April 2024


Region Nine has been awarded a Bioeconomy Development Opportunity (BDO) Zone ‘A’ Rating from Ecostrat. This is the nation's first ‘A’ rating for corn stover and stretches across a 75-mile drive distance centered in St. James, MN.

The Region Nine BDO Zone ‘A’ rating indicates high-quality feedstock supply chains and infrastructure, attributed to the region's abundant and underutilized corn stover. The region is one of the highest-yielding corn-producing areas in the country producing over 1,400,000 bone-dry tons of corn stover per year with no established competition in the region. The region also benefits from its proximity to major metropolitan areas, on-site utilities, and robust road and rail infrastructure, further enhancing its strategic advantages. This is an opportunity to turn this resource into a revenue source.

“I am excited about the economic opportunities that will be available in South Central Minnesota as a result of the ‘A’ rating. It will position the region as an attractive area for future investments in sustainable economic development,” said RNDC Executive Director Nicole Griensewic.

Jordan Solomon, President and CEO of the BDO Zone Initiative, added, “The ‘A’ rating not only signifies the region's unwavering commitment to regional progress but also reflects their visionary approach to harnessing the nearly 1.5 million tons of abundant and sustainable corn stover for a low-carbon future. This esteemed BDO Zone rating is set to draw global investment interest, positioning Region Nine as a trailblazer, not just within Minnesota but on a global scale."

“This report emphasizes what is possible within our region to utilize our existing resources for greater sustainability and economic improvement. We welcome the opportunity to maximize our use of available corn stover and biomass.” -Andrea Boettger, Council President, City of New Ulm, Vice Chair Region Nine Development Commission.

About The BDO Zone Initiative

The BDO Zone Initiative is an economic beacon to attract investments that enables local communities to deploy powerful economic development tools to drive, accelerate, and catalyze biobased investment and commercial project development in BDO Zones.


A BDO Zone rating is a standards-based technical risk assessment of biomass feedstock, supply chain, and infrastructure attributes of a region concerning the feasibility and development potential of new biofuel, renewable chemical, biogas, bioproduct, or clean hydrogen plants.


BDO Zone ratings help regions and communities attract new biobased project development and participate in the growing global bioeconomy by demonstrating the maturity of local biomass supply chains and whether they are developed enough to support biobased manufacturing without excessive risk.


To see the full BDO Zone Rating for Region Nine click the button below or visit www.bdozone.org.

Read More About Region Nine's BDO Zone Rating

NADO Annual Policy Conference Recap

RNDC Executive Director Nicole Griensewic attended the National Association of Development Organization’s (NADO) Annual Policy Conference. Her many engagements in D.C. were focused on advancing economic development initiatives, fostering partnerships, and advocating for regional interests on a national platform.


Upon arrival in D.C., Nicole attended meetings with NADO President Chris Brown and Executive Director Joe McKinney. Chris Brown, who works in Sulfur Springs, TX, focuses on economic development issues similar to Region Nine. His city manager, Marc Maxwell, had participated alongside Nicole in November on the Danish Learning Exchange. Sulfur Springs is working on creating a bioenergy park aimed at achieving energy independence, job creation, and overall economic development.

Nicole participated in her first NADO Executive Committee meeting serving as Secretary of the Board and representing the Midwest. Discussions during the meeting included the status of the federal Economic Development Administration (EDA), which was up for reauthorization in the Senate’s Environment & Public Works (EPW) committee.


Nicole organized an opening reception and group dinner in Old Town Alexandria for other Region Nine leaders, who were in D.C. for the National League of Cities (NLC) event. She was joined by Mankato Council President and RNDC Chair Mike Laven, Mayor of Eagle Lake and RNDC Commissioner Lisa Norton, City Administrator of Eagle Lake Jennifer Bromelad, and RNDC Vice Chair Andrea Boettger.

The conference featured breakout sessions covering various topics, including Artificial Intelligence (A.I.), Placemaking, and Housing. Nicole had requested the Department of Energy to speak at the conference, highlighting funding opportunities for new projects. She also advocated for A.I. sessions, acknowledging its potential in economic development while addressing concerns about its appropriate usage and challenges.


Nicole's involvement included Capitol Hill visits with colleagues, discussing common issues such as water infrastructure projects and pursuing funding for local communities' energy independence initiatives.

Nicole's time in D.C. included meetings at the Danish and Finnish Embassies where she discussed potential partnerships and funding opportunities for clean energy projects in the region.

Nicole’s engagements in D.C. were multifaceted, focusing on advancing economic development initiatives, fostering partnerships, and advocating for regional interests on a national platform.

Federal EDA Representative Darrin Fleener Visits Region Nine

Economic Development Administration (EDA) Representative Darrin Fleener joined RNDC Economic Director Kristian Braekkan, RNDC planners Alejandra Bejarano and Samuel Sharp, and RNDC Intern Saga Rydaker in Waseca. The focus of the meeting was Waseca’s EDA application for a Workforce Development Center.


Waseca was chosen by the Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation and the Department of Defense’s Manufacturing Capability Expansion and Investment Prioritization office as one of three locations for the America’s Cutting Edge (ACE) program. The proposed Workforce Development Center would house the ACE program.


ACE is a national initiative aimed at revitalizing U.S. manufacturing utilizing a hub and spoke partnership. St. Cloud State University is acting as the "hub" of the program with Waseca as the southern Minnesota "spoke." This will be the first higher education facility in Waseca since 1992 when the University of Minnesota Waseca (UMW) campus closed. UMW was a two-year technical college specializing in agriculture.


In addition to the Workforce Development Center, the group discussed initiatives including mobile workshops, diverse training programs, and the expansion of childcare facilities. Fleener highlighted the importance of having childcare on site for the development center.


Fleener's visit to Waseca provided an opportunity for community leaders to have their questions answered directly by an EDA representative. The meeting involved collaborative brainstorming and discussion on current progress, application strategies, and future implementation ideas. Waseca will be utilizing partnerships with existing industries to bolster this initiative and strengthen the application.


RNDC has supported Waseca County with technical assistance as they prepare their construction application for the Workforce Development Center and has been a liaison between the county and the federal EDA as the designated economic development district in the region. Waseca partnered with RNDC to conduct a feasibility study for a Regional Manufacturing Resource Center.

Meet RNDC's New Executive Assistant Sarah Janovsky

RNDC is pleased to introduce our new Executive Assistant, Sarah Janovsky. She joined RNDC in early March and she is a long-time resident of the region. She and her husband moved to St. Peter after they graduated from Minnesota State University-Mankato and still reside in the city. Sarah has two children and two rowdy dogs to keep her busy.


Sarah joins RNDC with a wealth of knowledge and experience that has made the transition smooth. Prior to working at RNDC, she spent several years working for Saint Peter Schools as the Assistant to the Superintendent.


Sarah is enjoying her new role and new teammates dedication and diversity. “RNDC has such a fun hard-working team! I really enjoy the supportive environment and the different world perspectives staff members bring to the table,” said Sarah.


When she’s not helping everything run smoothly at RNDC she likes to be in nature with her family. Sarah said, “On an unscheduled day I like to get outside whenever possible. Any day at the lake is a win in my book.”

Thank You to All the Panelists at the Grant Opportunity Forum!

April 12th, RNDC hosted its Grant Opportunity Forum. The panel included:

This group drew on decades of experience within their industries to provide the attendees information on available grants for childcare, housing, solar installations, and energy efficient and sustainable infrastructure.

RNDC would like to thank the panelists for their willingness to present and answer questions. This event showed once again that partnerships are a driving force in regional economic development.

St. James' Climate Smart Week is April 20-27

Climate Smart St. James is hosting Climate Smart Week April 20-27. The week will be filled with events meant to entertain and educate.

Each day will revolve around a theme and events include a ribbon cutting for an EV charging station, movies, a bike ride on the St. James Lake Trail, a scavenger hunt, a city wide clean up, and presentations.

RNDC Environment and Sustainability Planner, Sabri Fair will be one of the presenters. He will discussing single use plastic, food waste, and making beeswax container covers using natural and upcycled materials.

The week will end with the Climate Smart EXPO on Saturday. There will be informational exhibits, door prizes, drawings, and more. Events are free and open to the public.

Follow the Facebook page to keep up to date with Climate Smart Week by clicking the button below.

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Bush Foundation Accepting Applications for the 2024 Bush Prize. Up to $500,000 Available

The Bush Prize celebrates organizations that are highly valued within their communities and have a track record of successful community problem solving.

The Bush Prize award is flexible and can be used to build up reserves, test that next big idea, or whatever else would best support the organization's ongoing good work. The award amount is up to 25% of an organization’s most recent fiscal year expenses, with a maximum of $500,000.

Applications are due by Friday, May 31st.

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$$ Grant Opportunities $$

Contamination Cleanup and Investigation and RAP Development Grant Program

The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED), is accepting grant applications through the Contamination Cleanup and Investigation and RAP Development Grant Program.

This grant program assists local communities with the investigation and cleanup of soil, soil vapor and groundwater contamination at previously or currently developed sites. This program is not intended for parties that have operated on the site long-term, but rather to assist new parties with site redevelopment.

Deadline: May 1, 2024

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Solar on Public Buildings Grant

The purpose of this program is to provide grants to stimulate the installation of solar energy systems on public buildings. The Department of Commerce will administer $4.3M in grants to local governments in Xcel Energy electric service territory through at least two funding rounds.

Eligible applicants for this grant program are local units of government (LUGs) including a county, statutory or home rule charter city, town, or other local government jurisdiction.

Notice of Intent - Public Building Readiness Assessment Due: Monday, June 3, 2024

Full Application Deadline: Sept. 23, 2024

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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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