Blandin Foundation, Grand Rapids

Award Category: Innovative Collaboration of the Year
Blandin Foundation, Grand Rapids

In 2010, a $4.86 million federal grant to the Blandin Foundation enabled 19 rural Minnesota communities to collaborate to try to cross a “digital divide.” Many residents and business owners in the state are not yet taking advantage of online technologies. The Minnesota Intelligent Rural Communities (MIRC) initiative funds 70 projects that promote the use of high-speed broadband. MIRC targets rural job seekers, small businesses that haven’t yet adopted Internet technologies, local governments, and 11 demonstration communities. Efforts include enhancing access to training and online learning at work force centers, and helping businesses use the Internet more effectively and providing them with technical support. Surveys show that these efforts have resulted in more than 12,300 new broadband subscribers in rural Minnesota.