November 2012– Volume X, Number 11

Compiled and edited by Deb Miller Slipek & Ann Treacy



Across the Field: Border to Border Broadband – by Bernadine Joselyn

Today’s guest article is from Bernadine Joselyn of the Blandin Foundation on location at the 9th annual Minnesota broadband conference, Building our Connected Future: Minnesota’s Better with Broadband.

Every time I attend a conference in Duluth I am reminded of the International Rural Summit hosted by Minnesota Rural Partners more than 10 years ago. The Internet was on the radar, but folks were still asking – what is broadband and why do we need it? Today I’m back in Duluth for a “Building our Connected Future” broadband conference that Blandin Foundation and Connected Nations are hosting to help move the needle on Governor Dayton’s dream of achieving “border to border broadband.” And I’m pleased to report, from the perspective of a ten-year look back, that we’re making progress.  The conversation has advanced to: “Broadband – why don’t we have it yet, and how can we get it?

At the conference Connect Minnesota released a report indicating that only 62 percent of households have access to broadband at speeds of at least 10 Mbps download/6 Mbps upload – the Minnesota state goal is to have 100 percent coverage by 2015. So while that percentage shows progress, clearly we still have work to do.

But we’re prepared to work. It was exciting to hear about what is happening in the state to get that work done with the Minnesota Broadband Task Force, with various community broadband adoption efforts, with broadband deployment planning and construction.

For our part, the Blandin Foundation remains committed to working with community broadband champions over the next few years through the Blandin Broadband Communities program. Our plan is to focus on “what more can we do with it?” – helping communities to build their connected future with better broadband.


The Minnesota Trade Office is accepting applications for financial awards for small businesses that want to sell products or services in foreign markets.  The funding is available under the State Trade and Export Promotion Program (STEP), which was created to help small businesses export and is funded in part through a grant from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).  Qualifying small businesses may apply for up to $7,500 in reimbursement for approved export-development activities.  In addition, up to $500 in reimbursement is available for small businesses that want to participate in classes that will help them develop export plans.

Financial assistance will be available to eligible businesses until funding runs out. The application deadline is Thursday, Nov. 15, for a second round. However, additional rounds will be held each month until all funds are committed. Applications and other materials are available at Export Assistance.  Eligible companies must certify that they meet the SBA definition of a small business, have been in business for one year, are profitable and understand the costs associated with exporting.

The Department of Agriculture is offering funding through The Community Food Projects Competitive Grants Program to support projects designed to meet the food needs of low-income people; increase the self-reliance of communities in providing for their own food needs; promote comprehensive responses to local food, farm and nutrition issues; and meet specific state, local, or neighborhood food and agriculture needs. Deadline to apply: 11/28/2012. Click for more information about this program.

— The AgStar Fund for Rural America grants deadline is November 30, 2012.

AgStar concentrates its giving programs in geographic areas where AgStar has a significant business presence and on those programs that fit strategically with the intent of their clients and their communities in which they live.  The grants are discretionary and restricted to a specific purpose. The AgStar Fund does not allow awarded funds to be used for indirect costs. All awarded funds must be used for direct project or program costs. Funding is limited to $10,000 per organization per year.

AgStar Fund for Rural America grants are restricted to the following uses:

  • Project or program support
  • Technical assistance
  • General operating support
  • Equipment

In order to be considered for funding, requests for support must align with the Fund’s mission, as well as, one of the following focus 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.

For more information and to apply go to:

Walmart Foundation Local Giving Program.  The Walmart Foundation supports programs and initiatives addressing education, workforce development, economic sustainability, and health and wellness.  Multiple awards ranging from $250-$5,000 are available for select applicants. Nonprofit organizations, K-12 schools, church or faith based organizations, and government entities are eligible to apply.  The deadline for applying is December 1. For more information or to apply, visit

East Central Regional Arts Council (ECRAC) covers the five counties (Region 7E) of Chisago, Isanti, Kanabec, Mille Lacs, and Pine and has the following grants available:

  • -Art and Cultural Heritage Fund Grants (for organizations and individuals) due December 1, 2012, and February 1, 2013.
  • -Art Project Grants for Organizations due January 15, 2013.
  • -Art in Our Schools due February 1 or April 1, 2013.
  • -Individual Artist Grants due February 1 or April 1, 2013
  • -Small Grants for Organizations due February 1 and April 1, 2013.
  • For more information go to:

National Fish and Wildlife Foundation: Wells Fargo Environmental Solutions for Communities is offering grants to support projects that link economic development and community well-being to the stewardship and health of the environment. The focus is on projects that promote a sustainable future for communities by supporting sustainable agricultural practices and private lands stewardship; conserving critical land and water resources and improving local water quality; restoring and managing natural habitat, species, and ecosystems that are important to community livelihoods; facilitating investments in green infrastructure, renewable energy, and energy efficiency; and encouraging broad-based citizen participation and targeted youth participation in project implementation. Preference will be given to projects in selected cities in 23 states, and projects in rural and coastal areas in the targeted states will also be considered. Deadline: 12/3/2012. Click for more information and to submit an online proposal.

–The National Gardening Association is accepting applications for Youth Garden Grant Awards. Schools and community groups in the United States planning to garden with at least 15 children between the ages of 3 and 18 are invited to apply for Home Depot gift cards of up to $1,000 to purchase gardening supplies. Deadline to apply: 12/3/2012. For more information visit the website by clicking

Great Lakes Higher Education Guaranty Corporation has announced its College Ready Grant opportunity to help more students arrive on campus academically prepared for success in higher education—whether at two-year, four-year or technical colleges. The College Ready grant opportunity is open to community-based organizations and nonprofit higher education institutions in Minnesota and Wisconsin. Deadline: 12/7/2012. For an application and to learn more about the program, click

–Fiskars’ Project Orange Thumb seeks applications for Community Garden Grants and Makeovers to help communities achieve their neighborhood beautification goals and support healthy, sustainable food sources.  Nonprofit organizations in the United States and Canada are invited to apply for ten grants of $5,000 and a complete garden makeover. Deadline to apply: 12/15/2012. For application requirements and more information, click

— Application materials for the Rural Hospital Capital Improvement Grant Program are available on the ORHPC Grants and Loans page. Pre-applications are due December 17 and final applications (if invited) will be due March 18, 2013.

–The Mary Byron Project is accepting applications for the Roth Award for Domestic Violence Programs Focused on Underserved Populations. A nonprofit or government program focused on reaching underserved victims of domestic violence will be honored with an award of $10,000. Deadline to apply: 12/21/2012.  For more information on this award, click

The Department of Agriculture has issued a NOFA for guaranteed loans under Section 538 Guaranteed Rural Rental Housing for FY 2012.  Eligible lenders are invited to submit responses for new construction and acquisition with rehabilitation of affordable rural rental housing. The agency will review responses submitted by eligible lenders, on the lender’s letterhead, and signed by both the prospective borrower and lender. Deadline to apply: 12/31/2012. For details on the program and an application, click

— Application materials for the Minnesota Loan Forgiveness Program, which supports recruitment and retention of health care professionals in communities experiencing a shortage of primary health care providers, are now available on the ORHPC Loan Forgiveness and Repayment Programs page. Applications due by January 2, 2013.

— MDA 2013 Sustainable Agriculture Demonstration Grant Program.  The Minnesota Department of Agriculture  (MDA) is now accepting applications for its Sustainable Agriculture Demonstration Grant Program, which promotes environmental stewardship and conservation of resources and strives to improve profitability and quality of life on farms and in rural areas.  Grant applications and information are available on the MDA website at or by contacting the Agricultural Marketing and Development Division at 651-201-6012. Completed applications must be received by MDA no later than January 11, 2013.

Our Town Grants National Endowment for the Arts encourages rural communities to apply for the latest round of Our Town creative placemaking grants. Last year, 41 of the 80 grants went to communities with populations of less than 50,000 and five grants were made to communities with less than 1,000 residents (Teller, AK; Last Chance, CO; Star, NC; Uniontown, WA; Dufur, OR). For guidelines, deadline is January 14, 2013.

–The American Association of University Women (AAUW) is accepting applications for Community Action Grants from individuals, AAUW branches, and AAUW state organizations as well as local community-based nonprofit organizations for innovative programs or non-degree research projects that promote education and equity for women. Deadline to apply: 1/15/2013. To learn more and for an application click

–The Corporation for National and Community Service is offering funding to nonprofits and local and state governments to establish AmeriCorps programs that will offer AmeriCorps volunteers the opportunity to become involved in a range of community improvement activities. Deadline: 1/23/2013. For more information, click

–The Department of Veterans Affairs is offering grants to nonprofits to provide supportive services to very low-income veteran families, especially those who are homeless or in danger of becoming homeless. Both initial and renewal grants are available. Deadline: 2/1/2013. Click for an application and funding guidelines.

–USDA is accepting applications from nonprofits for the Higher Education Challenge Grants Program: Agricultural Sciences Education. The funding aims to increase the number and diversity of students who will pursue and complete a postsecondary degree in the food and agricultural sciences. Deadline to apply: 2/8/2013. For application requirements, click

–The Gannett Foundation’s Community Action Grants support nonprofit organizations with funding priority given to programs that focus on education and neighborhood improvement, economic development, youth development, community problem-solving, assistance to disadvantaged people, environmental conservation and cultural enrichment. Deadline to apply: 2/16/2013. For more information on these grants, click

–The Institute for Rural America is offering Seize The Moment Grants to nonprofits for up to $250 designed to assist groups needing to take quick action on issues that arise, or to send staff to training programs in their respective fields. Deadline: rolling. For application guidelines, click

The SURDNA Foundation offers funding to nonprofit organizations that seek to help communities build wealth in a sustainable manner.  The Surdna Foundation’s Strong Local Economies program aims to help create communities of opportunity that offer good jobs within reach for low- and moderate-income residents, and provide sustainable development solutions that enable people to easily travel between their homes and jobs, schools, and day-to-day services. Deadline: Letters of Inquiry accepted year around. For more information on the application process, click

— The 2012 Minnesota e-Health Connectivity Grant Program for Health Information Exchange (HIE) is accepting applications on a first-come, first-serve basis. Eligible applicants include community HIE Partners (two or more health organizations collaborating to implement HIE for meaningful use transactions) or pharmacies not able to accept electronic prescriptions. Visit the Minnesota e- Health Connectivity Grant for Health Information Exchange page for more information on this new funding opportunity. Contact Anne Schloegel at with questions.

SEARCH Grants Available for Planning Water and Wastewater Projects.  USDA has funding for SEARCH grants in fiscal year 2013. This is a new program that makes predevelopment planning grants to financially distressed communities in rural areas with a population of 2,500 or fewer.  Funds may be used for feasibility studies, design assistance, and technical assistance related to water and wastewater projects that would normally be eligible for Rural Development funds.  Eligible applicants include public agencies, nonprofits and Indian tribes. Funds may be used to cover up to 100 percent of the eligible costs for a preliminary engineer report and engineer report not to exceed $30,000. The community must demonstrate that it cannot pay for the work from other readily available sources.  For more information, contact Terry Louwagie, Minnesota’s Rural Development’s Community Programs Director.


 Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU), the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce and the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) will host seven listening sessions around the state to assess employers’ workforce needs in the financial services industries. The tour will be similar to an effort earlier this year that targeted information technology.  The sessions are being held until December 12 in Mankato, Minneapolis, Rochester, St. Cloud, and St. Paul. Sessions will focus on occupations involving accounting and bookkeeping, finance, financial support services, financial planning, taxation and insurance.  Business and industry representatives from the financial services sector are encouraged to register for one of the upcoming Financial Services Workforce Assessment sessions by visiting  The website includes the dates, times and locations for each gathering along with other details. There is no cost to attend the meetings.

— Participate in a Community Dialogue:  How Should Higher Education Help Us Create the Society We Want? Experience effective public deliberation. Make new connections.  Identify priorities for collaborative action. Together with the American Commonwealth Partnership and campuses, local organizations, and leaders around the state, Minnesota Campus Compact is holding a series of campus-community dialogues using the National Issues Forums guide, Shaping Our Future: How Should Higher Education Help Us Create the Society We Want?.  More information and registration is available at

Thursday, November 15, 6:30-9:00 p.m., University of Minnesota Duluth

Tuesday, November 27, 6:30-9:00 p.m., St. Cloud State University

— Rural Health Advisory Committee (RHAC)The next meeting of the Rural Health Advisory Committee (RHAC) is November 27 from 10:00 to 2:00 at the Snelling Office Park. The Committee will hear from a panel of advocates on rural issues to watch in the upcoming legislative session. The public is invited to attend; please RSVP to Kristen Tharaldson at For more information about the meeting and RHAC’s role as a statewide forum for rural health interests, visit theRHAC portion of the ORHPC website.

–SAVE THE DATE!  Minnesota Campus Compact’s 2013 summit and awards ceremony will be on Monday, April 1, at Hamline University’s new Anderson Center in St. Paul.


President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll applications due Thursday, November 29.  Launched in 2006, annually highlights the role colleges and universities play in solving community problems and placing more students on a lifelong path of civic engagement by recognizing institutions that achieve meaningful, measureable outcomes in the communities they serve. The Honor Roll’s Presidential Award is the highest federal recognition an institution can receive for its commitment to community service.

Regional Arts Council seeks Board Members. The East Central Regional Arts Council (ECRAC) is accepting applications from individuals wishing to serve on the Board of Directors. There are currently openings for Chisago, and Pine County representatives. The deadline for submitting a nomination is December 1, 2012. Interested individuals may contact the ECRAC office at or  320-396-2337 for more information about responsibilities, the council and its grant programs, and to receive a self-nomination form.

Submit a session proposal for the 2013 Age & Disabilities Odyssey conference to be held June 17-18 in Duluth. The conference is sponsored by the Minnesota Board on Aging and the Minnesota Department of Human Services Aging and Adult Services and Disability Services divisions. Proposals due by December 17.

The Federal Home Loan Bank of Des Moines is celebrating the 80th birthday of the Federal Home Loan Bank System with the launch of a new public policy network – Strengthening Communities Together!  This non-partisan network is designed to bring together individuals and organizations with a shared belief in the importance of strong communities. Our goal is to encourage our supporters to join and become advocates with policymakers for the continuation of a safe and sound FHLBank System.  A key component is access to an exclusive website that will serve as a resource for information and stories that demonstrate how we work together to strengthen communities across the country. We invite you to check it out at and visit often for updated news and events.  Sign up now and start receiving the benefits  of your Strengthening Communities Together membership.

— LegalCORPS Inventor Assistance Program is looking for organizations or individuals with Minnesota connections (resident or business located in MN) and a patent application already pending to contact us to apply for free legal assistance.  LegalCORPS Inventor Assistance Program offers pro bono representation to low income inventors seeking to patent their inventions on their own. For more information and to apply for free help in seeking a patent, see


–“Creating Rural Wealth: A New Lens for Rural Development Efforts” features highlights from a review of research from the USDA Economic Research Service identifying how a wealth creation perspective can inform and improve the efforts of rural communities and others seeking to promote sustainable rural prosperity. Download a copy

 John Niederman, recently wrote for The Institute for Comprehensive Community Development (ICCD) on stemming rural population loss. Read the article

The Community Development Department of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis has released a new issue of Community Dividend.  To read the issue, visit Current Issue.  One particular article of interest is:

“Agripreneur” program helps rural Latinos become small-scale farmers  An initiative of Minneapolis-based Main Street Project teaches budding farmers, or “agripreneurs,” to raise and sell poultry and other agricultural products as part of an emerging local food network.

The Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City’s 2012 Agricultural Symposium examined whether agriculture can escape its historical cycles of boom and bust. The

latest issue of the Main Street Economist provides a comprehensive summary of the symposium. Read the article at: Additional information about the Agricultural Symposium, including papers, remarks and presentations, is available at:

— PolicyLink just released a new report that highlights urban farming as an innovative solution for low-income communities struggling with blight and abandonment, and lack of access to healthy foods.  Growing Urban Agriculture: Equitable Strategies and Policies for Improving Access to Healthy Food and Revitalizing Communities lifts up models from all over the country, from Detroit, to Los Angeles, and New York. Based on interviews with urban farmers, advocates, and policymakers, Growing Urban Agriculture touches on the challenges that come with starting an urban farm, while highlighting the strategies for achieving success.  By embracing urban agriculture and its multitude of benefits, such as: increased access to healthy foods, job training, and a more beautiful environment, everyone will thrive.

Each month, Creighton University surveys community bank president and CEOs to obtain their opinion on current economic conditions in their communities as well as their forecast of the economic outlook. The Rural Main Street Index covers 10 states and focuses on 200 communities with an average population of 1,300. In September, the index rose slightly, but remained growth-neutral for the third consecutive month.

U.S. Bioenergy Statistics are a source of information on biofuels intended to present a picture of the renewable energy industry and its relationship to agriculture. Where appropriate, data are presented in both a calendar year and the relevant marketing year timeframe to increase utility to feedstock-oriented users. The statistics highlight the factors that influence the demand for agricultural feedstocks for biofuels production; for instance, numerous tables emphasize the relationship between energy and commodity markets.

Housing Assistance Council published “A Brief History of Rural Mutual Self-Help Housing in the United States” that provides an overview of the USDA program, including a brief narrative summary and detailed tables, updated through Fiscal Year 2011. Get the report

–A special issue of Housing Assistance Council’s Rural Voices highlights the innovative and proactive approaches to provide housing options for rural veterans. Get a copy

–A report from The Carsey Institute finds that over sixteen million children live in poverty in 2011. The report uses American Community Survey data released on September 20, 2012 to address patterns of child poverty in rural and low-income households. Download a copy of the report

Economic impact of rural health care (National Center for Rural Health Works).

Multi-Enterprising Farm Households: The Importance of Their Alternative Business Ventures in the Rural Economy.  Almost a third of U.S. farm households generate income by engaging in business ventures independent of commodity production, with distinctly different community and household benefits.

- this non-profit’s Financial Matters program gives Minnesota students business, career, and financial literacy skills. Classroom volunteers teach budgeting, credit, and other financial skills. BestPrep also distributes the Stock Market Game and subsidizes the entry fee for the first 3,000 teams to register.

Transfer Payments Government transfer payments are important to both nonmetro and metro residents. Per capita, nonmetro residents received more government transfers than metro. The chapter of the Rural Poverty & Well-being topic was recently updated at USDA ERS.