Goodhue County (Red Wing)

Bringing Innovation to Reality with Gig Broadband

“Broadband is like electricity for us. We turn it on and it works. But you need more than just the Gig to grow an economy.”
– Neela Mollgaard, Red Wing Ignite

Background – Getting Broadband

Red Wing is the county seat of Goodhue County. Red Wing is served by Hiawatha Broadband Communications (HBC) and has had fiber access for almost seven years. In 2009, Red Wing partnered with HBC with the intention of applying for ARRA (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act) funding. Unfortunately, Red Wing was not considered unserved enough to qualify.

Fortunately, under the leadership of Gary Evans, they forged ahead without it. It’s an approach that speaks to their origin and ethos. HBC evolved as a successor to an innovative not-for-profit education initiative that connected the Winona community’s educational institutions to a fiber-optic network and transformed teaching and learning via the Internet. Their vision remains “to enhance and enrich the lives of those we serve.”

Timeline – Aiming for State Broadband Goals

In 2012, the City of Red Wing and HBC formed a public-private partnership to bring Gigabit broadband to Red Wing. The surrounding communities are catching up to the county seat thanks in part to Minnesota Border-to-Border Broadband grants in 2015 and 2016.

MN Broadband Goals

Before 2015, the broadband speed goal was 10-20 Mbps down and 5-10 Mbps up. Now the goal is 25 Mbps down and 3 Mbps up (25/3) by 2022 and 100/20 by 2026. The final point on the chart tracks progress toward the 2026 goal in 2016. Learn more.

Using Broadband

Red Wing was a Blandin Broadband Community and through the program they worked to boost broadband adoption. The effort was led locally by Red Wing Ignite, a local organization that is part of a national effort to encourage communities who have Gig access to make good use of it. Red Wing Ignite is an incubator, convener, and supporter of technology in the schools and business community.

How is Goodhue County Doing?

Red Wing and Goodhue County are thriving. They were a finalist in Deluxe Corporation’s Small Business Revolution – Main Street contest. They were the first rural community to become a US Ignite community. In 2014, they hosted what might be the first rural Hackfest in the US, certainly the first in Minnesota.

Community Inputs & Investments

The following investments have been made in the community:

  • $115,934 Minnesota Border-to-Border Broadband Grant (2015) to N-U Telecom
  • $332,328 Minnesota Border-to-Border Broadband Grant (2016) to N-U Telecom
  • $94,000 from Blandin Foundation for broadband adoption
  • Total: $542,262

Using formulas devised to measure impact of broadband access, Goodhue has the potential to realize:

  • A combined household economic benefit of broadband of $32,774,600
  • A combined increase in residential real estate value of $104,825,572 annually
Measure Amount
Household economic benefit of broadband $32,774,600
Consumer (household) cost saving $198,755,804
Increase in residential real estate value $104,825,572
Population (2016) 46,676 – up 1.1% from 2010
Median Household Income (2015) $57,062 – up 1.23% from 2010
High School graduate of higher (2015) 92.9%

Those numbers are high but keep them in mind when you read the stories below from Goodhue County residents about how broadband keeps businesses in towns and helps promote the community.

Benefits from the Front Lines

Goodhue County is seeing numerous benefits from Broadband:

Fiber Keeps Big Corporations in Town

BIC (pens) has a facility in Red Wing. They need symmetrical access of 300 Mbps. HBC supports that need with fiber-to-the-premise (FTTP). Without those speeds, the BIC facility would have to consider moving or stop growing. Neither option is good for BIC or Goodhue County.

Better Broadband for Agriculture

Kohlnhofer Farms has sophisticated hog operations, including a network between buildings with cameras and other monitoring of the hogs. They use a combination of fiber and HBC’s Air Wireless service that provide the bandwidth and mobility they need to track the animals. Less staff time is spent monitoring hogs and it is easier to track the markets, ensuring the sell at the right time.

Remote Snow Days with Broadband

Before 2016, educators were required to physically show up for work, even on Snow Days, to get work credit. Now when school is canceled due to weather, Red Wing educators can work on professional development from the comfort and safety of their own home. No time loss for them, increased safety, and easier work/life balance for teachers who are also parents.

Broadband Keeps Power Flowing

Xcel Energy has three facilities in Red Wing, two plants and an operations center. Broadband keeps everyone working reliably. Field staff are now using tablets, which means immediate updates on outages and upgrades. They couldn’t operate without a reliable and fast broadband connection, and broadband access is a key piece of any disaster recovery plan.

Businesses Grown with Broadband

Woodruff Marketing does 90 percent of their work online. Creative staff upload huge files; 15-20 years ago (or with a slower connection) what would have taken hours to upload now takes minutes*. They also work with a lot of video. The company started in 2004 with one person, and now they have 17. When asked, the owner explained that “the company could exist without fiber but it wouldn’t be growing.”

Working Together to Promote the Community

Red Wing was a finalist in Deluxe Corporation’s Small Business Revolution – Main Street contest. Out of 14,000 cities nominated, Red Wing was one of five cities in the final push to win the $500,000 revitalization package. While they didn’t win, it was an opportunity to bring the community together to promote a singular message. Voting happened online.

The community rallied. People shared on social media. The local newspapers promoted the story. One older woman went to the library to learn how to get online to vote for her community. Estimated value of the marketing involved in becomes a finalist is $1 million.

 

*A study by SanDisk found slow Internet connections cost employees one week per year of productivity.

Measuring Impact of Broadband in 5 Rural MN Communities