The 2017 Annual Minnesota Policy Conference, which convened last week at the Commons Hotel on the University of Minnesota campus, focused extensively on our state’s troubling rural-metro divide. Growth & Justice has been influential over the last decade in shaping this conference agenda and our Policy & Projects director, Matt Schmit, facilitated a breakout discussion this time on our Minnesota Rural Equity Project. Featured panelists included Cheryal Lee Hills, Executive Director of the Region 5 (Central Minnesota area) Economic Development Commission; Ann Mulholland, Vice-president of Community Impact for Minnesota Philanthropy Partners; and Will Kaul, recently retired Chief Transmission Officer for Great River Energy. The panelists focused on the importance of equity and place-making in rural economic development, the role of philanthropy in creating a One Minnesota mindset, and the imperative for broadband and renewable energy development in Greater Minnesota. For more information, link to the Annual Minnesota Policy Conference website or our own Growth & Justice webpage on the Minnesota Rural Equity Project.
An outstanding model of regional place-making was detailed recently in a Star Tribune article on the successful effort over 30 years to transform the depleted Cuyuna Range iron mines into the Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area, a gem that has become a huge draw to outdoor enthusiasts of all kinds from all over the world. Reporter Matt McKinney describes how this “unlikely idea has gone from moonshot to miracle, with tens of thousands of tourists drawn to the area for award-winning bike trails, trout-stocked lakes, deep waters for scuba diving and quiet bays for paddleboarders and kayakers.” By turning a local resource from a liability to an asset, local visionary leaders created an economic ripple effect. Since 2011 regional job growth is about double that of the surrounding region, and in the past year Crosby has welcomed a new brewery, a bicycle cafe and a farm-to-table restaurant, along with the workers and families who relocated there to start them.
In our effort to promote the best models for new and improved Career Pathways, helping underemployed young adults obtain credentials and rewarding careers, we discovered and wrote about a successful partnership in Chisago and Washington counties, sponsored by the Sundance Family Foundation. On Nov. 1, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Sundance and other sponsors are hosting a Wunderkammer: A Community Tech & Training Expo and Tour, at St. Paul College, 235 Marshall Ave, St. Paul. Organizers are looking for volunteers to help with about 120 youth as they engage with technicians to get a feel for what they would do in those jobs in mechanics, welding, health care and other trades.
“You walk down Main Street and you can sense the positivity” -- Aaron Hautala, a local resident of the Crosby-Ironton area, who once dreamed of moving to the Rocky Mountains, only to find the mountain biking community has come to his county, from Star Tribune article cited above.