By Ann Treacy
If a community is only as strong as its weakest link, how can we encourage stronger linkage across all of Minnesota’s counties?
“Minnesota’s latest Census figures don’t paint a promising future for many rural communities. In fact, of the 37 counties that lost population since the 2000 Census all but one were rural. Now most towns rely on the strength of their nearby regional center for survival, making adequate infrastructure crucial to the countryside’s preservation.”
That may sounds like a rural issue, especially to folks living outside rural areas – but another recent report from the Minnesota Rural Partners indicates that there are inter-dependencies between rural and urban areas demonstrating that what happens in rural, doesn’t stay in rural– it trickles and flows to urban counterparts.
Some highlights from the report which really make that point:
- Minnesota’s urban region receives substantial economic benefits from improved prosperity among its rural neighbors.
- If rural Minnesota’s manufacturing cluster experiences a 6 percent growth in output ($1 billion), the urban area picks up 16 percent of all the jobs gained and 38 percent of all additional output.
- The reverse is also true: a $1 billion decrease in manufacturing output in rural Minnesota results in 1,043 jobs lost and a loss of $207, 822,848 in revenue among Twin Cities area businesses.
Broadband is an infrastructure that can be a great equalizer. Just one application – remote access to meetings – removes the barrier of distance between doctor & patient, improves teacher to student interactions and facilitates more business deals.
Economic developers have called out broadband as a tool they need. Last Fall, when Craig Settles surveyed economic developers, most made a connection between broadband and economic development in terms of community, business and personal economic growth.
Young people have said broadband plays a role in where they choose to live. Also last Fall, at the Blandin Foundation Fall Broadband conference, several students from University of Minnesota Morris spoke about what would entice them to stay or move to rural areas.
Broadband was one answer – students from rural communities were especially interested in staying in rural communities but recognized that they had become accustomed to broadband and would have a difficult time giving it up.
But broadband, especially in rural areas requires investment. I think it’s an investment that will pay off – but an investment nonetheless. There are two meetings coming up with the Twin Cities that will address rural broadband issues; anyone interested in learning more might put these events on your calendar:
Broadband Breakfast Briefing – March 30 – 7:30 am to 9 am, Kelly Inn in St. Paul.
Rural Urban Interdependencies Forum – April 5 – 1:00 to 6:00 pm, University of Minnesota St. Paul Campus