GRAND RAPIDS, Minn. – Blandin Foundation announced today that it has awarded six grants totaling $113,900 to support rural Minnesota communities as they grow high-speed Internet access and use in their communities.
Long Prairie will develop a business plan to build a fiber-to-the-home network, Project FINE out of Winona County will support refugee and immigrant entrepreneurs looking to develop their online business presence, and Red Wing Ignite is set to host their second-annual Red Hot Hack (an event where tech experts gather to develop applications that address community issues). [note to editor: a complete list of grants follows]
Blandin Foundation also awarded $47,500 to PCs for People as they distribute 500 refurbished computers in rural Minnesota communities. As a long-time Blandin Foundation partner in digital inclusion, PCs for People has delivered 2,500 computers to qualifying households to help enhance recipients’ quality of life by staying connected to the people they care about and the information they need.
“Internet access – and the skills to use it – are essential to sustaining vibrant communities in the 21st century,” said Dr. Kathy Annette, Blandin Foundation CEO. “Minnesota’s rural leaders such as these are rallying their communities to ensure all residents can thrive in a digitally-connected world.”
Blandin Foundation has worked with dozens of rural Minnesota communities since 2003 as local leaders tackle the challenges of connectivity and use of high-speed Internet. The work of some of these communities was featured in a report released January 14 by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. Commenting on the 11 rural Minnesota communities that participated in Blandin Foundation’s Minnesota Intelligent Rural Communities (MIRC) program, the report found that the strong local leadership in these communities led to 32,730 hours of Digital Literacy and Workforce and Economic Development training and resulted in 56,663 new household broadband subscribers in rural Minnesota. MIRC was funded, in large part, through the federal Broadband Technology Opportunities Program, a program of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
This report is being released in support of President Obama’s announcement of White House plans to support the expansion of a national movement of local leaders for better broadband, and of the Department of Commerce’s new BroadbandUSA initiative to promote broadband deployment and adoption.
“It is gratifying to see the federal government–and the president himself–recognize the important role of local leadership in helping communities secure a technologically-enhanced future,” said Bernadine Joselyn, Blandin Foundation’s director of public policy and engagement. “Blandin Foundation is honored to support these grantees as they work to ensure that their residents are not left behind.”