Red Wing Ignite, a Red Wing economic development organization, was one of 44 organizations chosen to receive a grant through the U.S. Department of Commerce’s 2019 i6 Challenge and 2019 Seed Fund Support programs.
On Tuesday, the DOC announced that a total of $23 million will be distributed to the organizations, with other private and public sector sources contributing a total of $26 million in matching funds.
Red Wing Ignite was the only Minnesota organization to be named as a winner this year. Founded in 2013 by community leaders and billed as a project to “Ignite Innovation in Rural Minnesota,” the nonprofit connects entrepreneurs, investors, and advisors through events, collaborative work spaces, and varied programming, resource-sharing, and amenities.
As an i6 Challenge winner, Red Wing Ignite will receive $750,000 from the DOC, along with $940,602 matched by local entities in cash and in-kind support. It’s the most substantial grant in the organization’s history.
“This is a tremendous opportunity for a small town,” says Neela Mollgaard, Red Wing Ignite executive director. “It’s very validating that the work we’ve done over the last six years has been noticed and there’s dollars to continue to enhance and build on what’s been started.”
Mollgaard says the capital will expand the organization’s capacity to provide regional connectivity—with a specific goal of helping advance 30 entrepreneurs, providing talent for 15 employers, and preparing 75 students for the workforce.
“It will definitely keep our region competitive by providing greater opportunity for our students, entrepreneurs, and business community,” adds Mollgaard.
The non-profit’s capital contributors include the Blandin Foundation, City of Red Wing, Jones Family Foundation, Red Wing Shoe Foundation, Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation, and Goodhue County. More than a dozen other public and private entities offered letters of support or in-kind commitments.
“This took a lot of work over many years to build these foundations, and the partnerships were a key part of receiving this grant,” says Mollgaard. “Together, we were stronger.”
Red Wing Ignite was among 26 winners in the i6 division this year. The i6 Challenge focuses on increasing productivity and accelerating growth, while the Seed Fund Support program aims to provide financing for technical assistance to create or expand equity-based, industry-specific funds focused on supporting regional startups. This year, 18 winners were chosen for the Seed Fund Support program.
The programs are part of the Economic Development Administration’s (EDA) annual Regional Innovation Strategies (RIS) competition.
The 2019 competition saw 183 applicants—40 for the Seed Fund Support program, and more than 140 for the i6 program.
Red Wing Ignite’s fellow winners span various industries and states. Other grantees from the Midwest include the St. Louis-based ag tech research and development center BioGenerator and the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha.
For a full list of i6 Challenge grantees, click here, and for a full list of Seed Fund Support grantees, click here.