization. Projects may include addressing issues such as housing, storefront design, program evaluation, document design,  newsletter creation, economic analysis, Internet and Web training and more.

AmeriCorps requires SIS members to devote 300 hours to their project, up to 10 hours per week during the academic year and 40 hours/during the summer.  Members will be available to begin service at the start of spring semester, January 18, 2011, with projects ending by August 2011.  .

The deadline to apply is Wednesday, December 1, 2010.

For assistance in preparation of the application, please contact Jessica Beyer 320-589-6451.  To obtain an application online, visit the Center for Small Towns Web site at, click on “Program and Services” and select “Students in Service – AmeriCorps”. Applications may be e-mailed to or mailed/delivered to:

Center for Small Towns

Attn: Jessica Beyer

Welcome Center, University of Minnesota, Morris

600 E 4th Street

Morris, MN 56267

–The first issue of the new online Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development (JAFSCD), an international, peer-reviewed journal of applied research and policy analysis, is currently available for free viewing at: ; JAFSCD is for organizations, agencies, and academics interested in expanding local and regional food systems.  Go to:

According to the web site, “the Journal emphasizes best practices and tools related to the planning, community economic development, and ecological protection of local and regional agriculture and food systems, and works to bridge the interests of practitioners and academics. Articles are published online as they are approved, but are gathered into quarterly issues for indexing purposes. Whole issues and individual articles of the Journal are also available through print-on-demand. As the journal focuses on the practice of agriculture and food system development, empirical and methodological content are emphasized over the theoretical.”

The special topic of the 170-page August 2010 first issue of JAFSCD is Growing New Farmers, with several articles dedicated to that subject. Additional articles address a wide range of food systems and community development topics, for example:

* Metrics from the Field: Letting Food Systems Emerge (by Ken Meter, NextStep web site Communities Topic Guide)

* The Benefits, Challenges, and Strategies of Adults Following a Local Food Diet

* From the Boardroom to the Farm Stand: Applying Principles of Retail Strategy to Facilitate Farmers’ Market Sustainability

* Laws to Require Purchase of Locally Grown Food and Constitutional Limits on State and Local Government: Suggestions for Policymakers and Advocates

The second issue with a special topic of Urban Agriculture is expected later this year.

Brookings launches two interactive data tools.  The Brookings Institution recently launched two online, interactive applications that depict an abundance of socioeconomic data. The first application, the State of Metropolitan America Indicator Map, uses the latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey to portray key dimensions of demographic change for the nation’s 100 largest metropolitan areas. Users can customize the map’s display by selecting from an array of more than 300 social, demographic, and economic characteristics. The map will be updated annually as new Census Bureau data are released. To try out the map’s features visit:

The other new application, EITC Interactive, provides ZIP Code-level data about tax returns and EITC (Earned Income Tax Credit) recipients throughout the United States. Users can create spreadsheets and maps by selecting from multi-tiered menus of geographic locations and tax-related variables. EITC Interactive also features a User Guide and Data Dictionary section that explains the site’s workings and terminology. To explore the application visit:

–Effects of Increased Biofuels on the U.S. Economy in 2022.  Achieving greater energy security by reducing dependence on foreign petroleum is a goal of U.S. energy policy. The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA) calls for a Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS-2), which mandates that the United States increase the volume of biofuel that is blended into transportation fuel from 9 billion gallons in 2008 to 36 billion gallons by 2022. Long-term technological advances are needed to meet this mandate. This report examines how meeting the RFS-2 would affect various key components of the U.S. economy. If biofuel production advances with cost-reducing technology and petroleum prices continue to rise as projected, the RFS-2 could provide economy-wide benefits. However, the actual level of benefits (or costs) to the U.S. economy depends importantly on future oil prices and whether tax credits are retained in 2022. If oil prices stabilize or decline from current levels and tax credits are retained, then benefits to the economy would diminish. See

–Statewide Survey Shows Demand for Jobs Top Priority for Rural Minnesotans.  Blandin Foundation’s Rural Pulse sees spike in concerns, resilient optimism. Ever wonder how the economy is impacting rural America? In new research released, a picture emerges in rural Minnesota of concerns for quality of life and how day-to-day decisions are being impacted. The findings of Rural Pulse 2010, a study commissioned by the Blandin Foundation, provide critical, deep understanding of important issues that affect residents and leaders of rural communities. The survey addresses topics such as health care, education, attracting and retaining household supporting jobs, and inclusion.

Providing quality employment opportunities has emerged as the overwhelming priority within rural Minnesota communities, according to a statewide survey commissioned by the Blandin Foundation. Rural PulseTM 2010 finds that among residents of non-metropolitan communities, demand for living-wage jobs is more than twice as important as the second most critical issue. Sixty-five percent of rural Minnesotans say there are insufficient local job opportunities in their communities.  The survey also found a sharp jump in the number of rural residents who perceive their communities are struggling.  Asked to assess quality of life in their community, 37 percent say it has declined.  That number is four times what it was 10 years ago when only nine percent of the respondents felt that the quality of life in their communities was deteriorating.   At the same time, however, the survey finds surprising confidence, with 87 percent of those surveyed saying they can help their community become a better place to live. Nearly seven in 10 are confident quality of life will improve over the next few years.

The survey is unique in its singular focus on rural communities in Minnesota and cities smaller than 35,000.  Rural Pulse 2010 also surveyed community leaders across the state on the same topics and found concerns are even more significant among leadership; only one in five agree that there are adequate, quality employment opportunities. One in four community leaders have considered moving to a larger city or metropolitan area themselves, largely in pursuit of job opportunities.

To view the full report, go to or visit the Blandin Foundation website at

Those interested in considering adding a solar system to their home or business will find Solar Today magazine’s Get Started Buyers’ Guide, which is available for free downloading , to be a useful resource.

This free Fall/Winter 2010 guide includes in its 74 pages sections on:

* Getting the most for your energy dollar

* Heat your water with the sun

* All about wind

* Does it pay?

* Energy-saving HVAC options

* Books on renewable energy for the home

* Working with an installer

* Get trained for a career in the solar industry

In addition, the Buyers’ Guide includes an extensive national list of solar businesses organized by zip code.  Also available for free downloading at the web site above are other recent (and useful!) issues of Solar Today magazine, which is an ongoing publication of the American Solar Energy Society.

HUD announced the availability on its website of revisions to the Section 8 Renewal Policy Guide Book, which is HUD’s comprehensive guidance for renewing expiring Section 8 contracts. In addition, HUD is asking for comments from the public by 11/15/10. To read the notice go to:

HUD has issued a guide called “Protecting Tenants At Foreclosure: Notice Of Responsibilities Placed On Immediate Successors In Interest Pursuant To Foreclosure Of Residential Property”. To get the publication please visit:

–USDA Rural Development has issued a report on American Recovery and Reinvestment Act accomplishments called Rural Development and the Recovery Act: Working For Rural Communities. The report includes data on USDA ARRA funds for every state and is available at:

Transportation for America has issued the results of Case Studies on Transit and Livable Communities in Rural and Small Town America. The collection of 12 case studies provides examples of how small cities, towns and rural regions across the country are transforming themselves into more livable communities. To get a free copy go to:

News from Ford’s Wealth Creation in Rural Communities Initiative. The latest paper from the Wealth Creation in Rural Communities Initiative examines several sectors with strong potential for regional wealth creation, highlighting preconditions that are necessary for wealth creation efforts to benefit low-wealth families and individuals. Wealth Creation, Capture and Retention for Low-Wealth People and Places in Regional Systems, the Aspen Institute Community Strategies Group, is available to download free at:

–Rental Housing Affordability – A Review of Current Research. Combining the findings from an array of recent reports, the Center for Housing Policy provides the latest information on rental housing trends. The reports point to a growing demand for affordable rental homes, a shrinking and at-risk affordable rental stock, and an increase in the number of renters that have difficulty affording their monthly housing costs. To get a copy go to: