It’s just three days away but there’s still time to register for a crucially important event in western Minnesota that will help create a more equitable prosperity for Minnesota. Our convening -- “Thriving by Design – Rural & Urban Together” -- is generating buzz and keen interest from many quarters. The gathering was the subject of a podcast last week on Synapse: Think Tank of the Air at WCCO Radio. Jane Leonard and Dane Smith, current and former presidents of Growth & Justice, were featured on Roberta Martin’s Community Empowerment show promoting the event. Please register now for this June 27-29 gathering -- space is filling up -- for this signature event of 2018, held at the Upper Sioux Community and in Granite Falls. Participants will co-create the beginnings of a unifying “One Minnesota Equity Blueprint,’’ a new social contract that heals our divisions: the rural-metro divide, racial injustice, overall economic inequality and environmental degradation. Registration options include participating as an official delegate in the six-month blueprint development, or as a general participant in the Granite Falls kick-off gathering. More information on the gathering, entitled “Thriving by Design, Rural & Urban Together,” is available on our website. Our partner in this event is OneMN.org, an organization focused statewide on building our “ethnic capital” and working toward racial equity in business and economic development. Their motto -- “Building Shared Sustainable Prosperity’’ -- resonates strongly with our own mission statement. Please spread the word, even if you cannot attend.
If you are traveling to our event in Granite Falls along Highway 212, be aware that you will be travelling the historic Yellowstone Trail, which is the focus of emerging new “placemaking” initiative by civic leaders in western Minnesota. Scott Tedrick, editor of the Renville County Register, tells us that the route, running from Plymouth Rock to Puget Sound, was one of the first three transnational highways in the United States. It was created, without federal government involvement, through the cooperative relationships between trail communities. Its most notable champion, the indomitable and severely handicapped Michael J. Dowling, former Minnesota House Speaker, held residences in the Yellowstone Trail communities of Granite Falls, Renville and Olivia (his burial site). Earlier this year––exactly 100 years after Dowling served as President of the national Yellowstone Trail Alliance (YTA)––the Yellowstone Trail Alliance of Western Minnesota was formed to lift these legacies and to develop an alignment of art, historic, cultural and recreational assets along the Yellowstone Trail.
Growth & Justice Senior Fellow Dane Smith teamed up with central Minnesota economic development leader Cheryal Lee Hills to produce a powerfully optimistic Star Tribune commentary Sunday June 15, outlining a host of constructive policies and strategies for more equitable growth in Greater Minnesota. We urged voters and candidates to steer away from regional divisiveness and hostility to newcomers, and to embrace the statewide strategies in the DevelopMN plan, created recently by the state’s 10 regional development organizations. The DevelopMN framework, based on decades of local hands-on experience, pinpoints 17 goals and 58 strategies for more equitable growth. Those strategies include: improving local and vocational employment training; building more affordable housing; addressing a child-care-shortage crisis; accelerating our statewide transition to renewable and local energy; protecting water quality and natural resources (a huge asset that makes rural living attractive in the first place); building out broadband and high-speed internet access; bringing many more arts and cultural amenities to Main Street; supporting existing local businesses; and all the while emphasizing the need to welcome and be more attractive to newcomers and immigrants, whether from Minneapolis or Myanmar.
“This holistic perspective is so important. Our good life in Minnesota has been made possible by people and leaders who understood the importance of everyone doing better. If we are not welcoming, and if we are not bringing everybody in our regions to opportunity, our economy and our long-term economic prosperity will suffer.”—Bob McLean, Cass County business executive and renewable-energy entrepreneur, from Star Tribune article cited above.