November-December 2017 and January 2018- Volume XVI, Number 1
Compiled & edited by Deb Miller Slipek, Ann Treacy, and Jane Leonard
Also available online at:


ACROSS THE FIELD:  MN Rural Partners’ MRP Round-Up finds a home at Growth & Justice!
by Jane Leonard

Deb, Ann & I are happy to announce that after years of wandering in the wilderness, the MRP Rural Round-Up has been adopted into the office home of Growth & Justice , a St. Paul-based non-profit with a mission to “develop and advocate for public policy that makes Minnesota’s economy more prosperous and fair for all Minnesotans.”

In early 2017, Growth & Justice launched its “Minnesota Rural Equity Project” — an ambitious effort to shine a light on persistent socioeconomic and public investment gaps throughout rural and Greater Minnesota, and to create a “One Minnesota” policy framework for decision-makers in 2018 and beyond. At its start, the project posed this overarching question: “What kinds of state policies, public investments, business incentives, and local initiatives will work best to strengthen Greater Minnesota communities, revitalize local economies, and reduce inequality, poverty, and racial disparity?”  Listening for the answers to that question has led Growth & Justice to believe that better understanding and investing in rural equity, and in the opportunities of rural urban interdependence, is essential for statewide prosperity.

Just two weeks ago, I was thrilled to start a new job as President of Growth & Justice, taking over from retiring President Dane Smith (who actually will continue writing and connecting for G & J in his semi-retirement, as Senior Policy Fellow & President Emeritus). My new colleagues were equally thrilled to welcome the MRP Rural Round-Up as a partner and platform for continued  exchange of ideas and resources as part of the MN Rural Equity Project, continuing the work started by Minnesota Rural Partners nearly 10 years ago on Minnesota Rural Urban Connections: We are all in this together!

From the MRP report back then that estimated Rural Urban Interdependencies and proposed a Rural Urban Partnering Framework: In Minnesota today, as in many states across the nation, rural and urban lines continue to blur — spatially, culturally and economically. Instead of continuing to treat these interdependent places, people and economies as separate entities, Minnesota Rural Partners, Inc. (MRP) believes more can be gained – socially and economically – by intentionally building a rural urban partnering framework that supports existing partnerships and spurs many more new connections, coordination and collaboration for the benefit of all.”

We’re happy to be housed with Growth & Justice — happy to be partnering so we can continue to bring you this helpful Round-Up of facts, figures, thoughts and gosh darn good resources for funding, opportunities, trainings/meetings, and miscellaneous — to help rural and urban people and places thrive – together!


— USDA Value Added Producer Grants (VAPG) Program is taking applications.  The VAPG program helps agricultural producers enter into value-added activities related to the processing and/or marketing of new products. The grant covers 50 percent of the total project costs. Applications are due January 31, 2018.  Additional details are available at:

–INVESTOPEDIA.ORG, an initiative of Investopedia, supports programs that enhance financial empowerment among low-income individuals and communities. defines “financial empowerment” as providing the information, tools and coaching needed to achieve financial sustainability in the short and long term. One-year grants in the range of $10,000 to $25,000 are being offered to nonprofit organizations that are working to help low-income individuals and communities reduce bad debt, make the most of their financial resources and build assets. Eligible applicants include 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations based in the United States. Deadline: 1/31/2018. Visit the Investopedia website here to review the funding guidelines and to submit an online application.

–The East Central Regional Arts Council (ECRAC) wishes to announce to all local artists, organizations providing arts programming, and schools within Region 7E (the Minnesota Counties of Pine, Isanti, Chisago, Kanabec, and Mille Lacs) that there are five February 1, 2018 art grant deadlines!

Art in Our Schools Grants: School districts may apply for special arts project 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 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 funding ranging from $5,000-­$15,000.

Arts and Cultural Heritage Grants for Individuals: Individual artists may apply for arts project funding up to $2,500. Eligible applicants must be permanent residents in Region 7E and must have an open to the public component to their project.

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

  • The link to all of these online application processes can be found at the ECRAC website:
  • The online grant application process is open now.
  • For further information, please call 320-396-2337 extension 2 or email:

Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) Offers grants to fire departments and EMS organizations for equipment, training, personnel wellness programs, capital funding, and collaboration efforts. Application Deadline: Feb 2, 2018.

— National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) is offering grants through the ART WORKS program for artistically excellent projects that celebrate America’s creativity and cultural heritage, invite a dialogue that fosters a mutual respect for the diverse beliefs and values of all persons and groups, and broadens an understanding of ourselves as individuals and as a society. Deadline: 2/15/2018. Visit the NEA’s website here for details.

Rural Health Network Development Planning Grant Program Grants to promote the planning and development of healthcare networks in order to achieve efficiencies; expand access to, coordinate, and improve the quality of essential healthcare services; and strengthen the rural healthcare system as a whole. Application Deadline: Feb 23, 2018.

–AGRI Minnesota Value Added Grant Program.  Grant opportunity for individuals (farmers) or businesses, agricultural cooperatives, and local government entities. Grants are for equipment purchases or physical improvements and are intended to support businesses. The 2018 application period is until March 2018.  For more information go to:

— The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Parks and Trails Division is accepting applications for the following grant programs: outdoor recreation, natural and scenic areas, regional trails, local trail connections and federal recreational trails. These grants help local governments throughout the state create partnerships with the DNR to fund projects such as local parks, regional trails and trail connections. The application deadlines are Wednesday, Feb. 28, for the Federal Recreational Trail Grant Program and Friday, March 30, for the other programs. The DNR anticipates that both federal and state funding will be available during 2018 for these programs. For information about eligible projects and how to apply for a grant, visit the recreation grants page of the DNR website at

Grants Available to Help Employers Develop Apprenticeships Employers are invited to apply for the Minnesota Apprenticeship Initiative grant to help them create or expand registered apprenticeship programs in advanced manufacturing, agriculture, health care, information technology and transportation. Employers can receive up to $5,000 for each registered apprentice.

–Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is offering grants for innovative projects that are working to build a culture of health, ensuring that everyone has access to the care they need and all families have the opportunity to make healthier choices. Deadline: applications accepted on an ongoing basis. Click here to visit the website to review funding guidelines.

Community Food Projects Technical Assistance One-on-one technical assistance, educational resources, and professional development opportunities for current grantees and potential applicants of the USDA Community Food Projects grant program. Applications accepted on an ongoing basis.

Affordable Housing Loans for Low-Income Rural Communities  Short-term loans at below market interest rates to local nonprofits, for-profits, and government entities developing affordable housing for low-income, rural communities. Applications accepted on an ongoing basis.

Automated External Defibrillator (AED) Grant Program  Grants to eligible organizations to cover all or part of the costs associated with purchasing an automated external defibrillator (AED). Applications accepted on an ongoing basis.

–The SURDNA Foundation is offering grants to nonprofit organizations with its Thriving Cultures program.  Through the program’s Artists and Economic Development funding area, the Foundation supports efforts that provide artists with business training and financial resources enabling them to be, and create, valuable economic assets for their communities. The focus is on nonprofit organizations that operate business and entrepreneurship training programs for artists and cultural organizations, provide financing to artists and artist-centered enterprises, and offer arts and culture-based programs and services that directly engage and support the people who live and work in the area as a strategy for equitable economic development. Letters of inquiry are accepted throughout the year. Visit the Foundation’s website here to learn more about the Artists and Economic Development funding area.


–The 28th annual Energy Design Conference & Expo will be held Feb. 19-21, 2018 at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center. Once again the conference will provide the latest in energy-efficient building and technologies, renewable energy, best practices, and responsible design. There will be over 40 sessions from some of the top educators in the business, as well as plenty of opportunities to network. The Minnesota Department of Commerce will be an exhibitor at the event. Read more.

Register to Attend 2018 Aquatic Invaders Summit III  scheduled for Feb. 28 and March 1, 2018, at the Earle Brown Heritage Center in Minneapolis, the Aquatic Invaders Summit III is hosted by Minnesota Lakes and Rivers Advocates.

–Mark your calendar now to attend the 2018 Explore Minnesota Tourism Conference, March 6-7, 2018, at the Verizon Wireless Center in downtown Mankato. If you are interested in being a sponsor or having a booth in the Marketplace, contact Lisa Havelka at 888-975-6766 or  For additional conference questions, contact Lori Peterson at 651-757-1876 or

–Save the Date! The 2018 Nonprofit Communications & Technology Conference is the place to go to consider the ways your nonprofit is balancing the art of communication in a world of high-speed technology.  It will be held Wednesday, March 21 from 7:30 a.m. – 4:15 p.m. at the Hyatt Regency Minneapolis.  Learn more and register today!

— The CERTs Community Driven Clean Energy Conference on March 28-29 at the St. Cloud River’s Edge Convention Center.  Read more for registration information and the agenda.

–Save the Date!  Minnesota Campus Compact 2018 Summit and Awards Ceremony will be April 19, 2018 at Hamline University.


–Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships.  Accepting Idea Briefs for project proposals and Board member applications. DETAILS

–Xcel Energy opens applications for Solar*Rewards Program on Jan. 8; other incentive options still available to install solar in Minnesota.  While the Made in Minnesota Solar Incentive Program is no longer available, Xcel Energy and other utilities continue to offer incentive or rebate programs to incentivize solar energy systems for their customers. Xcel Energy is open Solar*Rewards Program for residential and commercial customers.

The 2017 Legislature extended Xcel Energy’s Solar*Rewards Program for three years and increased its funding to $15 million in 2018, $10 million in 2019 and 2020, and $5 million in 2021. The Solar*Rewards Program provides recipients with 10 years of annual incentive payments based on the solar energy system’s annual production. Solar*Rewards applicants are awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. Two other investor-owned utilities —Minnesota Power and Otter Tail Power—also offer solar incentives. Minnesota Power offers solar incentives to qualified customers through its SolarSense program and will begin taking applications on Jan. 9. Otter Tail Power offers a Publicly Owned Property Solar program that provides cash incentives to publicly owned facilities that install non-residential solar photovoltaic (PV) systems.

With the 30% federal Residential Renewable Energy Tax Credit still in place through 2019 and other utility incentive programs in force, support for Minnesota residences and businesses to install their own solar energy system remains strong. Several electric utilities in Minnesota voluntarily offer incentives for customers who install solar energy systems. Check with your utility to see if it offers incentives for new solar energy systems. See the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency, which offers a comprehensive list of information on incentives and policies that support renewables and energy efficiency in the United States.

–The Minnesota Department of Commerce has announced the opening of the application process for the 2018 Clean Energy Community Awards (CECA). The awards recognize the good work of Minnesota communities in helping to achieve the state’s clean energy goals. Commerce is the sponsor and coordinator of the program, with financial support from the U.S. Department of Energy. Applications and award information are available, with applications accepted until Feb. 5, 2018. The awards will recognize communities that implement planning, programs, policies, and technologies that encourage energy efficiency, conservation, and renewable energy generation. Read more about award criteria and who can apply. Visit the CECA webpage for more on the Clean Energy Community Awards and past award recipients.

The American Indian College Fund Full Circle Scholarships Provides scholarships to American Indian and Alaska Native undergraduate Tribal College students. Application Deadline: May 31, 2018.

–Tribes can get technical assistance for energy planning, renewables. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Indian Energy provides federally recognized Indian tribes, including Alaska Native villages, tribal energy resource development organizations, and other organized tribal groups and communities with technical assistance to advance tribal energy projects at no cost. On-Request Technical Assistance provides energy planning, housing and building energy efficiency, and much more. The Strategic Technical Assistance Response Team (START) assists in the development of tribal renewable energy projects. Learn more.

— Udall Scholarship offers scholarships to Native Americans and Alaska Native students pursuing careers related to tribal public policy, self-governance, native health, or the environment.  Application Deadline: Mar 8, 2018.

— 2017-2018 Student Essay Contest  The Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis announces the 30th Annual Student Essay Contest open to all high school students in the Ninth Federal Reserve District. Essays due April 20, 2018.

–Educational Research Center of America is calling on high school students to present original ideas which address a pressing need in their community. First place will receive $5,000, two runners up will receive $2,500, and 15 students will receive $1,000 to be used for higher education expenses. Deadline: 7/25/2018. Submit your idea here.

–Grant Reviewers Needed ECRAC (East Central Regional Arts Council) is a Minnesota Regional Arts Council serves Region 7E the counties of Chisago, Isanti, Kanabec, Mille Lacs, and Pine) will be using more grant review panels this year.  If you are interested in assisting in the grant review process please contact us to volunteer! The time commitment is usually less then 10 hours and the learning opportunity is priceless.  Contact us at or 320.396.2337.

–The Facilitating Racial Equity Collaborative (FREC) Grants for Overcoming Racism Events in Greater Minnesota.  Deadline: Ongoing DETAILS

–WCCO Radio Good Neighbor Award  Deadline: Ongoing DETAILS


Report to the President of the United States from the Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity  Inaugural report from the Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity identifying key opportunities for improving the well-being of America’s rural communities and citizens. Provides recommendations to the President of the United States, focusing on five main areas: e-Connectivity, improving quality of life, supporting a rural workforce, harnessing technological innovation, and developing the rural economy.

Rural America at a Glance, 2017 Edition  The rural population is shrinking due to outmigration of young adults, fewer births, increased mortality among working-age adults, and an aging population. Rural job growth since 2011 has been well below the urban growth rate.

–Most of Minnesota’s major cities (10,000+ residents) saw no change in median household income between the 2007-2011 and 2012-2016 time periods, according to new estimates from the American Community Survey. Read now.

–Minnesota Compass has new data on poverty, median income, health care coverage by city, immigration, and proportion of adults working. To see highlights and analysis of the new data, go to New Data.

Rural Poverty & Well-being ERS research in this topic focuses on the economic, social, spatial, and demographic factors that affect the income and poverty status of rural residents.

–The Carsey School of Public Policy has released “Employment, Poverty, and Public Assistance in the Rural United States.” The report reveals that despite the abundance of farmland in rural America, just six percent of rural workers depend on agriculture. Twenty-two percent depend on manufacturing, and the rest work in retail, sales, health care, construction, transportation, banking, services, tourist industries, and government – similar to their counterparts in cities and suburbs. Download the brief here.

State Fact Sheets The ERS State Fact Sheets provide information on population, income, poverty, food security, education, employment, organic agriculture, farm characteristics, farm financial indicators, top commodities, and agricultural exports. Data are available for all States, and for metro/nonmetro breakouts within States. Links to county-level data are provided where available. This release provides the latest available (2016) U.S. and State-Level poverty estimates.

ERS County-level Data Sets  Provides access to county-level data on poverty rates, population change, unemployment rates, and education levels. Includes state maps illustrating the county data.

–The Minnesota Solar Guide has been published by the Minnesota Department of Commerce and copies are now available. The guide is a listing of solar businesses in the state, from solar manufacturers and system developers and installers to the agencies that help finance solar projects. It helps solar businesses connect with one another and helps consumers find the solar products and services they need to plan and install solar on their homes and businesses. Printed copies can be obtained by contacting The guide is also available for downloading as a pdf on the Commerce website.

Rural Transit Fact Book 2017  Provides national, state-level, and county-level statistics and information on rural transit in America. Includes data regarding transit trips for medical purposes with an urban/rural comparison. Also, covers financial and operating statistics for agencies receiving section 5311 funding. Includes a section on tribal transit.

Rural Transportation: Challenges and Opportunities  Policy brief discusses a study on the challenges of implementing rural transportation services and their implication on transportation policy. Analyzes infrastructure, geography, funding, accessibility, support and public awareness, and socio-demographics as barriers to rural transportation systems.

–“Public Transportation’s Impact on Rural and Small Towns: A Vital Mobility Link,” a report by the American Public Transportation Association, looks at specific groups of non-drivers that require some form of public transportation, as well as the different types of transit available and the advantages they present to small, rural communities. Several case studies are presented, and myths about rural public transportation are addressed. Get the report here.

–The MPCA Small Business Program has created a new webpage for MN microbreweries, distilleries, wineries and cideries that covers environmental regulation and sustainability resources. MPCA is assisting these facilities and their consultants to become more aware they may need to comply with certain environmental regulations, including:

  • Air emissions
  • Construction stormwater
  • Hazardous waste
  • Industrial stormwater
  • Industrial wastewater
  • Recycling
  • Refrigerants
  • Community right-to-know reporting

It also offers information about environmental sustainability including greening your business, facility/building conservation for energy, water, and waste, and funding opportunities for all small businesses including grants and loans. Though some of the content is brewery/distillery-specific, there are practical tips and suggestions that are applicable to many emerging small business sectors.

–“Tackling the Opioid Crisis in a Rural Community,” a report by the American Hospital Association, highlights a partnership between a rural hospital physician and the director of a community counseling center to establish a medication-assisted treatment for opioid addiction in rural Maine. The report presents the program’s support structure, as well as the advantages of having an integrated treatment approach. Get the report here.

–The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality has released, “2017 National Healthcare Quality and Disparities Report: Chartbook on Rural Health Care.” The report summarizes trends in healthcare quality and disparities for rural populations, and includes quality measures for access to healthcare, patient safety, person- and family-centered care, care coordination, affordability, healthy living, and effective treatment. Click here to get the report.

2017 Rural Health Report Card  Provides an overview of healthcare in rural America and comparatively ranks rural health for each state. Details the reasoning behind the rankings for multiple measures related to mortality, quality of life, and access to care. Includes a discussion on rural healthcare facilities, the urban-rural divide, and rural resources available within the state.

Diabetes Mortality in Rural America: 1999-2015 Examines diabetes-related mortality, with a particular focus on the roles of rurality and race, during a 16-year period from 1999-2015.

Chronic Disease in Rural America This new guide provides an overview of chronic disease generally as well as specific conditions, including heart disease and stroke, cancer, diabetes, chronic respiratory conditions, arthritis, and HIV/AIDS.

Rural Aging in Place Toolkit This new toolkit compiles resources and model programs on Aging in Place. Created in collaboration with the University of Minnesota Rural Health Research Center, this toolkit is designed to guide you through creating a sustainable program from development through evaluation.

Employment Spillover Effects of Rural Inpatient Healthcare Facilities  From 2001 to 2015, inpatient healthcare facilities experienced modest employment gains in rural counties despite the effects of the Great Recession. However, rural healthcare jobs do not have strong spillover effects on jobs in other sectors.

National Environmental Public Health Tracking Network  Provides access to national, state, and county-level data on environmental health topics, including air quality, heat stress, exposure to pesticides, and other factors. Also includes data on health concerns impacted by the environment, including asthma, COPD, cancer, and heart disease.
Additional links: Data Query Tool,  Info by Location (County)

–Enterprise Community Partners has developed Opportunity360 Toolkit, a comprehensive approach to better understanding and addressing the challenges facing communities, and to improving outcomes for all residents in areas such as housing stability, quality education, health and well-being, economic security, and mobility. Through a user-friendly web interface, Opportunity360 features cross-sector data, community engagement, and measurement tools to help community development partners make smart investments, build more inclusive communities, and create collaborative solutions that transform communities across the country. Access the toolkit here.

–HUD’s Office of Recapitalization published two documents that guide owners through the process of developing a preservation strategy for their HUD-insured or -assisted multifamily affordable rental properties. The “HUD Preservation Workbook: Successful Stewardship of Multifamily Housing Recapitalization” is designed to support the exploration and decision-making that owners will undertake to preserve their properties. The workbook is meant to be used in tandem with the Recapitalization Excel Tool. The tool contains numerous spreadsheets for owners to enter baseline information about the property, its current Section 8 contracts and financing structure, financial performance, and physical condition. Get the Workbook here, and the Tool here

Rural Households Account for Nearly One-fifth of U.S. Food-insecure Households
Pie chart showing the proportion of food insecure households in metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas in 2016.

— The Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City has a website, “Plan. Prepare. Prevail,” containing disaster-preparedness information including: financial documents and records they need to have available in case of a disaster; personal and small business financial inventory forms (also available in Spanish); quick checklists to identify and organize key financial records (also available in Spanish); as well as links to other valuable resources and materials. Visit the website here.

–“Rural Arts, Design, and Innovation in America” is a report that stemmed from a research collaboration with the Economic Research Service at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It analyzes data from the Rural Establishment Innovation Survey to quantify relationships among arts organizations, design-integrated firms and business innovators in rural settings. Get the report here.

EDITORS’ NOTE: As always — please send us items to post, comments, ideas, etc. You can send them to Jane Leonard at And thanks for getting to the end of this month’s issue!