Lt. Gov. Smith discusses 'exciting' collaborations with Red Wing Ignite

Red Wing Ignite Representatives met with Lt. Gov. Smith

Red Wing Ignite Representatives met with Lt. Gov. Smith

By Maureen McMullen on Oct 19, 2016 at 11:37 a.m.

Lt. Gov. Tina Smith visited with Red Wing Ignite representatives and toured the building Thursday as part of her "87 Counties in 86 Days" tour, which also included visits to Dodge and Wabasha counties this week.

Community representatives including Mayor Dan Bender, City Council Administrator Kay Kuhlman, Port Authority President Scott Adkisson and Red Wing Schools Supt. Karsten Anderson joined Ignite Executive Director Neela Mollgaard and Program Coordinator Shannon Harris to discuss the organization's impact on the community's economy and entrepreneurial efforts. Sen. Matt Schmit also attended.

Adkisson, an Ignite board member, explained the organization's mission to help Red Wing on the map, in the state and nationally, as an "entrepreneurial spirit community."

"An entrepreneur myself for the last 40 years as a business owner, there's not a lot of support for our dream," he said. "So, we thought what we needed to do was go after support for entrepreneurs so that they have the best opportunity to build a business and not just take their dreams and watch them fail."

Anderson described the collaborations between Ignite and the school district, including the development of a curriculum for a computer coding class — a resource he says is crucial, but lacking in most schools.

"It pains me to know that throughout Minnesota and throughout our country, we've reduced that kind of educational opportunities for kids," said Anderson, whose education career began teaching a high school computer programming class. "Our schools just don't have that kind of programming anymore."

Smith said she was impressed by the organization's community-wide collaborations to foster talent, workforce and access to capital.

"You can just see what can be accomplished when you've got the kind of collaboration that is happening here in Red Wing," she said. "They are creating a real physical and virtual ecosystem for entrepreneurship in the region and in this community with Red Wing Ignite, and that's really exciting."

During the meeting, Mollgaard identified funding as one of Ignite's primary challenges.

"When we talk about the future, I feel very confident that what we're doing is what we're supposed to be doing," she said. "We have the groundwork laid, but I think what we're finding is the biggest challenge that always comes up is funding."

Red Wing, she said, faces a unique struggle in gaining funding: Although the community's population can't compete with cities that have a larger university system, Red Wing's low rate of unemployment and poverty disqualify the city from certain federal grants.

She also floated the idea of appropriation funding.

Smith mentioned a number of avenues through which organizations like Ignite might gain funding, including angel tax credit and the Minnesota Job Creation Fund.

"What I heard today was important feedback that sometimes those efforts seem to focus most on bigger companies, and we need to keep our eye on the bigger opportunity for smaller companies," she said. "Also the state and the legislature need to do their part by funding those strategies that we know work."

Letter to the Editor: Ignite internship helps advance economy

Red Wing Ignite Tech Interns: 2016

Red Wing Ignite Tech Interns: 2016

I came to Red Wing for the first time this summer to take advantage of one of the three tech internship opportunities offered through Red Wing Ignite. If the word “internship” makes you think of a position doing cheap, trivial work primarily for the sake of corporate recruiting, my experience was something very different. 

During a period of two to three months, my employers depended on me to build, from the ground up, a new web application that employees would be using on a daily basis. Together my team of three interns provided solutions for four local organizations that might have otherwise left their tech-related needs unaddressed. 

I found the experience quite worthwhile from my own perspective as well. Apart from helping the Red Wing community, it helped me to gain new vocation-specific technical skills as well as the confidence to know that I’m able to finish such a large-scale project well beyond the scope of my undergraduate coursework.

College students studying computer science and information technology have a lot more power than members of that age group have ever had before. In their early 20s, without a ton of professional experience, they already have the ability to turn ideas into big-name websites, help existing companies function efficiently enough to stay competitive and play a central role in building our increasingly technology-dependent society. Even in a small town like Red Wing, there are plenty of areas for young students at nearby colleges to make a big contribution.

But these internships are also important for the future. Not only do they help prepare local college students to join the workforce of tomorrow, but they also help convince them to start their careers in the Minnesota area, not run off to the West Coast to find work as tech-minded college students are apt to do. It’s clear that these internships are a great opportunity for everyone involved and will help advance the local economy in years to come.

Jonah Tuchow

Northfield, Minn.

Jonah Tuchow was a Red Wing Ignite Tech Intern and attends Carleton College.

Rural tech startups see success across the US

While tech startups have become synonymous with urban areas that offer improved access to talent, resources and infrastructure, the reality is that rural areas are also home to startups.

This may come as a surprise to those who have moved away from rural areas specifically to find a job in the tech industry..

Red Wing Ignite Offers a Chance to Ignite Passion in Teenagers

Photo credit: Technovation MN

Photo credit: Technovation MN

Teens can learn to build and market their own app – for FREE

What ignites passion in your teen? Sports? Video games? Perhaps you don’t know, or perhaps they haven’t quite found their passion yet. I felt the same way in high school. Whilst I watched others playing their sports, joining the cheerleading team and more, I wondered what my calling might be. And then one day, I gave a speech in speech class. I was terrified. Mine was a demonstration speech about how to make coffee. I started by pulling the carafe out of a bag, and it fell to the ground and broke. I gave the entire speech with a pretend coffee pot, and was mortified and shaking. When my speech was over, the teacher said to me, “Why don’t you join the speech team? You have a great voice!” I really couldn’t believe it. I was pretty sure I was the worst speaker on the planet and thought it was only a matter of time before the teacher himself started laughing. I have no idea what made me say, ‘yes’, but I did join the speech team. And I competed at the state level competition two times! I am now 46 years old, and I love public speaking. It all started with the spark of something I had no idea I would enjoy.

Red Wing Ignite - Developers

One thing we are very lucky for in the fine city of Red Wing is that Red Wing Ignite, a local not-for-profit technology organization, works hard to promote technology and tries to get grants that can really help people. One of their most recent grants is for a class for high-school students, to teach them how to build and market an app. The program is FREE for them! It’s a 12 week program that meets 1-2 times per week, and includes the learning of how to use an app builder, how to plan for it, market it, and promote it. Where else can students get this knowledge, and for FREE? The class requires a time commitment and it won’t necessarily be easy every step of the way. But it’s worth it. Your teen might even find their calling!

Photo credit: Technovation MN

Photo credit: Technovation MN

Click here for more details (on page 17) or call Red Wing Community Education at (651) 385-4565. I am teaching the class, along with Tao Peng. If you prefer to contact me directly for more information about the class, please feel free to do so! Email me at stephjo@redwing.net.

Small Towns, Big Ideas

South Eastern Minnesota

South Eastern Minnesota

NOTE: Follow Up to Southeast Minnesota explores how to make hay in the emerging creative economy

The McKnight Foundation commissioned writer Jay Walljasper to do a series of reports looking at the prospects and challenges in Minnesota’s 80 counties outside the metro area. According to Jay, "a cloudy economic picture emerges in recent figures from the Minnesota’s Department of Employment and Economic Development.

This is the the first report, focusing on Southeast Minnesota.

Southeast Minnesota explores how to make hay in the emerging creative economy

A Cloudy Economic Picture for Rural Minnesota

Red Wing Iron Works

The McKnight Foundation commissioned writer Jay Walljasper to do a series of reports looking at the prospects and challenges in Minnesota’s 80 counties outside the metro area. According to Jay, "a cloudy economic picture emerges in recent figures from the Minnesota’s Department of Employment and Economic Development. There are more than two job seekers for every position open — with 45 percent of those jobs part-time. The median wage for all jobs is $11 an hour, while DEED’s cost-of-living research shows $14.50 is necessary to support a family in Southeast. Three Southeast counties — Winona, Mower and Fillmore — have poverty rates above the state average. Meanwhile, broadband connections are spotty in some places and firms face steep hurdles in attracting young talent. 

The Solution?

The key to success in the changing economy of the 21st century “is for a community to be specialized — have something they are known for,” explains Tom Fisher, dean of the University of Minnesota’s College of Design and a national authority in the new field of community resilience. “And not just low wages or soybeans, which leaves you vulnerable if a decision in some far-off city closes a factory or changes the price of a crop. Small towns need help gaining the confidence to go in a new direction and stand out — that’s what you need to thrive.”

Red Wing Community & Red Wing Ignite

"...Red Wing’s key assets: the river, the bluffs, downtown’s central role in the community, proximity to the Twin Cities, the elegant city-owned Sheldon Theater, a strong historic preservation ethic, a growing arts and handicrafts community, unique locally-owned businesses, growing ethnic diversity as seen by three Mexican groceries, low rent in handsome old buildings and, most of all, people embracing a big vision for the community.

What Red Wing Ignite is Doing about it

The Red Wing Ignite Innovation Center is a locally grown initiative partnering with US Ignite, a project of the National Science Foundation and the White House for making sure the next generation of Internet applications creates wider public benefits. In addition to state-of-the-art Gigabit Internet service reaching all households in town by the end of the year, Red Wing Ignite has launched a business accelerator connecting entrepreneurs with investors, mentors, and regional and national partners. They also host regular educational and networking events as well providing offices and meeting venues at a new co-working space in the former Red Wing Shoe headquarters downtown.

Additionally, Red Wing enjoys high levels of civic involvement, as seen in Live Healthy Red Wing, a coalition of 10 organizations promoting better health through projects like walking and biking guides, safe routes to school plans, community gardens, school nutrition programs and improvements to crosswalks and park trails. “People are drawn to big cities that are healthy,” says coordinator Michelle Leise, “and the same goes for smaller towns where you can walk, bike, garden and connect with people.”

John Becker muses how Red Wing could look in a few years: “The schools are full, there’s a strong sense of community and purpose, there are plenty of public gathering places, the city is more walkable and bikeable with lots of business opportunities, lots of independently-owned businesses, not a lot of franchises and large parking lots, everyone knows their neighbors.”

Please sign up for our newsletter to keep up to date on innovation in Minnesota


Red Wing Ignite and Mayo Clinic Business Accelerator to host a joint startup Demo Day

Red Wing Ignite and the Mayo Clinic Business Accelerator,  two Southeast Minnesota business incubators, are teaming up to organize recurring events where Southeast Minnesota startups can showcase their products and solutions.

Up to 6 high-tech companies, a mix of them from the Twin Cities area Rochester area and Red Wing are being selected to present at the first Demo Day, which will be held in Red Wing Ignite on April 16th from 6:00pm. The event is free and open to the public prior registration at http://redwingdemoday.eventbrite.com/.

“Very remarkable entrepreneurial strides have been made in Rochester in the last few years. Going forward we will be deliberate in widening our area of action.  Red Wing Ignite and the Mayo Clinic Business Accelerator, run by RAEDI, share the same mission. It was only natural to collaborate for the betterment of the region“ said Xavier Frigola, Mayo Clinic Business Accelerator Coordinator.

Neela Mollgaard, Executive Director of Red Wing Ignite believes, “Working together, our organizations can provide greater resources to help our region innovate and grow."

On April 16th, 2015, starting at 5:00pm Red Wing Ignite will have an open house with tours of the facility. At 6:00pm the company demos will start. Each company will have 10 minutes to present their product/solution followed by 5 minutes of questions from the audience.

About Red Wing Ignite

Red Wing Ignite is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to accelerate the development of technology and innovation.  Red Wing Ignite provides coworking space, a network of mentors and investors, and technical resources for entrepreneurs and creative individuals.

Red Wing Ignite was created to leverage their gigabit connectivity, US Ignite partnership and the community-wide enthusiasm for technology and innovation. While Red Wing may be one of the smaller US Ignite communities, the efforts are big.

About Mayo Clinic Business Accelerator (www.mcbusaccel.com)

Mayo Ventures Startup

Founded in 2013 by Rochester Area Economic Development, Inc. (RAEDI), City of Rochester, Mayo Clinic Treasury Services and Mayo Clinic Ventures. The Mayo Clinic Business Accelerator provides over 3,000 square feet of collaborative space for new companies, venture capital firms and entrepreneurs.

By bringing together like-minded entrepreneurs, investors and advisors, we create a unique ecosystem for the Rochester community to share ideas, resources and expertise.  This ecosystem, in turn, promotes local and regional economic development through new company creation and expansion.  It currently houses 15 startups and 4 corporate and venture capital firms partners.  In 2014 its tenants raised $5M in early-stage capital and added 28 new jobs.

About Rochester Area Economic Development, Inc. (www.raedi.com)

Incorporated in 1985 and headquartered in downtown Rochester, Minnesota, Rochester Area Economic Development, Inc., (RAEDI) works to encourage local business expansion and new business locations in the Rochester area.  RAEDI’s primary goal is to attract, retain and assist the growth and expansion of base business within the Rochester region. Some of the services provided include financial packaging, business planning, site/location support and business/community advocacy. The 504 Corporation was incorporated under RAEDI in 1990 to provide better access to the U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA’s) 504 Loan Program. 

The Path Towards Tomorrow's Internet

Photo: Us-Ignite Smart Future 1st Day

Photo: Us-Ignite Smart Future 1st Day

Last week, US-Ignite, a Red Wing Ignite partner, held a conference in Washington, DC to promote the "future of the Internet and the next-generation applications it enables." The event was hosted by the National Science Foundation and GENI. Red Wing Ignite's executive director, Neela Mollgaard, was among the many who attended the conference including White House officials, local community leaders, university researchers and corporate scientists. The role of government in nurturing new technology and the rising importance of the Internet of Things were themes of a conference on the next-generation Internet. "The conference gave me great conviction in what we are doing at Red Wing Ignite" said Mollgaard. "We even received a quick shout out from Bill Wallace, the Executive Director of US-Ignite, during his presentation!"

Second Annual Red Hot Hack: Bigger and Better

Show Me Tell Me: 2015 Winners

Show Me Tell Me: 2015 Winners

The second annual Red Hot Hack was a success. Several members from the Blandin Broadband initiative were present and Ann Treacy was kind enough to give us a full report.