June 2023
In Remembrance of Commissioner Blair Nelson
RNDC is saddened by the sudden loss of Commissioner Blair Nelson. Nelson served as the Waseca County Commissioner since 2011 and was an active member of the RNDC Commission and Board of Directors since 2015.

Blair will be remembered for his passion and his commitment to Waseca County and Region Nine as a whole. His welcoming nature and humor will be missed at RNDC.

RNDC Executive Director, Nicole Griensewic said, "Commissioner Nelson could always be counted on to be engaged, inquisitive, and supportive of the work and our dedicated team. He was a trusted and tenured Commissioner, welcoming new members and taking on leadership roles on the Commission. His down-to-earth approach, great sense of humor and smile will be greatly missed."

RNDC Vice Chair, Mike Laven added, "When discussions around what Region Nine needs to be doing, you could count on Blair to keep us grounded in what we were doing well but supported stretching out towards innovations."

At the request of his family, the Commission will be collecting a memorial to go towards the purchase and planting of trees in the region.
RNDC Board of Directors celebrates Blair with his favorite drink, a can of Coke.
Groups from St. James and New Ulm Tour the City of Morris
A group from New Ulm and St. James traveled to Morris, MN to learn more about the city’s work on sustainable energy projects they have titled, the Morris Model.

Morris has been at the forefront in adopting sustainable energy infrastructure and it all started with a simple remark made almost 20 years ago. During a meeting with an energy provider, one attendee remarked, "Renewable energy is the future. We won’t be using coal in 20 years." The stakeholders in the city took that statement to heart.

The award-winning 'Morris Model' focuses on energy conservation, clean energy, community resilience, cultural exchanges, and celebration with specific goal areas within clean and efficient energy, transportation, waste reduction and recycling, and education. At its core, it is a partnership between organizations that are committed to working together towards a shared vision of creating a sustainable community.

The implementation of this model led to Morris being the first to try and adopt cutting-edge technologies. University of Minnesota-Morris (UMN-M) Sustainability Director, Troy Goodnough, said “Morris is really a story of firsts. The steps seem quaint now, like putting in LED lights and a vehicle charging station, but someone had to take the first steps.”

This is a motto the college and community still follow today. The trip to Morris provided the groups from Region Nine the opportunity to see first-hand some solutions for sustainable rural energy issues. UMN-M is focusing its efforts on providing sustainable energy sources that don’t take farmland out of production. This includes elevated solar panels that cattle can graze under, electric tractors, solar-powered spreaders, and portable solar stations.
The highlight of the tour was the new pilot ammonia plant. This plant is the first to turn hydrogen and nitrogen into ammonia which is ten times less costly than hydrogen. “This transition is happening. So how do we want this to happen? Do we want our farmers and co-ops to benefit, or outside companies?” said UMN-M Vice Chancellor of Finance and Facilities, Bryan Herrman.
St. James and New Ulm have been working towards sustainable energy initiatives in their communities. St. James stakeholders have created the Climate Smart Communities that provides residents the chance to meet with sustainable energy leaders to discuss options and address their concerns. New Ulm has been exploring energy options that can be implemented in its public utilities.

This connection with Morris was another result of Region Nine’s learning exchange with Germany. From this exchange, connections were made that have positioned the region to be at the forefront of foreign and domestic sustainable energy investments in the Midwest.
Susan Brehm, Regional Director of the U.S. Economic Development Administration Chicago Office, in Region Nine
Susan Brehm, Regional Director of the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) Chicago Office, recently toured Region Nine. She led discussions in Mankato, Eagle Lake, and Gaylord during her visit. In these meetings, she met with community leaders from the area to learn more about the issues facing southern Minnesota.
While at the Sibley County Courthouse in Gaylord, the conversations ranged from workforce issues, housing, and childcare, to broadband and ideas on how to market rural areas to potential residents. The attendees had the opportunity to state their concerns about their communities directly to the Federal EDA.

Brehm grew up on a small farm in Iowa and has a passion for agriculture and she has used her position to elevate the voices of rural America. She works closely with local government officials, business leaders, and community organizations to identify opportunities and implement strategies that foster innovation, job creation, and increased competitiveness.
Ayan Omar Accepted to the Minnesota Young American Leaders Program
RNDC Commissioner Ayan Omar has been selected for the Minnesota Young American Leaders Program (MYALP). Ayan has been an active member of the commission since 2018. She first joined RNDC as the first College-Aged Commissioner before becoming the Minority Populations Commissioner. She also serves on the Budget & Personnel Committee.
Ayan immigrated to St. Peter in 2012 with her family and quickly found a community and town she could call home. Since then, she has used her experiences, education, and her passion for the community to help bring inclusive economic development to the town and throughout the region. Ayan has done this with her work as the Financial Institutions Assistant Examiner for the State of Minnesota, as part of the St. Peter Economic Development Authority, and as a commissioner in Region Nine.
With her work in community, economic development, and inclusivity, the Minnesota Young American Leaders Program (MYALP) made perfect sense. MYALP is a two-and-a-half-day program at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. It brings together 50 young leaders from across business, non-profit, and government committed to cross-sector collaborations to help their communities bring inclusive economic development to all residents.
“The program is a unique opportunity to bring young leaders from across the state to foster cross-sector collaboration from leaders in different industries to come together and use their skills, connections, and aptitude for change to solve issues affecting their region,” said Ayan.
She added, “I hope that this program continues to thrive and gets adopted in other states. The idea of using cross-sector collaboration between government, non-profit, and private businesses to make change in our local communities is a new idea to me. It has been an eye-opener to learn about how that worked in other states and I hope we see successful examples of that in our region.”
Andrea Boettger Meets with Finnish Ambassador
RNDC Vice Chair, Andrea Boettger attended a luncheon with Mikko Hautala, Ambassador of Finland to the United States. Along with Hautala, Boettger also met with a delegation of Finnish business leaders interested in potential business opportunities with Minnesota in the areas of sustainability and decarbonization.

The goal of the luncheon was to discuss partnerships between Finnish and Minnesota businesses and government leaders. Hautala also spoke on Finland’s plans to become carbon neutral by 2035 and how it related to the Minnesota 2040 clean electricity law.

This luncheon grew out of RNDC's participation in the Governor's Trade Mission to Finland and is a vital step in bringing new investments to Region Nine. RNDC has been creating connections with organizations around the world to promote south-central Minnesota and highlight the opportunities available for businesses looking to invest in foreign markets.
Waseca-Le Sueur Regional Library Digital Assessment
Take the MBFFA Needs Assessment Survey
As part of the Mainstreet Businesses Focused on Food and Agriculture (MBFFA) grant, RNDC is conducting a needs assessment to understand if the services our organizations offer are meeting the needs of food and ag entrepreneurs in the region.

You can take this short survey by clicking the button below. Thank you in advance for your input and for supporting food and ag entrepreneurs!

We are also looking to interview residents involved with agriculture! To schedule an interview, click the button below.
$$ Additional Grant Opportunities $$
SMIF Small Town Grants

Towns with populations of 10,000 or less in SMIF’s 20-county region are eligible. Nonprofit 501(c)(3) organizations, public institutions and units or agencies of local, state and federal government are encouraged to apply. Requests of up to $10,000 for eligible projects will be considered. SMIF seeks proposals which impact the culture, education, economy and/or social aspects of small towns in the region.

Deadline: June 26, 2023
Technical Assistance and Construction for Innovative Regional Wastewater Treatment Solutions Grant Pilot Program

The program awards grants to regional consortiums that coordinate with universities, academic health and research institutes, or economic development entities to solve untreated raw sewage issues with innovative technologies.

Deadline: July 31, 2023
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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