Five join Blandin Foundation Broadband Strategy Board

GRAND RAPIDS, Minn. – Five leaders working to advance broadband access and use in rural Minnesota communities have accepted invitations to join the Blandin Foundation Broadband Initiative Strategy Board. This board oversees and advises the Blandin Community Broadband Program (BCBP), a grantmaking and community capacity building program.

Jim Weikum has been the executive director of the Arrowhead Library System in Mountain Iron since 1992. He has served as Mayor of Biwabik, Minn. since 2008. He has been active in the Minnesota Library Association, with particular involvement in legislative activities at the state and federal levels. Weikum also has served for several years on policy committees with the League of Minnesota Cities.

Lisa Peterson-de la Cueva is a community-based educator and advocate who has been working on digital inclusion and civic engagement for the last 15 years. She has taught immigrants and refugees digital skills and trained citizen journalists to use digital platforms to tell their own stories. For the last five years Lisa has been working with the Community Technology Empowerment Project, an AmeriCorps program at the Saint Paul Neighborhood Network, to promote digital literacy efforts in low-wealth communities across the Twin Cities.

Mark Erickson is recently retired from the Economic Development Authority director for the city of Winthrop, Minnesota. He also served as city administrator from 2008 to 2014 and worked closely with the RS Fiber Cooperative project in Sibley, Renville, Nicollet and McLeod Counties in west central Minn. Prior to working in Winthrop, he was employed by Hiawatha Broadband Communications, working with communities interested in building fiber-to-the-home networks.

Betsy Olivanti has worked as a business consultant for the Northeast Minnesota Small Business Development Center since 2015. Housed at the Mesabi Range College Virginia Campus, she serves clients from Eveleth, Gilbert, Mt. Iron, Virginia, Ely, Hibbing, Chisholm and the surrounding areas. She also serves as the treasurer of the Mesabi Range College Foundation, the chair of ReVive Virginia, sits on the Laurentian Chamber’s Business Development Committee, among many other volunteer activities.

Marc Johnson is the executive director of the East Central Minnesota Educational Cable Cooperative (ECMECC), a joint-powers association of area schools providing interactive television programming to its members. ECMECC’s system runs on a fiber-optic network that expands distance learning opportunities, like arts and culture classes, one-to-one and group tutoring, and dual-credit courses, for 13 Minnesota school districts, a technical college, an extensive regional library system and the Mille Lacs Band.

About the Strategy Board and its work

The Broadband Strategy Board was formed in 2003. With members representing public and private sectors, the Strategy Board provides advice and guidance to the Foundation on program design, implementation and impact of the Blandin Community Broadband Program (BCBP). The BCBP initiative aims to enhance abundant and robust access to broadband and the skills to use it so that communities can compete and thrive in an ever more connected world. Since its inception, the Strategy Board has recommended more than 400 grants, ratified by Blandin Foundation trustees, totaling $10.2 million for nearly 100 communities in rural Minnesota.

“These new board members’ knowledge and experience will help the Foundation ensure our programs and investments are addressing the needs of all Minnesotans,” said Bernadine Joselyn, director of public policy and engagement at Blandin Foundation. “I am grateful to each of them for joining us in this work.”

The five new members will joining nine other broadband experts and advocates from around the state on the Strategy Board: Joe Buttweiler (Consolidated Telecommunications Company), Stacy Cluff (Mille Lacs Energy Cooperative), Nancy Hoffman (Chisago County HRA-EDA), Jon Linnell (North Region Health Alliance), Marc Johnson (East Central Minnesota Educational Cable Cooperative), Scott Marquardt (Southwest Initiative Foundation), Madonna Yawakie (Turtle Island Communications), Dan Pecarina (Hiawatha Broadband Communications), and Rich Sve (Lake County Commissioner).

“We are pleased that these five have joined the Strategy Board,” said Dr. Kathleen Annette, president and CEO. “We welcome all the knowledge and expertise they bring!”

Blandin Foundation’s broadband work is guided by the vision statement, “Everyone in Minnesota will be able to use convenient, affordable world-class broadband networks that enable us to survive and thrive in our communities and across the globe.”

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