“Having access can open doors”: An article written for the Fall 2022 Newsletter

“Having access can open doors”: An article written for the Fall 2022 Newsletter

October 4, 2022

“Having access can open doors”: An article written for the Fall 2022 Newsletter

By Sarah Swedburg

“Having access can open doors” first appeared in the EDC’s Fall 2022 Newsletter

This was Business Development Manager Sarah Swedburg’s matter-of-fact answer when asked just how high-speed broadband internet and childcare relate to a sustainable workforce in Kandiyohi County.

Both issues have been on the hot plate at the EDC in recent months with state and federal grants offering significant financial support.


For the EDC broadband and childcare continue to be key priorities, this is a decision agreed upon both internally and by our external partners. Our local elected officials, business leaders, and volunteers with whom serve the EDC see that access to these items is crucial in supporting a growing and thriving community. This has guided the work the Commission has been doing as it relates to building broadband infrastructure and expanding childcare availability in Kandiyohi County.

The EDC Broadband Committee, chaired by Mark Boeschen, has been busy coordinating and supporting projects! The bulk of this work is working with providers and staying on top of state and federal grants to build broadband infrastructure throughout the county – with a focus on the rural areas that need it most. The county has committed to using 75% of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds it has received for large infrastructure projects. Smaller projects are moving forward with Arvig, Charter, and Vibrant using ARPA funds, but these larger projects need additional state or federal funding, leading the EDC to vigorously pursue grant opportunities! At the beginning of August, the EDC Broadband Committee supported Federated Telephone Cooperative in applying for a State of Minnesota Border-to-Border Broadband grant. This grant would fund 50% of the cost of a fiber-to-the-premise development in parts of Dovre, Mamre, Arctander, and St. Johns Townships. What this means is that gold-standard internet access would be created bringing 60 businesses, 94 farms, and 491 homes access to high-speed internet. Access to high-speed internet opens the door to the ability to do business, work from home, attend school and medical appointments, and foster social connections!

The ability to access all of these amenities is affected by access to another service – childcare. In a survey conducted in June 2021 by First Children’s Finance, it was found the county was short 651 slots! That means parents are at home and not able to enter or return to the workforce, which puts pressure on businesses. Part of this work we are doing, along with the Mid-Minnesota Development Commission (MMDC), and other local partners, has been submitting a Child Care Economic Development Grant application to the State of Minnesota’s Department of Employment and Economic Development for $300,000!

This grant application, matched with Kandiyohi County and City of Willmar ARPA funds, would provide the necessary funding to create programs and activities to support existing and new childcare providers. The EDC hosted three meetings: two that included possible partners for achieving our goals in the grant and one for all Kandiyohi County family childcare providers. During these meetings, ideas were gathered that grant funds could be used for. These ideas included forgivable loan funds for family providers and centers, mentorship programs, employee assistance programs for mental health care, license fee and business insurance reimbursement, training opportunities, and translation services.

As businesses expand and continue to experience workforce needs, the EDC knows many families have had to choose between a parent staying home to take care of children or being in the workforce. Providing access – and affordable childcare – to young families in the county is critical for continued workforce development. The EDC and MMDC are not waiting for the grant results to start supporting childcare providers though. Together they are partnering to host a Childcare Provider Appreciation Bingo Night on October 13th at 6 pm to celebrate and give providers a night of connection and fun! This event is made possible by the EDC, MMDC, Southwest Initiative Foundation (SWIF), MinnWest Technology Campus, Redeemer Lutheran Church, and many other local businesses that have donated prizes. RSVPs are encouraged, call or text Kelsey at 320-979-5815 or email [email protected].

Access to broadband and childcare is critical to supporting the continued economic and community development of Kandiyohi County, and this work could not be done by the EDC alone. If you are passionate about either of these topics and are interested in getting involved, or simply curious to learn more, contact Sarah at [email protected] or 320-905-0069. 


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