January 2024

The staff of RNDC hopes you had a happy holiday season and wishes you a great 2024! This month we're highlighting the staff's favorite and most impactful events and projects.

Kristian Braekkan - Economic Development Director

My favorite moment was the Active Transportation Summit. Our colleagues and partners did a great job of coordinating and facilitating great conversations on how we can improve the quality of life, pedestrian and bicycle safety, and the general health of our region. I hope to see more of these initiatives in the future.

Alejandra Bejarano - Economic Recovery Planner

One of the most impactful moments this year was collecting feedback from seniors in Le Sueur and Waseca as part of the digital inclusion project. Hearing about their needs around technology skills and access to high-speed broadband was eye-opening. I distinctly recall one senior respondent mentioning that their family members didn't have time to teach or show them computer skills. This highlights the pressing technology and broadband needs of seniors in rural Minnesota. I appreciated a commissioner approaching and expressing gratitude to me directly for leading this project!

Paola Ferrario - Community Development Planner

Winning the HeroX federal prize was one of my highlights because it was our first big win in getting our region on the map and because of this initiative, we have now moved forward to establishing stronger partnerships with Greater MSP and even Delta. This makes me excited to be able to bring new initiatives to the region and better-paying jobs!

Joel Hanif - Community Development Planner with Transportation Emphasis

One impactful project/event would be the Active Transportation Summit that we helped put on in September. The event generated a lot of good momentum toward furthering active transportation in the region, and hearing people from the Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota rave and talk about wanting to replicate the event all over the state was really gratifying.

Another event was the Walkable Communities Workshop Facilitator Training in St. Peter in July. We pitched St. Peter as an ideal site for this training to the Minnesota Department of Health, and St. Peter ended up being one of only a couple of communities where they held a workshop. It was a great mix of St. Peter locals as well as folks from as far away as Buffalo and Slayton. Participants learned how to effectively facilitate conversations around making their communities more pedestrian-friendly, and they also learned how to conduct walk audits to evaluate their communities’ existing pedestrian infrastructure. It was an excellent training for St. Peter as it can be challenging to have a pedestrian-friendly environment when a four-lane US Highway bisects the downtown area.

Sabri Fair - Environment and Sustainability Planner

Working with a local farm I was able to help them apply for and receive a $100,000 MDA grant to build a walk-in cooler and freezer building which will increase their storage capacity and thus their sales of value-added meat and heirloom corn products locally and statewide.

Samuel Sharp - Energy and Sustainability Planner

The Kerfoot Canopy Tour sticks out to me for sure. Despite the cold and rainy weather, navigating the course was a welcome challenge that the team embraced head-on. I personally love climbing, and getting the opportunity to do so with a close-knit group of colleagues was motivating and well worth the trip.


Alternatively, the myriad of learning exchanges with our German partners helped build out my network of relationships and broadened my understanding of energy and environment initiatives. More importantly, it taught me how to best engage with our communities and widened my ability to support them in their climate resilience ambitions.


Also receiving funding through the Rural Energy Prize to fund the BDO Zone Assessment Rating was a rewarding experience as a result of the hard work and dedication from the team. Looking forward to implementing the next steps!

Nathan George - Communications Specialist

My favorite event of 2023 was preparing for the RNDC 50th Anniversary. I was able to meet with a couple of former Commissioners to create interview videos. One of the interviewees was Colette Stone, wife of former RNDC Executive Director, Terry Stone. It was so rewarding to see the smile on her face as everyone celebrated her late husband.

Mireille Ghassan - Economic Development Intern

One of my favorite memories from the last year was the pottery painting. It was a great way to connect with the team outside of work, and it was also a fun way to get to know the team better! My favorite project from the past year was working on the APR with Alejandra. I really enjoyed researching demographic data for our region and getting a better understanding of the region as a whole!

Mercedes Sempé - Economic Development Assistant

One of my favorite moments was when Paola came to Mankato and I could finally meet her in person! We all hung out at Ky's, which was super fun. I also loved my trips to Gaylord with Alejandra, as I could get to know her better.

Aaron Pacheco - Research Associate

My most memorable event was presenting at Minnesota State University, Mankato on welcoming communities and the many aspects of forced migration.

International Students and Employers, Take the International Student and Regional Employer Surveys

Help us understand your thoughts and experiences regarding the labor market for international students in South Central Minnesota. Your responses will be 100% anonymous.

International Student Survey
Regional Employer Survey

Register for the SE MN Together Event February 5th

Executive Director Nicole Griensewic will be a guest speaker at the SE MN Together Event to discuss how RNDC leverages the Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) to support economic development in South Central Minnesota. Other panelists will be sharing resources and funding ideas with the attendees.

The Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation (SMIF) is hosting this free event February 5th at the Wood Lake Meeting Center, Rochester. Click below to register for the event and download SMIF's 2023

Register for the Event
Download SMIF's 2023 CEDS 

Empowering Small Minnesota Cities

The Empowering Small Minnesota Cities (ESMC) is a new program led by University of Minnesota partners. The program aims to support these pillars of our state. ESMC will identify ways that individual small communities can leverage their assets to create infrastructure and development projects—ones that support and enhance community vitality, identity, and resilience. The program will also help communities compete for state and federal project funding.

The multiyear program was established by the State of Minnesota during the 2023 legislative session to give small Minnesota communities and local government units added capacity to develop resilient, sustainable, and adaptable infrastructure projects.

Learn More and Apply

Applications are Now Open for the Rural Child Care Innovation Program

Through funding from the MN Department of Human Services, First Children's Finance is offering the Rural Child Care Innovation Program (RCCIP). The RCCIP is an innovative community engagement process designed to address the challenges of child care in rural America. Child care is an economic driver for rural communities across the United States and many communities are facing shortages of high-quality child care. Many communities have child care shortages, and are ready to embark on the journey to address this critical community issue.


Applicants can include a single city, a cluster of small towns, a school district, or a single county. The Twin Cities metro area, Fargo-Moorhead metro area, Duluth, Rochester, and St. Cloud metro area are excluded as applicants. Preference is given to truly rural communities.


Round 2: RCCIP Applications are due February 2, 2024, by 5:00 PM CST.


For more information and to apply go to:



To learn more about the RCCIP process attend the webinar:

January 22, 2024, from 2:30 PM – 3:00 PM

Click Here to Register for the Webinar
Open Region Nine Commission Seats

The following commission seats are vacant:

  • Nicollet County Cities Under 10,000
  • Faribault County Cities Under 10,000
  • High School Age Commissioner
  • Regional School Board Commissioner

To find out more about becoming an RNDC commissioner, contact Nate at nate@rndc.org

Apply to Join the Commission

$$ Grant Opportunities $$

Community Solutions for Healthy Child Development Grant

The community solutions grant program was created to fund community-based solutions for challenges related to healthy child development that are identified by communities of color and American Indian communities.

Deadline: Feb. 14, 2024

Learn More

Funding Opportunities for Park and Trail Projects

Applications are now being accepted for the following grant programs: outdoor recreation, natural and scenic area, regional trail, local trail connections, and federal recreational trails. Click the following links to learn more.

Outdoor Recreation Grant Program

Natural and Scenic Area Program

Federal Recreational Trail Program

Regional Trail Grant Program

Local Trail Connections Grant Program

Deadline: Various

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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