UMVRDC 50th Anniversary Celebration Highlights
The UMVRDC celebrates 50 years of serving the region in 2023 and to kick off this milestone, we celebrated in July with our annual tour and business meeting, as well as an open house, entertainment, and supper.
This year, staff, board members, special guests, and members of the public toured the community of Appleton. The first stop took us to Northern Geo, a UMVRDC Revolving Loan Fund Business. Those in attendance heard about the growth of the company and got a tour of their facility. The next stop was at Appleton Heritage Center. We learned about the work to restore and rejuvenate the Appleton Opera House and Historic City Hall. We also heard from UMVRDC staff on the Minnesota Community Development Block Grant that the office helped secure. Because of this grant, the Appleton Heritage Center and other businesses in town have received HVAC and broadband improvements. Next, the tour took us to Prairie Playhouse Childcare Center and Appleton-Milan Elementary School to tour the facility and hear about the successful childcare operation. The tour concluded at the Appleton OHV Park where attendees heard about the work the County and the UMVRDC has done to help with park improvements.
After the tour, there was an open house held at the UMVRDC offices. Current and past board members and staff, as well as other key partners of the UMVRDC were in attendance. Current Board Chair, Ben Bothun, and Executive Director, Dawn Hegland, spoke on the important work the UMVRDC has done for the past 50 years and continues to do. Past and current board members and staff also had the chance to tell stories and reminisce on their time at the UMVRDC.
Attendees were then entertained by Danger Boat Productions who put on an interactive skit including trivia from the region. Audience participation provided lots of laughs. Shooters Bar and Grill catered supper and the evening concluded with the annual UMVRDC business meeting. Overall, the day was a success and a delight getting to interact with all those who have helped shape the history of the UMVRDC. Here’s to another 50 years!
UMVRDC Celebrates 50 Years
We are excited to welcome Brianne Nelsen to the UMVRDC! As a Community Development Specialist, Bri will be working on the MnDOT Transportation Planning Program, Safe Routes to School, Active Transportation, and the local food systems work the UMVRDC is just starting.
Read more about Bri and find her contact info here.
Meander celebrates its 20th year this weekend!
Don’t miss out on the 20th annual Meander this weekend – September 29, 30 & October 1! Meander through the beautiful fall colors of the Upper Minnesota River Valley visiting 33 studios featuring 43 local artists. Among those 43 artists are 10 new artists, contributing to the great variety of art you will find throughout the weekend. Browse and shop one-of-a-kind pieces of pottery, jewelry, paintings, photography, woodwork, mixed media, and so much more!Meander WebsiteMeander Brochure
The UMVRDC along with several economic development and workforce development partners from our region will be hosting a Workforce Summit on November 8th at Prairie’s Edge Casino Resort in Granite Falls. The event is targeted for area employers (HR, management, owners) and community leaders who are feeling the impacts of the current workforce shortage. There is a great line-up of speakers on a variety of topics including child care, housing, worker recruitment and retention, ESST/FMLA/leave laws, employer/youth connections, and workforce resources.
For more information on the event and to register, visit our website.
Transportation Grant Programs
Starting in October the MnDOT Transportation Alternatives (TA) Solicitation will begin. This program is a competitive grant opportunity for local communities to fund projects for pedestrian and bicycle facilities, historic preservation, Safe Routes to School projects and more.
- The Transportation Alternatives funding available through this solicitation is primarily for project construction in fiscal year 2028. It is possible that some money may be available in 2027 too.
- Transportation Alternatives funding requires a 20 percent local match.
- Applications require fully developed estimates and design concepts from licensed engineers or architects.
- All interested applicants are required to submit a Letter of Intent by November 3 . All letters of intent that are submitted in our region will be sent to our office for review and we will set up consultations to review the project idea with applicants.
- After LOIs are reviewed, full applications are due by January 12, 2024.
Who can apply
MnDOT determined that state aid cities (i.e. cities with population of over 5,000 persons) and counties are qualified recipients and the Transportation Alternatives solicitation requires their participation as a sponsor and/or applicant. If an eligible applicant is not a state aid city or county, then the applicant will need a state aid city or county to be a sponsor on their project. Examples of eligible local applicants include: cities, transit agency, DNR, school district, tribal government.
What is eligible
Construction, planning, and design of on-road and off-road trail facilities for pedestrians, bicyclists, and other nonmotorized forms of transportation, including sidewalks, bicycle infrastructure, pedestrian and bicycle signals, traffic calming techniques, lighting and other safety-related infrastructure, and transportation projects to achieve compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (42 U.S.C. 12101 et seq.). See the TA Solicitation Guidebook for more information about each program and additional eligibility requirements.
MnDOT also has some other related newer programs that also might be perfect to fund your local project. They have similar but different funding requirements and processes. Some of these programs will also start looking for project application letters of intent this fall and others will have applications after the first of the year.
NOW is the time to start gathering your materials for a possible project.
If you have questions, contact Dawn Hegland (320-289-1981 x 101, email@example.com) or Brianne Nelsen (320-289-1981 x 113, firstname.lastname@example.org) to talk you through the process and your project.
New Bike Racks and Bike “Fix-it” Station at CGB Schools
Biking to school and around the community just became more convenient in Graceville. The high school received bike racks with funds from Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT). Along with having a great place to park and lock your bike, the school district also received bike “fix-it” station that was installed this summer.
The fix-it station includes a pump to fill up a flat tire, a stand to lift the bike off the ground while working on it, and a tool kit with all the necessary tools to perform most routine maintenance and adjustments on most bikes. The fix-it station will be installed at the high school in Graceville. The bike racks and fix-it station are free for all to use.
The CGB School District used $5,000 in funding awarded to them by the MnDOT to pay for this equipment. The school district was also awarded an additional $38,515 from MnDOT to work with the UMVRDC to create Safe Routes to School plans for Clinton and Graceville school buildings. Through public outreach and assessment of current infrastructure and programs, the Safe Routes to School team was able to identify a list of potential infrastructure and non-infrastructure solutions to help more children walk and bicycle safely to school.
State Digital Equity/Opportunity Plan Draft Released
Digital Equity (now called Digital Opportunity) Summary and Update
In March, the UMVRDC was designated as a Digital Connection Committee by the DEED Office of Broadband Development (OBD). As such, the UMVRDC convened key stakeholders in the region and provided information to the State as they develop the statewide digital equity plan to understand what the digital inclusion needs and goals are in Minnesota. This was done in three ways:
- Information was collected on digital equity issues through a regional public survey;
- A focus group discussion was conducted; and,
- An inventory of available technology assets/services in our region was done through a targeted survey.
This work concluded at the end of June with the UMVRDC submitting its results and findings to the OBD to be included in the State’s digital equity (now called digital opportunity) plan.
What did we find out?
Through our focus group discussion with those representing agencies serving underserved populations, a broadband provider, and a few county departments, we learned that there is still a great need for digital literacy and inclusion support in our region. Participants indicated that many of the individuals in need of assistance end up seeking it “where they are.” For example, if someone needs help figuring out how to submit something electronically, they tend go to the department or agency asking for it or where they received some help in the past. Digital educational sessions have been offered around the region, but have recently been poorly attended. Libraries have been a great source of support and offer a variety of services, but often the demand exceeds what they are able to provide. Also, many of these folks don’t have the devices they need to carry out digital tasks (most just have phones).
Some of the ideas that came from the discussion include:
- Continue to work on expanding broadband availability
- Offer basic tech classes, especially for recent immigrants and non-English speaking residents
- ISPs could offer discounts on services for seniors if they take digital literacy class
- Staff a digital navigator position to provide regular tech support at various communities/locations in each county
Our public survey had 19 responses and revealed some of the same results, but overall, respondents appeared to be a little more tech-savvy. They utilize their local libraries or place of employment to access the internet if their home connection was slow or interrupted. For help with tech skills, they tend to reach out to family, friends, and co-workers. The affordability of devices and services and limited number of providers were also noted to be issues.
OBD Update and Save the Date(s) for Regional Digital Equity Gatherings
As of June 30, 2023, almost 80 Digital Connection Committees provided OBD with over 250 reports, datasets, survey results, and summaries, all focused on telling their communities’ digital inclusion stories.
A complete draft of the plan was released on August 21st, 2023. From August 21 to September 29, OBD conducted 17 meetings around the state as well as two virtual meetings to hear public comment and constructive feedback on the plan draft.
As a Digital Connection Committee, the UMVRDC will continue to share information related to the State’s Digital Opportunity Plan as it becomes available. For more information, visit DEED’s Office of Broadband website.
Funding Available for Business Start-Ups or Expansions
There is currently $1,160,000 available in the UMVRDC’s Revolving Loan Fund (RLF) to assist new and expanding business in our region. Since 1988, 157 loans have been made for a total of over $10 million providing access to affordable capital through gap financing for business start-ups or expansions within Big Stone, Swift, Chippewa, Lac qui Parle , and Yellow Medicine Counties. If you or someone you know is looking at a business start-up or expansion, please contact Dalen at the UMVRDC. We are here to help. To learn more about the RLF, visit our website.
UMVRDC Service Recognition
Congratulations to Dawn Hegland and Jackie Sigdahl on their years of service to the UMVRDC.
Dawn Hegland – 29 Years
Dawn started with the UMVRDC on August 1, 1994. Since than she has worked in several positions within the office and on various topics and issues affecting the region during that time. Dawn became the executive director of the agency in October 2008. She works diligently on several projects and connects daily with collaborators and other officials for the good of the region all while managing and overseeing her team of staff. Congratulations Dawn on beginning her 30th year of service to this region!
Jackie Sigdahl – 12 Years
Jackie joined the UMVRDC on September 6, 2011, as the administrative assistant where she continues to work hard and contribute her talents and efforts for the success of the UMVRDC. Jackie is the first point of contact when you enter our office. She spends a fair amount of time working on tasks with the finance department, manages board information and is always ready to assist where needed. Happy Anniversary Jackie!
September 29, 30 & October 1: Meander Art Crawl
Upper Minnesota River Valley
October 24: UMVRDC Monthly Meeting
Appleton Civic Center || 6:30 p.m.
November 8: Region 6W Workforce Summit
Prairie’s Edge Casino Resort ||8:30 a.m. – 3:30 a.m.
November 10: UMVRDC Office closed for Veteran’s Day Holiday
November 23 & 24: UMVRDC Office closed for Thanksgiving Holiday
November 28: UMVRDC Monthly Meeting
Appleton Civic Center || 6:30 p.m.
December 25: UMVRDC Office closed for Christmas Day Holiday