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Arrowhead Leaders Champion New Ways to Connect through Broadband Grants

Grand Rapids, MINN (Oct 13, 2021) – People living in Northeast Minnesota will have new opportunities to connect and strengthen their communities with the help of eight Arrowhead Intelligent Region (AIR) initiative grants. Nearly a half million dollars have been granted this year through the AIR program to propel community aspirations around digital access and use.

“Despite this stressful, uncertain year, rural leaders in the Arrowhead Region continue to roll up their sleeves, creating more opportunities for community connection and growth,” said Tuleah Palmer, Blandin Foundation president and CEO. “Their tenacity and courage to forge new, digitally-connected paths for all people living in the region is inspiring.”

AIR brings together Northeast Minnesota leaders to identify and fund projects that engage communities to improve access to broadband, build jobs in, and training for, digital-based careers, spur new ways to use technology, and advance fair access to technology. It is a project facilitated by Blandin Foundation and Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation, with additional support from the Northland Foundation.

“Our agency was pleased to support this region-wide initiative that brings northeastern Minnesota closer to a broadband-fueled economy,” said Commissioner Mark Phillips, Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation. “Advancing broadband in our region is an economic and public safety necessity. Our businesses, workers, families, schools, students, senior citizens and communities rely on broadband like never before. Broadband is and will continue to be interconnected with the economy and education at all levels.”

Itasca Economic Development Corporation is creating a new space in Itasca County for job training, developing career pathways for youth and supporting budding entrepreneurs with the help of a $50,000 AIR grant. Working with regional partners, new programming in manufacturing, trades and engineering will be available to community members. Future training will be developed to build the skills of local people needed for digital-based careers.

With support from a $50,000 AIR grant, The Lighthouse Center for Vital Living will help alleviate loneliness and isolation among Arrowhead seniors by increasing access to, and use of, technology. Engagement groups will be created in collaboration with organizations regionwide to offer new ways for seniors to connect.

Sixty to eighty small businesses in the Arrowhead Region will work with the Small Business Development Center to find ways to better use technology to increase revenue or simplify processes. A $50,000 grant will give participating businesses access to funds to make changes that grow their business.

A full list of AIR funded projects can be found at https://blandin-staging.bicycletheory.net/programs/broadband/arrowhead-intelligent-region/.

AIR is the third broadband-focused partnership between Blandin Foundation and Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation. From 2017 to 2020, two cohorts of Iron Range communities worked through a proven process to define technology goals, measure current levels of broadband access and use and develop projects to meet their goals through the Blandin Broadband Communities Program. More on this work at https://broadband.blandinfoundation.org.

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