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2017 March Newsletter

by Melissa on March 26th, 2017

Get Rural MN

Attracting and retaining residents is a key component for the sustainability of the region. Newcomers will fill jobs, start new businesses, populate the schools, become home owners, taxpayers, and new community leaders. Stemmed from the “Brain Gain” research, and efforts done over the past year convening local chambers, economic development professionals and local stakeholders the UMVRDC is finally to the point to move forward with these efforts and take the next big step.

Based off of the UMVRDC’s 5-year assessment that was sent out to all of the Local Units of Government within Region 6W, the TOP issue identified was marketing the communities/area to attract new residents, workers and families. Prairie Waters Regional Tourism is a well-developed and supported regional brand and marketing system already in place. The goal is to build on that program and offer information to convert those visitors and users into potential new residents. The overall vision is to create a system that makes it easy for someone to get the information they need to make a move to the region, along with helpful tips and tools for locals. The regional recruitment committee, which consists of local chambers, economic development professionals, city representatives and other local stakeholders have helped identified four buckets to highlight – employment opportunities, housing, family essentials and things to do. The Prairie Waters website covers the things to do bucket, now the goal is to incorporate the other three areas into the Prairie Waters website. The Prairie Waters website will be a one stop-shop for anyone looking to visit or potentially move to the region and give them  helpful information to guide them through their process. UMVRDC Staff is hoping to develop the new tabs on the website by early summer and work on incorporating new content and developing relationships to feed into those pages over the next year.

Follow the project on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest by searching Get Rural MN, or visit the UMVRDC website.

Get Rural MN Resources

Get Rural MN Summary – PDF

Get Rural Meeting Recaps

Photo & Video Library 

Get Rural MN – LIVE HERE!! from Get Rural! on Vimeo.

UMVRDC Welcomes New Planner

Jason Brisson

Jason Brisson moved from Saint Paul to Benson, MN in 2017 to join the UMVRDC as a Transportation Planner. He received a Bachelor of Science in Urban Studies from the University of Minnesota in 2007 and assumed a variety of sales responsibilities in distribution for 10 years before joining the UMVRDC. Jason spends his free time running, hiking, cooking, and visiting family. The UMVRDC is thrilled to bring Jason’s experiences and fresh perspective to the region. Welcome Jason!



UMVRDC Welcomes Two New Commissioners

Roy Marihart

On January 24th the UMVRDC Board of Commissioners welcomed two newly appointed board members:

Roy Marihart is a Lac qui Parle County Commissioner and recently got elected to his second term.  Roy has lived in rural Lac qui Parle County for 29 years. Roy stays plenty busy farming, running his own business (Marihart Surveying, PA), and keeping the Lac qui Parle township roads bladed and plowed. Roy has been married to his wife Jan for 39 years and has two daughters and a son-in-law. Roy is involved with the MN Society of Land Surveyors and the St. James Catholic Church in Dawson.


Duane Steene

Duane Steen, Graceville City Council member, will be representing Big Stone County Municipalities. Duane is active with the American Legion Post 297 and serves as post commander. Born and raised in Graceville he moved to the Twin Cities after college and moved back home in 2009 where he is employed with the Wheaton-Dumont Coop Elevator. Duane enjoys spending time with his 15-year old son.






Welcoming New RLF Board Member

The UMVRDC’s Revolving Loan Fund (RLF) is pleased to introduce Glen Kack as their newest board member. Glen was recently elected as the District 5 Yellow Medicine County Commissioner and joined the RLF advisory board in January.

Glen, a native of the Canby area, has worked for the Yellow Medicine County Highway Department for the past 33 years. He has four children and five grandchildren.

Welcome Glen!

Art Place Initiatives

 Milan is one of three focus communities where the Southwest Minnesota Housing Partnership (SWMHP) is working to incorporate arts and cultural strategies into their ongoing work of community development such as affordable housing, redevelopment, public safety, and health and wellness.

In September 2015, the SWMHP was the recipient of a three-year award from ArtPlace America’s Community Development Investments (CDI) program.  The focus of the CDI is to engage arts and cultural strategies in comprehensive community planning and development to help strengthen the social, physical and economic fabric of communities.

The UMVRDC has assisted with this project by providing asset mapping of Milan and general technical assistance.  The UMVRDC has been a connector with various Milan community members and has been participating in a training offered by the SWMHP and ArtPlace.  Through this process, it is the hope to increase collaboration between artists and the community on project opportunities in areas that the SWMHP typically provides, such as housing and healthy home initiatives.

The first project to be funded in Milan will be PlaceBase Productions who will do a production focused on the process of connecting the community to their shared history and activating the town around its potential future. This production is planned to take place over the next six months.

For more information, contact Kristi Fernholz at, or 320.289.1981 x106.  You can also learn more about Partnership Art by visiting

Who is SWMHP?
The Southwest Minnesota Housing Partnership is a non-profit community development corporation serving thirty counties in Southwest and South Central Minnesota. Dawn Hegland, UMVRDC Executive Director is a current board member for the partnership. The Partnership aims to build strong and healthy places to live so that the communities of the region thrive.

Center for Small Towns Partnership

This past year the UMVRDC has worked with students from the University of Minnesota Morris, Center for Small Towns, to collect new imagery of the region in hopes of changing the negative rural narrative. One of the projects included running a Visitor for the Day Campaign where students visited communities throughout the region collecting new photos, videos, interviews and writing stories about their experiences in that community. Students also collected an inventory of new imagery by attending community events and sharing their experiences on social media and on the Prairie Waters website.  All of this new content is available for governments, organizations and businesses in the region to access and download through an online sharing platform, Dropbox.

Students also collected interviews of newcomers, locals, entrepreneurs, and folks with unique stories that can relate to potential new residents looking to move to the region. Four regional promotional videos were conducted from the collected interviews and are also available to download through Dropbox.

With all of the imagery collected the students created a tourism and lifestyle slideshow for each city and county Prairie Waters member. In the Summer of 2017 UMVRDC Staff plans on meeting with each Prairie Waters member to customize their slideshow and to assist them in uploading the it to their website.

In January of 2017, a student had designated time to update Big Stone County to the Prairie Waters website. These updates included creating a webpage with the new photos and editorial for both Big Stone County and Graceville, along with updating the mapping system with all of Big Stone County’s local shops, dining, lodging and things to do. Each pinpoint on the maps includes contact information, editorial, hyperlinks and new photos. All of the community events in Big Stone County were collected and added to the regional calendar of events.

The UMVRDC is currently working with two of the same students who have been busy creating multiple different social media platforms on Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram where they are running social media campaigns. Each week they choose a different city/county to showcase. The posts vary from job listings, to throw backs of historic photos, quick facts and new photos they’ve collected. This social media campaign has been a huge success thus far engaging with not only potential newcomers but also the locals.

The UMVRDC plans to work with students again this summer to collect more imagery of the region and continue these marketing efforts.

Safe Routes to School – KMS

Walking and bicycling was once the way most students arrived at school, but that has since changed dramatically. Kerkhoven – Murdock – Sunburg (KMS) Schools, their communities, and the UMVRDC have been hard at work developing a Safe Routes to School Program (SRTS) for the KMS School District to make it safer and easier for students to walk and bicycle to school. A steering committee has been guiding the process as a walking audit, take-home survey, and several strategic meetings have been completed. The February 1st Walk to School Day (featured in the Kerkhoven Banner) was also a huge success. A draft of the plan will be finished and presented for review and comment this spring. Click here for more info…


The UMVRDC Revolving Loan Fund (RLF) works to help businesses by creating a financial package to fund their start-up or expansion project.  A primary focus of the UMVRDC’s RLF is job creation and retention in the region. Northern Geo in Appleton, MN was able to utilize RLF dollars once again to expand their business and acquire a new product line. With this new expansion, they will be able to retain and create an additional 21 jobs within the region.

Take advantage of the UMVRDC’s current low interest rates as they appear to be on the rise! The funds can assist in financing fixed assets, real estate, and working capital.  Please do not hesitate to contact Laura Ostlie at 320-289-1981 ext 102 or email today to find out how the UMVRDC can help businesses in your community. Click here for more info…

Broadband Exploration in Chippewa and Yellow Medicine Counties

Both Chippewa and Yellow Medicine Counties realize that fast, reliable broadband internet is no longer a luxury-it’s a need. The two counties have embarked on a joint effort to learn more about what the people in their area need and want. The UVMRDC has been working with these counties to conduct a series of public meetings along with hosting the city officials in work sessions. Ultimately, the feedback from these will be provided to the county commissioners along with a panel discussion amongst regional broadband providers.

Transit Plan

Based on MnDOT’s Transit Dependency Index (which looks at: population, jobs, zero vehicle households, poverty, disability, limited English proficiency, seniors age 65+ and youth under 18) the Big Stone, Chippewa, Lac qui Parle, Swift, and Yellow Medicine counties are considered low transit dependent counties (see map below). However, a recent study conducted by the UMVRDC discovered that 69% of 123 respondents polled reported they do not have access to transportation other than public transit. The UMVRDC has engaged 210 facilities and agencies in the five-county area to solicit input for the 2016 Local Human Service Transit Coordination Plan update. This update is aimed at improving transportation services and ensuring that communities are coordinating resources provided through multiple federal programs. A public workshop will be held at the Appleton City Offices April 20th, from 9:00am-2:30pm and anyone who has input is welcome to participate. Click here for more info…

From → News, Take Note!

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