Blue Earth, MN Making Progress in “REV’ing Up” the Community

Article by: Mary Kennedy

Blue Earth, MN was among the five communities with populations of 5,000 or less selected to participate in the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation’s Rural Entrepreneurial Venture (REV). The REV model is based on The Center for Rural Entrepreneurship’s Energized Communities (e2) framework. REV is a unique, long-term commitment that focuses on developing processes and systems for sustainable economic growth. The program focuses on finding and igniting existing entrepreneurs within communities which helps the community grow from within.

Blue Earth’s REV program has been renamed BEA Rev’d Up and consists of a core team that is made up of City staff, local business owners, Chamber of Commerce representatives, EDA board members, a Community Coordinator, and CEDA team member Mary Kennedy who serves the City of Blue Earth. The structure of the program encourages the core group to identify the various businesses in the community to determine which definition of entrepreneur is most relevant to Blue Earth. Kennedy put together and organized an updated business inventory list in order for the group to have a clear idea of what businesses were in operation in Blue Earth. With that list, the group was able to identify five transitional businesses and five growth oriented businesses to target as the program moves forward. The core group is also tasked with planning a community event which will provide a chance to engage the public and inform local entrepreneurs of this exciting new opportunity. While the core group is still in the process of planning that event, the group realized an extra outreach opportunity.

With so many existing community groups and local networks such as Kiwanis and Lions, the group thought that having a representative attend those meetings would provide a great platform to begin informing the community and spreading the word about BEA Rev’d Up! Representatives of the core group are working to organize dates to attend monthly meetings and speak with the various local community groups. Additionally, the core group is working to form a Resource Team and an Outreach Team to assist in the implementation of the program. One of the strategies Kennedy has been tasked with is to attend a Blue Earth Area School Board meeting. This is with the intention to inform the board of the REV program as well as to share her experience meeting with the neighboring City of Fairmont’s Superintendent of Schools, Joe Brown. Kennedy met with Brown to discuss the emphasis his district has put on vocational education. Kennedy was able to tour Fairmont’s Saturday Welding Academy and share her thoughts with the Blue Earth EDA and REV core group. Many Blue Earth Area students head to Fairmont on Saturdays to take advantage of their welding class and facilities, however they are responsible for their own transportation. The EDA and REV program would like to partner to come up with a solution to sponsor the transportation. Both boards see the value in educating local youth for vocational sector jobs with the intention of connecting students with the necessary resources to keep them in the area for work and business start-up opportunities.