Here at Bellmont Partners, we’re strong believers in not focusing solely on our local, urban communities, but also connecting with the many businesses, people and communities in Greater Minnesota. We work with organizations all across the state, as well as across the country. With that in mind, I was fortunate to attend TEDxBemidji’s first-ever event, traveling over 200 miles from the Twin Cities to see seven speakers talk about and demonstrate the amazing work they’re doing in Northern Minnesota, in the traditional TED Talks format. The theme of this year’s event was “Thrive” – and I can safely say that based on what I saw on stage, our fellow Minnesotans in the Great North are truly thriving, pursuing their passions and sharing in a community.
Discussion topics ranged from ice diving, to race relations, to a moving musical performance. Bemidji’s thriving arts and culture scene, outdoors interest, and yes, technological innovation, were on display. One of the innovation drivers in the region is its Gigabit fiber optic internet network through Paul Bunyan Communications (a co-operative internet provider, an innovative concept in itself), which allows residents to work at the fastest internet speeds, even in rural Minnesota where in the past, internet connectivity has been spotty at best. The city even has a co-working space called LaunchPad that supports startups and entrepreneurs.
Located in the northwest region of the state and the first city on the Mississippi River, Bemidji is a place I’ve been to many times over the past few years, visiting family and friends, and have seen an increase in new stores, restaurants and activities popping up. Situated right on the edge of Lake Bemidji, the downtown area is a fabulous area to walk, shop and eat. And I’m not the only one who has noticed an uptick in activity – Twin Cities Business Magazine profiled the city in its February issue, citing the city’s rise and the entrepreneurial spirit of the innovators living there.
At Bellmont Partners, we believe that bridging the gap between our urban and rural communities and connecting with organizations and individuals operating in Greater Minnesota benefits everyone. Some of the challenges we’ve heard about from businesses in outstate Minnesota include a lack of access to networking with other like-minded organizations, launching a new product or service that may be well-known in the city, but is brand new to a small town, and the difficulty of attracting qualified prospective employees and new customers alike to a rural area. To that end, we partner with several awesome clients doing great work outside of the Twin Cities area, including:
- Midwest Dairy Association: Helping educate consumers about where their food comes from and telling the stories of farmers and agriculture innovations happening in rural America
- Explore Minnesota: Promoting tourism throughout the entire state, including those beautiful north shore drives and southern bluffs
- Lily Pad Yoga: Spreading the word about a new hot yoga studio in Bemidji that encourages a commitment to physical and mental wellness
The world is connected now more than ever with high-speed internet, social media and digital communications; it’s also more important than ever to define a communications strategy to align all those tools and opportunities, whether you’re a small business owner or a leader at a thriving corporation – no matter where you’re located.