Rural Leader: BCLP Alum Scott Adkisson Sparks Community Change with Red Wing Ignite

Scott Adkisson

Can a small community stimulate new business based on the use of an ultra-high-speed broadband network? This question nipped at Blandin Community Leadership Program (BCLP) alumnus Scott Adkisson as he weighed on how to capitalize on Red Wing being chosen as a US Ignite program partner.

“At first, people didn’t get it,” said Scott. “It’s tough to put your hands around what a gigabit network is.”

Red Wing, however, has been working with Blandin Foundation for a while to bring broadband programs to their community to enhance literacy, use and adoption. In 2005, Red Wing was selected as a location for the Get Broadband program, which was dedicated to increasing the use of broadband-based technologies. A few years later, Red Wing was awarded a Robust Broadband Network Feasibility grant to identify the broadband opportunities within their community. This work helped attract the Hiawatha Broadband Communications’ (HBC) fiber-optic technology to Red Wing.

By partnering with HBC and other rural leaders in his community, US Ignite chose to come to Red Wing. Out of 25 selected communities nationally, Red Wing is the only rural participant.

Scott believes that strong networks of community relationships made this possible and will be crucial to the program’s sustenance. “Red Wing Ignite won’t survive without community leadership,” he said. “It really is the community, the city, the county, the businesses, and the volunteers who made it happen. If any of those sections drop, Red Wing Ignite will just dry up and go away. It takes a lot of effort and a lot of community work to bring it together.”

Scott, who is working with seven other BCLP alums on the project, said that he is not surprised Blandin-trained community leaders stepped up to the plate to make Red Wing Ignite a reality.

The goal for the program is to bring in 30 new start-up businesses into Red Wing and have them be self-sustained within a three-year timeframe.

Already, Red Wing Ignite is working with McGill University in Montreal, Quebec on a mobile application for first responders. This software will allow responders to relay disaster information through live-stream technology. With this knowledge, by the time medical help arrives on scene, they will already have assessed the situation and have the proper equipment ready, making a rescue much faster.

“The leadership program really fostered the interest in going out and making something happen in our community,” he said. “We have learned how to face our challenges together by collaborating to take action and find a solution.”