February 2017- Volume XV, Number 2

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

This newsletter is also available online: http://wp.me/pkVGJ-7h



–The MPCA Small Business Environmental Loan Program has low-interest loans for small businesses to upgrade old equipment that meets regulations or reduces environmental impact, and for costs related to site clean-up.  The program offers financial and technical help with your environmental project. Other common benefits are a healthier workplace, lower waste bills, and simpler permits and/or cost savings from reduced regulatory obligations.  Typical loan programs only offer 4 to 5-year payback options, while the MPCA small business loan offers up to a 7-year payback. With its competitive interest rates, easier application process, and flexible collateral options, it is a good choice for your next environmental project.

Many business types can apply. An applicant must have:

  • an existing small business corporation, sole proprietorship, partnership or association,
  • less than 50 full-time employees
  • an after-tax profit of less than $500,000
  • a net worth of less than $1 million

The terms:

  • loan amount between $1,000 and $50,000
  • current interest rate of 4 percent
  • repayment term up to seven years
  • flexible collateral options

The application process is now shorter and awarded throughout the year. Applicants are evaluated on their ability to secure and repay the loan, and the project’s expected environmental benefits. All projects costs must be pre-approved and cannot be made until the application process is complete. Borrowers must report on the project’s realized environmental and economic benefits. For more information and to apply contact Eric David: 651-757-2218 or eric.david@state.mn.us.

— The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) is offering grants through Art Works 1 for FY 2018. An organization may submit only one application through one of the following two FY 2018 categories: Art Works 1 or Challenge America. An organization may submit one additional application under the FY 2018 Art Works category for a Creativity Connects project. Deadlines: Art Works 1; 2/16/2017; Challenge America; 4/13/2017. Click here to review application guidelines for an Art Works 1 grant. Click here for guidelines on Challenge America grants.

2017 Day of Service Grants  for day of service projects in observance of September 11th and/or Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Projects may focus on child welfare, safety, and health; healthcare access; assistance to veterans and active duty military families; and human services such as the provision of housing and emergency food.
Application Deadline: Feb 22, 2017.

— DNR Park and Trail Grants. The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has announced grant funding opportunities for park and trail projects across Minnesota.  Go to: http://www.exploreminnesota.com/industry-minnesota/news/emt-express/emt-express-details/?nid=1379&utm_medium=email&utm_source=govdelivery

–Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation (SMIF) is offering $100,000 in Incentive Grants to 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations or units/agencies of local, state, or federal government. Grants up to $20,000 are available to support collaborative projects or programs in early childhood and economic development areas. Applications for this grant round are due February 28, 2017, with awards announced in May. Full guidelines and online application can be found at www.smifoundation.org. For more information email Jennifer Heien, Grants Coordinator, at jenniferh@smifoundation.org; or call 507-455-3215.

–Applications for the fourth year of the Made in Minnesota Solar Incentive Program are open until Feb. 28, 2017. The 10-year, $150-million program helps fund new solar electric and solar thermal systems for Minnesota residents, businesses, and communities. The program is administered by the Minnesota Department of Commerce. During the first three years of the program, funding was awarded for 1,048 solar electric projects and 36 solar thermal installations. The solar electric projects equal about 15 megawatts (MW) of electric capacity. Read more (pdf) for information on how to apply, application guidelines, and more.

Community Connect Broadband Grant Program  grants for communities without broadband service to provide residential service and connect facilities, such as police and fire stations, healthcare, libraries, and schools. Priority will be given to rural areas that demonstrate the greatest need for broadband services. Application Deadline: March 13, 2017.

Charles A. Frueauff Foundation Grants awards grants in the areas of education, human services, health, and hospitals. Specific project initiatives include food and hunger; economic development; daycare programs; hospital and healthcare agencies; health screenings; health education; AIDS/HIV prevention and education; and equipment for healthcare facilities.  Application Deadline: March 15, 2017.

–USDA has announced requests for applications for the Farmers Market Promotion Program, and the Local Food Promotion Program to fund innovative projects designed to strengthen market opportunities for local and regional food producers and businesses. Deadline for both programs: 3/27/2017. Click here for information on the Farmers Market Promotion Program, and here for the Local Food Promotion Program.

Rural Broadband Access Loan and Loan Guarantee Program furnishes loans and loan guarantees to provide funds for the construction, improvement, or acquisition of facilities and equipment needed to provide broadband service in eligible rural areas.  Application Deadline: March 31, 2017.

–Minnesota Festival Support is a grant program of the Minnesota State Arts Board designed to provide meaningful arts experiences to Minnesotans through festivals that celebrate the arts, build community, and expose communities to diverse art forms including folk and traditional arts. The program provides funding for sponsoring or presenting organizations to feature Minnesota individual artists and Minnesota arts groups in arts festivals, or in the arts component of broader, community festivals. The program is open to Minnesota 501(c)(3) organizations, unincorporated groups with at least one paid staff person and a Minnesota 501(c)(3) fiscal sponsor, and public agencies.

All applicants must have produced the proposed festival at least once before, prior to the March 31st deadline. Grants range from $5,000 to $75,000, with a 25% cash match requirement. There will be a Webinar and conference call on February 28th at 3:00pm for anyone interested learning more about the program. Program guidelines, sample applications, webinar registration information, and contact information for the program officer can be found on the Arts Board website at http://www.arts.state.mn.us/grants/machf-mfs.htm.
–East Central Regional Arts Council (ECRAC) wishes to remind to all local artists, art organizations, and schools within Region 7E (the Minnesota Counties of Pine, Isanti, Chisago, Kanabec, and Mille Lacs) that there is an April 1st grant deadline for all of these grant programs.

– Art in Our Schools Grants: School districts may apply for arts-related funding up to $3,000.

– Small/Art Project Grants: Nonprofit organizations, art groups, school districts, and local units of government may apply for arts-related funding ranging from $500-$5,000.

– Arts and Cultural Heritage Grants for Organizations: Nonprofit organizations, art groups, school districts, and local units of government may apply for arts-related funding ranging from $5,000-$15,000.

– Arts and Cultural Heritage Grants for Individuals: Individual artists may apply for arts-related project funding up to $2,500. Eligible applicants must be permanent residents in Region 7E.

– McKnight Individual Artist Grants: Individual artists may apply for arts-related project funding up to $1,000. Eligible applicants must be permanent residents in Region 7E.

The link to the online application processes can be found at the ECRAC website: www.ecrac.org/grants    For further information, please call 320-396-2337 extension 2 or email: grantinfo@ecrac.org.

— Blandin Foundation Broadband Grants: Broadband Innovation and Robust Network Feasibility Fund grant award amounts range from $1,000 to $25,000, and matching funds are required. Grant application deadlines for 2017 are April 7, June 23 and September 22. http://wp.me/p3if7-3M7

School Grants for Healthy Kids awards funding to support school breakfast and physical activity programs. Application Deadline: April 7, 2017.

–The Department of Health and Human Services is offering grant funds to CDCs for community-based efforts to improve the economic and physical health of people in areas designated as food deserts or where applicants can point to indicators of need, such as poor access to a healthy food retail outlet, a high percentage of individuals with low-income, incidence of diet-related health conditions, or high concentrations of persons eligible for food assistance programs. Through the Community Economic Development (CED) program and within the framework of the Healthy Food Financing Initiative (HFFI), the Department seeks to fund projects that implement strategies to increase healthy food access, foster self-sufficiency for individuals and families with low income, and create sustained employment opportunities in communities with low incomes. Deadline: 4/28/2017. Click here to review funding guidelines and download an application package.

— Asthma Friendly Schools The Minnesota Department of Health’s Asthma Program in partnership with the American Lung Association in Minnesota is offering mini-grant funding to create asthma friendly schools. Grant money up to $1,500 is available to implement a variety of school-based projects in elementary, middle or high school settings. The funds are available to public schools, charter schools, and private schools and can be applied to individual schools or across districts. Six project areas are available to choose from: Asthma Data; Environmental Policy; Partnering with Parents and Caregivers; Teaching an Asthma Self-Management Curriculum; Linking Schools and Health Care; and Health Office Staff Training. Applications are currently being accepted through June 30, 2017. For more information, go to the Minnesota Asthma Program–Asthma Friendly Schools Mini-Grant Program to learn how to submit your application. You may also contact the MDH Asthma Program at 651-201-5909 or asthma@health.state.mn.us

Developing Healthy Places.  The Kresge Foundation provides funding to improve the places that shape health, including programs that promote healthy housing and neighborhoods, food systems for low-income communities, and equitable transportation and land use. Applications accepted on an ongoing basis.

–The U.S. Department of Energy recently announced a new funding opportunity announcement for up to $6 million to install energy efficiency measures and deploy clean energy systems on Indian lands. The Office of Indian Energy is soliciting applications from Indian tribes and tribal energy resource development organizations to install energy efficiency measures and clean energy systems on tribal buildings and deploy clean energy systems on a community scale.

–The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently announced the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) FY17 solicitation of applications. REAP offers two types of funding assistance: (1) Renewable Energy Systems and Energy Efficiency Improvements Assistance to agricultural producers and rural small businesses, and (2) Energy Audit and Renewable Energy Development Assistance Grants to state, tribal, or local governments; institutions of higher education; rural electric cooperatives; or public power entities. The Renewable Energy Systems and Energy Efficiency Improvements Assistance provides grants of $20,000 or less and guaranteed loans to purchase and install renewable energy systems and make energy efficiency improvements. For assistance with applications, interested parties in Minnesota should contact Ron Omann, Rural Development Energy Coordinator, at 651-602-7796 or ron.omann@mn.usda.gov.


–The 27th annual Energy Design Conference & Expo being held Feb. 20-22, 2017, in Duluth, Minn.  For more information go to: https://www.eiseverywhere.com/eSites/206400/Login

— 2017 Nonprofit Communications & Technology Conference will be held on Tuesday, February 21st in Minneapolis! You’ll dive into nonprofit strategies for everything from branding to cloud computing, from podcasting to website redesigning and much, much more.  Learn more

–Save the Date! Brainerd Lakes Area Economic Development Corporation’s 2017 Annual Meeting will be Monday, March 6, 2017 from 11:30am – 1:15pm at the Arrowwood Lodge at Brainerd Lakes, Baxter.

— Broadband Day on the Hill March 15: Minnesota Broadband Coalition members have come together to organize Minnesota’s first ever Broadband Day on the Hill on March 15. The Coalition’s goal is to bring directly to legislators rural perspectives on the critical role that broadband plays in Minnesota rural communities’ economic vitality and quality of life. http://wp.me/p3if7-3TO

–Minnesota Campus Compact Annual Summit and Awards Ceremony will be April 5, 2017 at the University of St. Thomas. Join colleagues from across the state both to celebrate good work and to discuss opportunities for advancing our civic commitments even more powerfully together. Campus selections for the Presidents’ Awards for community partners, student leaders, and faculty/staff civic engagement stewards will be due February 24, 2017. Questions or to sponsor a team with a designated table at the awards luncheon, contact Julie or go to:


— MCN and Nonprofits Assistance Fund will be hosting the sixth-annual Nonprofit Finance & Sustainability Conference on Thursday, April 13 at the Earle Brown Heritage Center. This year’s conference will feature a keynote addressing charitable endowments by Alan Cantor, consultant and frequent contributor to The Chronicle of Philanthropy; 20 timely breakout sessions and opportunities to network with sector peers.  Early Bird rates for MCN members are available until February 24. Scholarships and team registrations specials are also available. Learn more!

–SAVE THE DATE!  The National Housing Conference will host “Solutions for Housing Communications 2017” will be April 27-28, 2017, in Minneapolis.

–AURI Invites You to Register for its New Uses Forum Today!  The forum, scheduled for March 22 at the Crowne Plaza in Plymouth, MN, is bringing together experts and entrepreneurs across the new uses arena, including university and industry R&D experts, Minnesota business and agbioeconomy partners, as well as the financial community. Together, they will participate in open discussions about the latest innovations and opportunities for developing new uses for Minnesota grown crops and agricultural processing byproducts. The day’s events include:

  • Industry panel discussions
  • Minnesota’s activities and resources,
  • Regional and global research efforts,
  • Networking opportunities, and
  • Keynote addresses tailored to the interests of MN agriculture.

AURI is inviting you to register today.  Learn More

— SAVE THE DATE May 16-17 The National Digital Inclusion Alliance and the St. Paul Public Library welcome digital inclusion practitioners, advocates, academics, Internet service providers and policymakers to Net Inclusion 2017: The National Digital Inclusion Summit. St. Paul, Minnesota http://www.digitalinclusionalliance.org/netinclusion2017/

— SAVE THE DATE!  Springboard for the Arts, the Center for Small Towns, and the Forum of Regional Arts Councils of Minnesota will host the 2017 Rural Arts & Culture Summit, which will take place June 6-8, 2017, at the University of Minnesota, Morris.

— SAVE THE DATE!  2017 Nonprofit Leadership Conference to be held at the University of MN in Minneapolis on Tuesday, June 13, 2017.

2017 Nonprofit Fundraising Conference  co-hosted by Association of Fundraising Professionals Wednesday, July 19, 2017 at the Earle Brown Heritage Center, Brooklyn Center

2017 MCN Annual Conference will be held Thursday – Friday, October 12 – 13, 2017 at the Saint Paul RiverCentre, Saint Paul.


–The National Rural Assembly needs YOUR input now!  We are working on a “big ideas” initiative with support from The Duke Endowment. We are convening a diverse group of 40 rural leaders, February 21-23, for some creative and intense brainstorming. We’ll ask them to put forward their best thinking around how we achieve a stronger, more just nation, and we hope to emerge with one or more “big ideas” that can be carried forward in rural America.

You can participate in this initiative and in the ensuing work from your desk! Please complete one or all of these steps:

  1. Fill out the initialparticipant questionnaire. Your responses will be shared on the Rural Assembly Big Ideas webpage and with those gathering in February.
  2. Give us your big idea: Just open with, “What If We…” andemail it to us. We’ll share your Big Ideas with meeting participants, and we may ask you to expand it as a blog post.
  3. Follow the Big Ideas Forum on our Facebookand Twitter platforms. Use #ruralbigideas

–Comment now on possible changes to MPCA air quality rules affecting small facilities. There is currently a comment period open on possible changes to air quality rules for exempt sources and insignificant activities. The request for comments was published in the State Register on January 9th, 2017. Stakeholders should provide comments by February 23, 2017.

Small facilities that may be impacted by these changes include auto body finishing shops, wood working manufacturers, coating operations, and others. This rule change may make it easier for small shops to know if they need an air permit and simpler to stay in compliance.  Read the proposed rule change ideas, review questions the MPCA has for stakeholders, find public comment opportunities, and watch the webcast at www.pca.state.mn.us/air/exempt-source-conditionally-insignificant-activities.

— MN companies: Green chemistry and engineering intern grant, $9,500 is available to support the placement of the intern at a Minnesota facility this summer.  Intern activities this type of grant has supported, beyond what “green chemistry & engineering” might suggest:

  • Compare life cycle impacts of candidate materials;
  • Support safety and/or performance testing of alternative materials or designs;
  • Work with design, manufacturing, and cross-functional teams to assess candidate materials and their supply and cost feasibility;
  • Catalog supplier safety data sheets and certifications as part of green/sustainable purchasing initiatives;
  • Update inventories of chemical regulations and support audits of internal and supply chain compliance;
  • Learn and perform hazard and alternatives assessment processes;
  • Support sales and marketing of new or improved products.

Product chemistry or design change is a complex process of many steps over time, and this internship can support one or more of those steps.  Please consider how an intern could help your company, and ask clarifying questions through p2.pca@state.mn.us.  Application materials are available here.

2016‒2017 Student Essay Contest  The Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis sponsors this contest for high school students in the Ninth Federal Reserve District. Students answer the question: “Can the U.S. economy still grow the way it once did?” to win monetary prizes. Essays are due by March 31, 2017.

— The Energy Department released a request for proposal (RFP) for colleges interested in participating in the U.S. Department of Energy Collegiate Wind Competition 2018. The organizers will select 10 to 12 teams of students to compete in the challenge, co-located with the American Wind Energy Association’s WINDPOWER Conference in Chicago on May 7–10, 2018. Interested students and faculty can learn more about the RFP and its requirements by visiting the FedBizOps listing and watching an informational webinar.

— Submit Your Location for Possible Film, Television or Commercials Do you have a one-of-a-kind Main Street in your town, a neighborhood of beautiful homes or picturesque parks, or even spooky abandoned buildings?

— Show Off Your Postcard-Worthy Destination or Attraction  Explore Minnesota is actively seeking postcards from tourism destinations and attractions to show off our picturesque state.


HHS: Annual Update of the HHS Poverty Guidelines   The updated 2017 Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) federal poverty guidelines for the 48 contiguous states, Alaska, and Hawaii, which took effect January 26, 2017. The HHS poverty guidelines are a simplified version of the poverty thresholds issued by the U.S. Census Bureau and are used to determine eligibility for a number of federal programs.

Rural HIV/AIDS Prevention and Treatment Toolkit  this new toolkit, developed by the NORC Walsh Center for Rural Health Analysis, provides information, strategies, and resources to help rural communities implement HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment programs. Browse program models and examples that span the HIV/AIDS care continuum. Learn how to implement, evaluate, and sustain a program in your community and disseminate program results.

Capital Funding for Rural Healthcare  this guide has been updated to include new information and frequently asked questions related to capital funding for rural facilities. Find resources to help you run a successful capital campaign, as well as funding sources that support capital projects.

Measuring our children’s well-being   Minnesota’s Risk and Reach, a new section within the Early Childhood topic of Minnesota Compass, takes a county by county look at potential risks to the healthy development of young children and the reach of public services to address areas of need. In this new Insight article, Risk and Reach project directors Elizabeth Carlson, University of Minnesota, and Richard Chase, Wilder Research, explain why it matters and suggest ways you might use this information. Read now

Veterans in Rural America: 2011-2015 reports detailed demographic, social, and economic characteristics of rural veterans, based primarily on 2011–2015 American Community Survey (ACS) 5-year estimates. Includes comparisons of rural veterans to both urban veterans and rural nonveterans. Topics addressed include health insurance coverage, disability status and service-connected disability, and use of VA healthcare.

Food Access Research Atlas The Food Access Research Atlas (formerly the Food Desert Locator) is a mapping tool that allows users to investigate multiple indicators of food store access. This tool expands upon previous estimates of food desert census tracts, incorporating alternative estimates of low income and low access census tracts, and by offering contextual information for all census tracts in the U.S.

–Solar capacity in Minnesota increased more than seven-fold in the past year, from 33 megawatts (MW) in 2015 to 250 MW at the end of 2016, according to preliminary findings compiled by the Minnesota Department of Commerce. The majority of the new solar electric capacity came from two utility-scale projects for Xcel Energy: the 100-MW North Star solar project in Chisago County, which began operation in December, and the 100-MW Aurora solar project, with 14 of its 16 sites generating power in 2016. Community solar gardens and residential and commercial rooftop solar systems make up the remainder of solar growth in 2016. In a Dec. 25, 2016 Star Tribune article, the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) said it expects Minnesota to add more than 1,200 MW of solar in the next five years. Xcel Energy says 400 MW of that will come from its Community Solar Garden program in 2017 and a total of 668 MW of community solar from Xcel is expected by 2020.

–The MPCA recently released its biennial report on air quality, The Air We Breathe: The state of Minnesota’s air quality, 2017.  The report looks at the state’s air quality, and what the MPCA and its partners are doing to protect the health of all Minnesotans. Overall, Minnesota’s air quality is good.  Levels of outdoor air pollution have been going down for 30 years, even while the gross state product increases.  Nonetheless, air pollution still impacts people’s health, especially lower-income communities and communities of color, who are more vulnerable to the effects of air pollution.  The MPCA is working to reduce air pollution across the state, with particular emphasis on reducing exposures in overburdened communities.  To learn more, check out our report website.

–The International Downtown Association and Springboard for the Arts have launched a toolkit “Guide for Business Districts to Work with Local Artists” to support creative placemaking partnerships between artists and local business initiatives. This work is made possible through the generous support of the National Endowment for the Arts from its Our Town program. To access the toolkit, click here.