Articles from the Center for Community Vitality's Vital Connections newsletter
“Green” and sustainable building construction, social network game development, solar panel manufacturing, pilates and yoga studios–these are a few of the fastest growing industries across the United States in the past decade. Local food growers are working to have their day in the sun, too. And rural leaders are anxious to see how local food production might diversify and strengthen their economy–adding local producers to traditional agriculture, manufacturing, education and health care as economic drivers in Greater Minnesota.
Retail is a mainstay for Minnesota’s economy, accounting for 5.4 percent of the state’s economic output and 282,700 part-time and full-time jobs. That’s an important contribution. But look deeper. The contributions of Minnesota’s shops and retail go beyond economic success. “Minnesota’s communities need a strong retail sector,” says Matt Kane, program leader for Extension’s Community Economics programs. “Successful retail keeps communities vibrant. And the civic contributions of retailers can’t be overlooked. From supporting a local sports team to spearheading community events, retailers keep communities vital. Some also create public spaces where community conversations happen.”
Minnesota State Economist Tom Stinson is bullish on Minnesota. "Minnesota has been very successful – especially for a cold weather state at the end of the road," says Stinson, a University of Minnesota Extension economist and a professor of Applied Economics. But what about the future? "That's unclear," Stinson says. "Recent economic and demographic events have changed the outlook as far as we can see."
Photo: Explore Minnesota Tourism
You could travel around the world to attract new jobs to your town, but you're probably better off staying at home.
More and more, a big task of local leaders is to find the next generation of people willing to lead. This can be a challenge in rural Minnesota when populations are aging and smaller populations must manage a number of local government and non-profit organizations.
The last full-service grocery store in Duluth's Lincoln Park neighborhood closed more than 30 years ago, leaving residents stranded in a "food desert."
Photo by Codie Leseman
"Jobs, jobs, jobs." It's a common refrain at political rallies, and some variation is often heard at community meetings. But a community's economic well-being is more complex than that.
Everybody seems to love lists. But are they useful? The authors of a recent study by the University of Minnesota Center for Urban and Regional Affairs (CURA) believe theirs is.
In the 1950's, most rural Minnesota communities could afford to go it alone. But in the 2010's, rural economies are growing more diverse, more regional and more global. So community leaders understand that they must look beyond their geographic boundaries as they think about the future.
Spring 2012, Updated
It's time to bust some myths. Contrary to popular perception, small towns in Minnesota are not losing people of all ages, nor are all small towns dying. In many cases people moving into rural communities offset, or surpass the numbers of those moving away. Ben Winchester, research fellow with the Extension Center for Community Vitality, calls this trend "the brain gain of the newcomers."
Read the report (1.47 MB PDF)
"What do you do for fun around here?" When visitors come to your town, replies to this question can make or break their impression of your community.
Think you don't live in a tourist town? Think again. Every town has visitors–people spending holidays with relatives; people who come through town on business; guests at weddings or funerals; relatives coming for a family reunion.
When visitors recall a memorable trip or vacation, they talk about three things: What they saw; what they did; and the people they met. But not just the staff at the resort or the canoe-rental place. Community members, too.
What would happen to the state's economy if rural Minnesota went away? Would the Twin Cities area notice? You bet it would, according to a new paradigm-shifting study that shows just how intertwined the economies of rural and urban Minnesota are.
Some rural Minnesota businesses have embraced the Internet enthusiastically, while others are waking up to the possibilities. There's more to this, of course, and the Extension Center for Community Vitality has gained some valuable insights through its participation in the Minnesota Intelligent Rural Communities (MIRC) initiative.
The U.S. Census Bureau has begun releasing 2010 census data, and the process will continue through the rest of the year and beyond. During the wait, community decision-makers can get ready by shaping questions and discussions that might be affected by the census, as well as by informing themselves about changes that will affect available data.
Census data collected in 2010 have begun to trickle into public decision making. And that's a good thing. Why? Because reliable data, interpreted properly, can help communities thrive.
Why are some communities more able to plan and make changes than others? Why do some get stuck, while others have a "spark" that leads to highly successful initiatives? Extension researchers Scott Chazdon and Stephanie Lott set out to learn what constitutes "community readiness" and why it's so important.