Arrowhead Intelligent Region
A partnership to deliver on a broadband-fueled economy in NE Minnesota
If the pandemic has taught us anything, it is that when it comes to broadband, access denied is opportunity denied.
The Arrowhead Intelligent Region (AIR) initiative brings together northeastern Minnesota economic and community developers to identify and fund projects across the seven-county Arrowhead region that will:
- improve broadband infrastructure
- build a knowledge workforce
- incent innovation
- ensure digital equality
- enable community engagement
- ensure environmental and social sustainability
This approach combines an understanding that broadband is essential infrastructure, while emphasizing that communities’ use of broadband drives economic competitiveness. It builds on and brings to regional scale the Intelligent Community framework used to date by 10 Iron Range communities to develop and implement projects that deliver on the promise of a broadband-fueled economy. Blandin Foundation and Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation are committing funds to create a grant pool for regional projects emerging from this process.
To identify opportunities and projects to fund, Blandin and Intelligent Community Forum staff spent the final quarter of 2020 collecting and compiling information for a benchmarking exercise that compares the Arrowhead Region to more than 400 communities around the globe on the framework’s elements: infrastructure, workforce, innovation, digital equity, community engagement, and sustainability. The information was submitted to ICF for analysis: Arrowhead Region Analytics Data Form.
In April 2021, ICF staff shared the results of their analysis of the entire Arrowhead Region, and of five sub-regions:
Arrowhead Intelligent Region Process:
The initiative launched with the February 10 Summit and the learning continued with the subsequent webinar series. On March 12, nearly 40 stakeholders attended the Project Development meeting to discuss potential grant ideas and form small groups to explore implementing those projects. The first round of grants were awarded in June 2021. View the grants list here.
Second round grant applications are due August 2, 2021. See below for grant application instructions, and click here to watch our July 8 AIR Initiative recap and round II grants webinar.