Bemidji, MN – February 24, 2017 – Members of IMPACT 20/20 recently spent the day at the State Capitol engaging law makers about the issues impacting economic prosperity and growth in Northwest Minnesota.
IMPACT 20/20 is an influential group of Northwest Minnesota leaders representing diverse interests and working together for the region’s economic success. Established in 2008, IMPACT 20/20 members have worked collaboratively to improve economic conditions in the region by focusing on four key areas: education, workforce, broadband, and housing.
The goal of the visit was to highlight issues in these key areas, and offer legislative solutions to help grow the economy of Northwest Minnesota.
According to the most recent data from the Minnesota Office of Broadband Technology, access to broadband at target speeds varies greatly by county and area in Northwest Minnesota. IMPACT 20/20 members encouraged a minimum of $100 million biennium investment into broadband access and adoption.
Currently, Minnesota ranks 47th in the nation for access to school counselors, leaving our region’s students unaware of career opportunities available. IMPACT 20/20 encouraged lawmakers to increase permanent formula-based funding to independent school districts for school counselors and student support staff to improve Minnesota’s rank to the top 10% in the nation for school counselor-to-student ratio.
They also urged for more flexible state funding for various housing programs to address shortages in workforce housing in our region’s communities. More flexible state funding will allow more of our region’s communities to be successful in putting together viable, competitive housing projects.
Lastly, businesses in Northwest Minnesota struggle to hire employees to fill open positions, due to the lack of quality child care. Opportunities were discussed that would benefit employees, business owners, and child care providers.
“The IMPACT 20/20 members had a very productive day speaking with the region’s representatives, senators and chairs of sub-committees,” said Northwest Minnesota Foundation’s Vice President for Programs, Karen White. “It’s important we raise awareness and offer legislative solutions that will help our region grow.”
Back row, L to R: Mike St. Onge, Craig Nathan, Mark Finstad, Dick Sjoberg
Front row, L to R: Tim Flathers, Nancy Vyskocil, Dawn Ganje
Not Pictured: Karen White, Dennis Bona, Cam Fanfulik, Brian Wikstrom, Dan King, Sue Hilgart and Ashley Johnson