On Aug. 13 I attended a community discussion hosted by the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation director Tim Penny. He presented the goals and initiatives that SMIF is embracing at the present time and opened the discussion to community and district members to talk about their concerns. I was joined by fellow legislators Rep. Patti Fritz, and Sen. Dick Day of Dist. 26.
After the presentation, community members formed small groups to talk about the key workforce, economic and community development needs facing Rice County.
The group of community members I sat with listed access to transportation (as in making sure workers had safe reliable private and public transportation to bet to work), language barriers (noting that there are no enough good translators to reach our to those in our communities with limited English skills), opportunities for youth leadership, affordable housing, and access to health care.
These issues reflected the public service emphasis in my group and we noted that most of the issues as described had to do with low-income citizens. We added living wage jobs to our list recognizing that this would be of help. We encouraged Tim Penny to see what he could do to help communities look at ways to solve these problems through organizing community conversations.
Other groups sited education and reaching out to bring new immigrants into the mainstream and we discussed the potential of renewable energy as an economic development tool. Finally, I announced a conference I am organizing for early January. I will discuss more about this in a coming post.