July 2020
Regional Manufacturing Resource Center
Region Nine Development Commission (RNDC), the City of Waseca, and its contractual partners are developing a Strategic Economic Development Plan for the City that seeks to assess opportunities for a greater expansion of the City’s economic base and industry. This includes community input through surveys solicited by the Waseca Chamber of Commerce.

RNDC is working with Lead for America and Rethos to develop an innovation hub on State Street as a first step in bringing a regional manufacturing resource center to the City. RNDC and MSU-Mankato are also working on developing a virtual resource center per recommendations from the feasibility study conducted between November 2019 and May 2020. The goal for this center is to provide multilingual assistance to all industries as it pertains to staffing, technical assistance, and strategic positioning. The long-term plan is to develop local hubs in each of the counties to serve local industries.
Rural Entrepreneurial Venture Program
Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation (SMIF) is seeking applications for the second round of its Rural Entrepreneurial Venture (REV) program which supports long-term economic growth. Three communities will be selected for this three-year program.
The REV program helps rural communities create more vibrant economies by finding and supporting local entrepreneurs - from business startups to existing businesses that want to grow. Each community will develop a leadership team and be matched with a coach to guide them through goal setting and action steps. They will also participate in cohort learning with other REV communities.
Applications are due on September 1. The three REV communities will be announced in November 2020 and will begin work in January 2021. SMIF partners with RNDC and University of Minnesota Extension for coaching support. This program is made possible by support from Blandin Foundation.
COVID-19 Testing
RNDC supported the Minnesota State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC) in locating regional mass testing sites, assessing site functionality, and reporting back to remote planners who would identify site capacity. Watonwan county requested the logistical support of the SEOC to augment their staff for the communities of Madelia and St. James. Site locations were identified, selected, permissions granted, and coordination completed.
Madelia’s site had 692 appointments and conducted 611 tests. St. James had 820 appointments and conducted 572 tests. Test were analyzed for COVID-19 by Mayo Clinic who reported the results to the individuals within 72 hours, negative results, via electronic means. For those who tested positive for COVID-19, a public health nurse contacted the individual personally by phone to assess their current conditions, quarantine measures, and follow-up care.
CEDS Recap
RNDC is in the process of completing its Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) Annual Performance Report. The CEDS is a strategy-driven plan for regional economic development that is completed every 5 years and submitted to the US Economic Development Administration (EDA) for approval. In between those 5-year cycles, RNDC provides an annual report on plan progress and implementation to EDA.
As part of the update process, RNDC is hosting several meetings throughout the summer soliciting input and feedback from stakeholders in the region to respond effectively to the region’s needs. These sessions are divided into four cornerstones of economic development: Economic Competitiveness, Human Capital, Community Resources, and Foundational Assets.
RNDC has held meetings for two cornerstones thus far: Economic Competitiveness and Human Capital. In the Economic Competitiveness meeting, several strengths of the region were mentioned, including low costs of living and operating businesses and entrepreneurial endeavors compared to larger cities, safety and security, and the region’s willingness to collaborate to accomplish goals. Areas for improvement included poverty, housing shortages, a lack of diversity, and exporting more dollars out than we import.
In the Human Capital meeting, strengths in developing human capital discussed included the concentration of post secondary institutions, the wide variety of philanthropic and nonprofit organizations and the collaborative nature between agencies. Strengths in retaining human capital included the high quality of healthcare, good youth programming, and employment opportunities. Challenges included the out-migration of young professionals, availability of transit, and the need for business succession plans and effectively imparting knowledge from older professionals to younger professionals as a large segment of the population reaches retirement age.
RNDC will host a meeting to discuss Foundational Assets on August 12 at 1:00 PM. This will include conversations about the region’s above and below-ground infrastructure (transportation, public utilities) and what sort of strengths and challenges the region has seen and will see in the future. The Community Resources meeting will be held on August 26 at 1:00 PM, and will be a discussion on the region’s cultural resources and maintaining the region’s rural heritage while offering modern amenities to help the region grow.

Interested in learning more? Contact Joel Hanif, community development planner, at joel@rndc.org.
Welcoming Communities Project
The purpose of the Welcoming Communities Project is to provide a platform for equity and inclusion learning through hands-on activities with stakeholders, subject experts and community members. The monthly cohort will provide a framework for communities to build relationships, learn inclusive community practices, tools, and skills based on outcomes gathered through a community-wide assessment. Sessions will be facilitated in partnership with the Greater Mankato Diversity Council, the U of MN Extension Center for Community Vitality, and the RNDC with themes including:
•             Leadership for Equity and Inclusion
•             Understanding Bias, Race and Cultural Competency
•             Small Town Economics
•             Engaging the Community
•             Small Community Dynamics
•             Creating a Welcoming Community
•             Community Stewardship
•             Community Visioning: What's Possible?
The Welcoming Communities Project held their latest monthly cohort meeting on July 9 th where they discussed racism and its various structures: structural, institutional, interpersonal, and internalized. This discussion was then followed up with self-reflection and how to become anti-racist. Their next meeting will be held on August 27 th .
AURI Food and Beverage Manufacturing Statewide Assessment
The Agricultural Utilization Research Institute (AURI) was a study done in response to an evident lack of capacity or access to affordable, right sized manufacturing options in our state. This includes their capacity to grow, ready‐to‐scale small food and beverage businesses, wanted to assess the current state of Minnesota food and beverage manufacturing capacity/capability and identify gaps, opportunities, and strategies in supporting “ready‐to‐scale” food and beverage businesses. Failure to address infrastructure needs places Minnesota at risk of losing not only the economic benefit these businesses provide today (jobs, revenue, capital, and agricultural product utilization), but also minimizes the economic potential of attracting new food and beverage businesses to the state. In partnership with several stakeholders including the Minnesota Department of Economic and Employment Development (DEED), the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA), and other knowledgeable individuals/agencies, AURI aims to identify strategies to encourage development of a manufacturing infrastructure to support these food and beverage businesses. 

As an economic development district, RNDC recognizes the importance of supporting both economic growth and resiliency throughout the region, state, and nation. It takes all industries to provide the resiliency to withstand economic shocks such as we are experiencing with the global pandemic. The identified gaps, overlaps, opportunities, and strategies that support ready-to-scale food and beverage businesses were analyzed with data prior to March 2020 and in some cases years prior. Therefore, the recent experiences from the effects of the CODIV-19 pandemic, economic shocks, and supply chain disruption in the 2nd quarter 2020 and beyond are not included in this report. 

The good news is that Minnesota will come out stronger because of the information gained through this study and the opportunities available to small F&BM are apparent and plentiful. Highlighted sections from this study discuss the apparent flight and/or consolidation of industries, the apparent lack of co-manufacturing capacity in the F&BM industry, opportunities for economic growth through agricultural value-added products, and demonstrates how Minnesota is in a unique position to recover from the losses in innovation and wage growth when compared to other large F&BM states.  
In the Media
SMIF seeking applications for program -Read the Albert Lea Tribune article

Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation invites small towns to “jumpstart” their community
$$ Grant Opportunities $$
Small Town Grants Program: COVID-19 Response

The grant program is available for communities of 10,000 or less in SMIF's 20-county region. SMIF is offering grants of up to $10,000 per grantee and has a total of $200,000 available for this grant round. SMIF will prioritize requests that address a community issue created by the COVID-19 crisis. The funds could be used to support vulnerable community members. They could also be used to address economic gaps, educational gaps or racial inequities that were manifested or made worse by the current crisis.

Deadline: July 30
Rural Cooperative Development Grant Program

The Rural Cooperative Development Grant program improves the economic condition of rural areas by helping individuals and businesses start, expand or improve rural cooperatives and other mutually-owned businesses through Cooperative Development Centers. Grants are awarded through a national competition. Each fiscal year, applications are requested through a notice published in the Federal Register and through an announcement posted on grants.gov .

Deadline: August 3
Calendar of Events
About Region Nine
Region Nine Development Commission takes great pride in working with and on behalf of counties, cities, townships, and schools throughout South Central Minnesota. Since 1972, being a partner for progress has led to the development of programs and identification of solutions in the areas of economic development, business development, healthy communities, transportation, community development, and leveraging regional resources. To learn more about our work and mission, visit www.rndc.org.
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