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ENEWS: Roots in Rural, Business Prioritizing Equity, Infrastructure in NW

Date Published: 09/10/2019

Author: Sarah Leistico

Retaining Newcomers in Rural

The efforts of Greater Minnesota communities to attract and retain newcomers can sometime feel like a constant uphill battle. While several towns have put forth welcoming initiatives that have been successful in attracting newcomers, the next question is how do those towns encourage their children and grandchildren to keep their roots firmly planted in the community? Recently, the Sahan Journal profiled the town of Walnut Grove and the Hmong Americans who came to the area in the early 2000’s. The article states: “Now the population in Walnut Grove and surrounding towns has started once again to drain away. Census estimates show that the town has lost 101 residents since the start of the decade.”

This is a dilemma that is also reflected in a new report by the Center for Rural Policy Development “Finding work or finding workers” which provides data on the departing youth from rural Minnesota. The Center's policy recommendations include funding transportation costs for career education programs, changing student graduation requirements to include career education, and replicating the Build Dakota Scholarships.

There may be a light shining through the tunnel, however. While younger adults have been departing from rural areas, the Star Tribune recently reported that small towns are starting to see an increase in 30-49 year olds returning or settling into those rural communities that prioritize civic engagement, diversity, and the arts.

Business Philanthropy Prioritizing Equity

Growth & Justice is encouraged that not only are large corporations such as Target and Wells Fargo shifting their philanthropic focus to workforce development and asset building, but it is also a part of a new funding wave towards a more equitable system overall. While social services are critical to a large segment of Minnesotans and should not be discounted, a fundamental focus on equity and system change is the right direction. The Star Tribune reports that the Target Foundation, “which donates about $9 million annually to Twin Cities nonprofits, announced on Thursday a new mission to promote equity in the metro area through four areas: entrepreneurship, workforce development, housing, and 'asset building' to marginalized communities.” Growth & Justice has long been one of Minnesota’s strongest voices for equity and a more inclusive prosperity, and is currently developing a “Minnesota Equity Blueprint”  as a public policy guidebook for the entire state.

MN Equity Blueprint: Infrastructure Rollout in Thief River Falls

And speaking of equity, please mark your calendars and SAVE THE DATE! The third chapter of the Minnesota Equity Blueprint – with special focus on how Minnesota communities can invest more equitably in our “physical infrastructure”   - will be released on September 24, 2019, from  4:30 to 6 PM at the Heritage Community Center in Thief River Falls, MN.   Join us for a Northwestern Minnesota focused event, with local and regional infrastructure highlights, a statewide overview on infrastructure, and more!  The Thief River Falls event will be the third of five rollouts in 2019, with Climate Action & Natural Resources, and Democracy to follow in other locations across Minnesota by year's end. RSVP via Eventbrite

Quote: “There’s a mural painted on the brick wall of Terry Yang’s grocery. The community raised money for it in 2012. It shows a girl in a typical pioneer dress — representing the town’s ties to Laura Ingalls Wilder — standing next to a girl dressed in traditional Hmong clothing. In a few places, the paint has begun to peel and the colors have faded.” Cited from the Sahan Journal article “Hmong immigrants helped save this prairie town, but now their children are leaving”.

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