Ingenuity Frontier Cluster Development Project

Northwest Minnesota will soon be known as the Ingenuity Frontier, the place for knowledge and innovation in the field of applied engineering.  For the past four years, the Headwaters RDC has been working in close partnership with the Northwest MN Foundation (NMF), Northwest Technical College (NTC), Bemidji State University (BSU) and the MN Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) to identify and build upon the Region’s largest cluster of knowledge: applied engineering.  Our goals have been to:

  • Attract, educate and train the best and the brightest technicians and applied engineers in the upper Midwest.
  • Provide career path opportunities focused on applied engineering, manufacturing and technology for our own students starting at the middle school level.
  • Be on the leading edge of industry innovation through state-of-the-art technology and industry-led research and development.

Why applied engineering?  First, we already have a competitive edge in the field.  Per capita, the region has one of the highest concentrations of engineering and engineering type positions in the upper Midwest.  Secondly, applied engineering skills are highly in demand.  Project growth in the market for applied engineering skills is strong, and they are very good jobs.  Finally, the need for applied engineering spans a number of industries prevalent in our region, from recreational vehicles to agricultural and forest products.

The partnership is presently in the process of implementing a targeted Investment Strategy which will further the region’s competitive edge.

The Ingenuity Frontier’s most recent strategy has been to introduce the IDEA project.  The IDEA Competition is well underway. Competition partners have been impressed with both the number and the quality of the ideas that have been presented. Who will the winners be? Well, we don’t know the answer to that question yet, but the award announcements will be made on May 12 at the Northwest Minnesota Foundation’s Regional Summit – Igniting Innovation: Starting, Sustaining and Growing Business. The Summit will be held at the University of Minnesota Crookston.

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Rural Energy Development Initiative (REDI)

The Rural Energy Development Initiative (REDI) is a statewide wind energy project administered by the Southwest Initiative Foundation (SWIF) and is sponsored by the State of Minnesota and the Center for Rural Policy and Development. The goal of REDI is to maximize rural economic development and stabilize rural economies by building renewable energy capacity, expertise, and leadership through the State of Minnesota.

This goal will be accomplished by providing organizing and technical assistance to rural entities seeking to develop wind energy projects for the purpose of selling the energy to an electric utility and by raising awareness of the local economic, community and environmental benefits of renewable energy development, energy conservation and efficiency. 

SWIF has established a group of Regional Organizers across the State.  The Headwaters RDC is working as the Regional Organizer for Beltrami, Clearwater, Hubbard, Lake of the Woods, and Mahnomen counties.

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Blackduck Business Development Strategy

The Blackduck area is in an economically challenging position.  Its location near a growing regional center (Bemidji) provides some significant challenges for the local businesses. At the same time, its location provides potential opportunities as well.  A large potential customer base within 25 miles is an opportunity that most small, rural communities do not have.  The questions the Blackduck Development Strategy will investigate are “What opportunities for business development could work to expand the local Blackduck economy?”; and, “What business and community development ideas would effectively take advantage of the Blackduck community’s assets and location?”

To effectively answer the questions above, the Headwaters Regional Development Commission will identify models for growth and economic development using assessments of businesses that have thrived in markets similar to Blackduck in population, demographics and geographic proximity to a regional center. This search will focus on communities in northern Minnesota northwestern Wisconsin, and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, which share similar regional characteristics as Blackduck.

This effort will identify opportunities to enhance local economic and business growth by capitalizing on the inherited assets of Blackduck.  Identifying businesses that will thrive in Blackduck will create many benefits for the community.  Additional businesses will be created that will generate jobs, increase the tax base, and expand the service and retail options for the community.

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Lake of the Woods County Business and Talent Marketing Plan

The Lake of the Woods County Business and Talent Marketing Plan will focus on overcoming one of the most critical challenges facing Lake of the Woods County.  Like many rural areas, the Lake of the Woods community is faced with a declining population. As a result, the school population is declining and businesses are closing. Furthermore, a small labor force prevents the attraction of larger employers.

This project will focus on finding a way to integrate Lake of the Woods County’s unique assets to develop a marketing effort focused on attracting individuals back to Lake of the Woods County where they can grow their entrepreneurial ideas.

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White Earth Economic Development Strategy

The White Earth Reservation has selected the Headwaters RDC to facilitate an economic development planning process. The Headwaters RDC is working with the White Earth Reservation Office of Economic Development to coordinate and facilitate the development of this economic development plan. Under the leadership of these organizations, an Economic Development Taskforce was created by selecting diverse individuals and organizations to help guide the project.  The goal of this project will be to create a development strategy to ensure the White Earth Reservation is able to compete in a transformed global economy. 

This project will coordinate the efforts of individuals, organizations, tribal government, and private industry concerned with economic development. The project is intended to help create jobs, foster more stable and diversified economies, and improve living conditions for the White Earth Reservation. By providing a forum to identify problems and opportunities and analyze the White Earth Reservation’s economy, the project should help local areas coordinate their programs and activities to maximize their resources.

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Headwaters Renewable Energy Collaboration

It is clear that a shift towards renewable energy is gaining momentum in the United States.  This shift presents rural communities, such as those in the Headwaters Region, new opportunities for economic development.  Renewable energy not only offers an alternative to fossil fuels, but also acts as a potential source for economic growth.  The benefits of this growth come in various forms, including job creation, diversified tax revenue and increased ability to compete as a Region. 

The Headwaters Renewable Energy Collaboration is a region-wide renewable energy project led by the Headwaters RDC. The goal of this initiative is for the Region to become a leading center of production for renewable energy goods and services.

The project will create opportunities in renewable energy by creating a regional strategy that will bring together diverse individuals and organizations with a common interest to set the Region up for success in this growing industry.

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