UMVRDC Offices Closed to the Public
In our concern for the health and safety of our employees, the UMVRDC offices are closed to the public until further notice as a precaution to help slow the spread of COVID-19. As we continue to monitor the coronavirus situation closely, we will follow the Minnesota Department of Health, CDC, and World Health Organization for updates and guidance.
- Our employees will continue to work both in the office and virtually and are available through phone and email. Daily office functions that require on-site staffing will continue to be performed.
- Many of our projects requiring in person meetings have switched to electronic communications or are being postponed or cancelled.
- Any staff impacted by COVID-19 will have the option of using paid or unpaid leave.
- Our board meetings may occur through alternative method or be cancelled or postponed.
Thank you for your understanding and continued support. For the most up to date information about our office please consult our website www.umvrdc.org.
It’s Census Time!
The upcoming data collected from the 2020 census is critical to our state, counties, and communities. Households are encouraged to respond when they receive their invitation between March 12th and March 20th. They will receive either an invitation encouraging them to respond online or by phone, or an invitation along with a paper questionnaire.
All households receiving an invitation in the mail will receive a second letter in the mail shortly after reminding them to respond. Then, households that still haven’t responded will receive a series of additional reminders, including a paper questionnaire in mid-April. Census takers will follow up with households that don’t respond to collect responses in person.
You can help make sure all are counted—you, your family and friends, your neighbors, your colleagues, and those in your community. Here are some resources:
- Just for fun and for the kids in your world, check out the Sesame Street videos or this printable book for kids.
- Consider joining the Census @ Work Day created by the Saint Paul Area Chamber of Commerce.
- Watch and link to videos created by the State Demographic Center in various languages and covering confidentiality concerns.
- Other Census resources are here: https://mn.gov/admin/2020-census/.
- Visit the Census Bureau’s 2020 Census info page for lots of great content and answers.
Minnesotans for the American Community Survey and 2020 Census has been holding meetings around the state with Congressional offices in the last couple of months. The stories that are shared by constituents in the communities are inspiring, energetic, creative, and inclusive. Watch for events over the next three weeks, leading up to Census Day, April 1st.
Learn more: https://umvrdc.org/its-census-time/
KMS & Lac qui Parle Valley Schools awarded Safe Routes to School Engineering Grant!
The Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg and Lac qui Parle Valley school districts were recently awarded the Safe Routes to School (SRTS) Engineering Grant. Stakeholders in these communities worked hard to identify improvements that could benefit their communities and the UMVRDC provided consulting and grant writing assistance to each community. If you want to talk with UMVRDC staff about how this, or other grants may be able to help your community, please contact email@example.com, or visit our website for more transportation related information. Congratulations!
Engineering Studies Overview
SRTS engineering studies are intended to bridge the gap between potential safety strategies documented in a SRTS plan and implementation. SRTS engineering studies will use a data-driven approach to verify existing strategies suggested in a SRTS plan and identify new engineering strategies to improve routes for students to walk and bicycle to and from schools. The resulting SRTS engineering study will include project summary sheets for select projects that could include concept level drawings, as well as a list of potential infrastructure projects prioritized by effectiveness in addressing safety risks, potential usage, and cost.
Economic Development Efforts in Benson
A little over a year ago, UMVRDC staff started providing additional economic development support for the City of Benson. Recently, UMVRDC staff contributed to the city’s marketing efforts by developing materials, property concepts, and messaging pertaining to its newly owned industrial property, the former Fibrominn site. The city utilized those contributions during a recent prospective international business visit. UMVRDC staff were also able to share the Benson “story” while staffing the city’s booth at the International BioMass Convention in Nashville, TN in February.
Providing assistance to city staff within their Economic Development Authority (EDA) efforts has been a significant part of the work that the UMVRDC has been able to offer. Supporting the facilitation of the EDA meetings, coordinating their revolving loan application process, and providing current loan portfolio mitigation are just a few of the ways the UMVRDC has been able to deliver technical assistance to the City of Benson.
Regional Developable Properties
Vacant and underutilized commercial buildings are an important topic in Western Minnesota. A vacant building can impose considerable negative impact in a downtown business district and on local governments if they don’t generate or pay taxes. Being active in preventing deterioration and vacancy can save communities money, heartache, and time.
The UMVRDC is developing strategies for dealing with vacant and/or underutilized properties and creating tools to emphasize opportunities for newcomers to redevelop these available properties. This information is also used by private developers, city clerks, economic development authority representatives, housing agents, school administrators, as well as real estate and property management agents.
The UMVRDC was awarded funding through the U of M Extension Sustainable Regional Development Partnership, with matching funding awarded from the Southwest Initiative Foundation, to develop, coordinate, and aggregate a developable properties inventory for the region as part of our Get Rural MN project. Funds are covering the cost of student assistance through the Center for Small Towns and the U of M to assist with the project. Undergraduate students developed the database tool for the properties inventory and created a template for interviews with property owners and property stakeholders. Interviews were completed to populate the database. A second phase includes a graduate student who will assist with property visioning and develop concept drawings for a select number of developable properties.
Dawson Economic Development Authority USDA Revolving Loan Fund
The UMVRDC was asked to consult with the Dawson Economic Development Authority (EDA) to write a Rural Business Development Grant application to the USDA for a local revolving loan fund. Staff worked with the Dawson EDA to determine specific RLF plan elements and funding structure.
The purpose of establishing the revolving loan fund is to attract new and expanding businesses, support job retention and growth, and create a more entrepreneur friendly community.Sources for available gap financing are critical to funding business growth, alongside other commercial financing and regional resources for economic development financing. If awarded, these funds will be available to fund projects in partnership with regional partners such as RLF funds available through Lac qui Parle County, the Southwest Initiative Foundation and the UMVRDC. Funds will be able to provide valuable gap financing to sustain and improve local commerce. In our rural region, this type of financing is critical. Many of our small communities would not be able to maintain the businesses that we currently enjoy because of the large amount of capital needed to start or retain a business. Projects with the greatest anticipated economic impact for the community shall receive greatest priority. Criteria to be considered in determining economic impact include number of jobs created or saved, wage scale of employees, and benefits paid to employees. Project funding uses of funds may include but not limited to:
- Possible acquisition and development of land, easements, and rights-of-way.
- Construction, conversion, enlargement, repairs, or modernization of buildings (including façade repairs), plants, machinery, equipment, access streets and roads, parking areas, utilities, pollution control, and abatement facilities.
- Loans for startup operating cost and working capital.
- Technical assistance for private business enterprises.
Planning Committee creates a Regional Transportation Coordinating Council Structure for our Region
UMVRDC has been helping with the development of the Prairie Five Regional Transportation Coordinating Council (RTCC) which has a goal to coordinate all transportation services in the counties of Chippewa, Lac qui Parle, Yellow Medicine, Swift, and Big Stone. Prairie Five CAC received a planning grant from the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MNDOT) to assist in the research and development of the RTCC.
The Planning Committee’s purpose is to provide communication and coordination to improve transportation services in Region 6W to reach the following goals:
- Increase available transportation services.
- Reduce barriers to the programs that help address transportation issues (i.e. volunteer driver program, special needs ridership, insurance issues to vehicles that can be utilized more readily, underutilized assets).
- Improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the transportation system in our region for riders, service agencies, and providers.
The UMVRDC has coordinated two meetings with the planning committee and has started to draft the operations plan and developed the overall structure of an RTCC in our region. Prairie Five staff have been working with MNDOT to develop an implementation grant to move the planning into an implementation phase.
The planning process is scheduled to go through June 30th, 2020 with a goal of implementation to start July 1st.
2020 Explore Minnesota Tourism Conference
The Explore Minnesota Tourism Conference was held in February in Alexandrian, MN. UMVRDC staff attended and learned about the past years successes and challenges in the tourism industry, new marketing trends for the coming year, and industry accomplishments from the past year. Keynote speakers covered topics on tourism and Minnesota’s economy, communicated your message with a purpose, diversity and inclusion in marketing, and trends and digital strategies for 2020.
Breakout sessions provided knowledge on a variety of topics and time for networking with industry peers. A common theme for the conference was the ever-changing digital world and what tourism agencies can do to stay ahead of the trend and how to use it to your advantage. We have continued to learn about topics and implement strategies and ideas from the conference to promote the Prairie Waters tourism program.Conference Materials
UMVRDC Strategic Planning Annual Survey Results
As part of UMVRDC’s new strategic plan developed last year, the organization has instituted an annual survey of elected officials and staff of local units of government across the region. The survey is intended primarily to gather information on priority issues for the region which will then be utilized by the organization to direct work under a new Regional Trends & Issues strategic direction. Click the button below to view a summary of survey coverage and response, priority issues identification, and other relevant feedback on regional outreach.View Survey Results
Master Planning for the Swift County OHV Park
The UMVRDC is working with the Swift County OHV Park to create a master plan that will outline the future of the park with a vision, project ideas, and an action plan. A task force of local stakeholders will guide the process with input from the public and will meet over the next 12-18 months to develop the plan. Hagstrom Engineering out of Alexandria, MN will provide the landscape architecture and engineering for the mapping and concept design.
A master plan lays out a framework to improve the park to better serve the public. The Swift County OHV Master Plan will also be submitted to the Greater MN Regional Parks and Trails Commission (GMRPTC) to make the park eligible for regional designation. Regional Designation would open up an additional source of funds through the GMRPTC.