With election over, northern Minnesota must win future

With the election behind us, we can now expel the fantasy that the results on their own will fix the economic challenges facing northern Minnesota. What we do have is a fresh opportunity to reorganize our region’s strategy. And really, leadership can come from anyone. Tuesday’s winners have a role, sure, but so do community members, business leaders and “idea people” of all political stripes who live and work in this unique place.

Northern Minnesota can and must diversify its economy, building on its natural resources base a system that can sustain fluctuations in mineral and timber prices. Here, I’ve long argued for an approach that expands the technological infrastructure and proficiency of the region. Our quality of life could turn northern Minnesota into a destination residential center for tech workers and entrepreneurs. The added benefit of this pursuit is an increase in other opportunities for the spouses and family members of our traditional workforce.

Though this pursuit is not immune from future economic downturns, it could insulate us from dependence on our current primary industries.

I received this notice on a very recent Iron Range high school graduate who found some success in developing a mobile application.

With Increasing Focus on Mobile Broadband, Gilbert’s Jake Dahl Illustrates the Importance of Wireless Connectivity in the Region   

Washington DC – With all eyes focused next week on the monthly meeting of Governor Dayton’s Broadband Taskforce in Duluth, a young local entrepreneur is leading the way by harnessing wireless connectivity to address everyday situations.

Mobile Future, a Washington-based group that brings together entrepreneurs and policymakers to share and discuss wireless technology issues, recently posted a video interview on the group’s website with local app developer, Jake Dahl, a 2012 graduate of Eveleth-Gilbert High School. In the video, Dahl, discusses some of his inspirations for the mobile apps he creates and the importance of strong, next generation wireless connectivity to enable and connect them.

“I think mobile broadband usage is going to increase exponentially over the next ten years,” Dahl explained when discussing the need for strong mobile networks. “If you have a network that is too taxed and can’t handle the data that it requires, it’s going to be very laggy and slow and not a very good experience to use.”

Next week, the Governor’s Broadband Taskforce will be meeting in Duluth and Mobile Future Board Member Diane Smith will discuss how policies that encourage continued investment and innovation in next generation wireless networks will help lead to many economic and socially beneficial opportunities.  A rural entrepreneur, Smith co-founded a ground-breaking IPTV company in Northwest Montana that successfully raised millions of dollars in start-up capital and continues to grow as the nation’s largest global provider of digital video services. The author of “TheNewRural.com” in which she examines the role of technology in rural economic development, Smith will discuss the role mobile broadband played in the development of her company and what it means for Iron Range apps developers like Jake Dahl.

“Wireless mobility and the promise of the mobile Internet gives any business the opportunity to compete and succeed anywhere,” said Smith. “Our challenge now is encouraging investment in advanced networks and getting more spectrum into the hands of consumers so we can keep up with exploding demand for mobile connectivity.”

Smith is presenting to Governor Dayton’s Broadband Task Force at their November 13th meeting scheduled between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. in the Greysolon Ballroom, 231 East Superior Street Duluth, MN 55802.

Though mobile web expansion is just one part of the picture, Northern Minnesota leaders must recognize and encourage the expansion of the economy beyond its current state. Even the expansion of mining, long proposed and yet to be delivered, will not assure the region of long term success. The DFL enjoyed a great win last Tuesday, but the victory will be short-lived if leaders fail to expand the economy. Republicans, want to win the future? Here it is. Independents, you know what to do.

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