Rural Minnesota taps Global Marketplace with Broadband Grant
WINONA, Minn., May 17, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- As the Midwest's population increasingly gravitates to metropolitan areas, rural communities like Winona, Minn. are using grant money to help attract an educated workforce, advance local skills, and dispel the myth that rural communities don't have jobs and technology that today's workers want.
Internet access is critical to being a player in the global marketplace and rural communities need broadband technology to be economically competitive. To make broadband access attainable and strengthen workforces in rural Minnesota, a $4.8 million Minnesota Intelligent Rural Communities (MIRC) grant was awarded to the Blandin Foundation from the federal Broadband Technology Opportunities Program. In Winona (and statewide), funds are being used to develop workforce training for the unemployed, provide computer access for disadvantaged populations, and tailor resources for entrepreneurs and small businesses.
Winona has a unique problem that the $100,000 local grant is also addressing: the city needs to attract more workers to fill the jobs it has. Grant money is being used to create free wireless portals around the city that are comparable to similar offerings in urban centers.
With two universities, a technical college, and a history of entrepreneurial efforts, this scenic river town is long on innovation. The number of global companies that trace their roots to the city of 27,000 is notable by any standard, with many still headquartered there today. Global giants like Fastenal, Hal Leonard, Peerless Chain, Watkins, RTP and others.
Higher education, health care, arts and culture have risen to meet the needs of Winona's innovative business community, and now widely available broadband technology adds a crucial piece of the progressive puzzle. With slow population growth, the city needs more workers so local companies can continue to flourish.
Technology, business, and medical jobs are available, in a place modern job-seekers might not think to look. A place that's historic, contemporary, innovative, culture-rich, and a welcome alternative to the big-city grind. And now, well connected to the rest of the world.
Notes: for more on modern-day Winona, go to www.cityofwinona-mn.com. Grant money was also used in Winona to provide computer training to 60 Hmong refugees, and home computers to 40 Hmong refugee families, in partnership with PCs for People.
Carlos Espinoza, Assistant City Planner, City of Winona
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