Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation renews partnership with Blandin Broadband Communities Program

Two-year program provides planning, technical and financial support for four communities

Grand Rapids, MINN. (June 14, 2018) – Blandin Foundation announced today that it has renewed its partnership with Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation to advance access to and use of broadband in the region through the Blandin Broadband Communities (BBC) program.

The selection process will begin with a request for proposals, which will be released in July 2018. The four communities will join six Iron Range communities previously funded through Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation and 19 rural Minnesota communities statewide served through the BBC program since 2003.

Made possible through a $714,000 Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation grant, Blandin Foundation staff and consultants will work with local leadership teams to define technology goals, measure current levels of broadband access and use, and seek technical assistance and resources to meet their goals. Each Iron Range Broadband Community (IRBC) will have the opportunity to apply for up to $75,000 in Blandin Foundation matching grants to move forward community-identified projects.

“We are pleased to continue our support of the Blandin Broadband Communities program,” said Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation Commissioner Mark Phillips. “The program has already made significant broadband progress in six of our local communities and will no doubt have a similar impact in the four communities chosen for the latest cohort.”

The first IRBC cohort (Ely, Hibbing, Aitkin County, Bois Forte Reservation/Orr/Cook, Mt. Iron-Buhl Schools, and Chisholm) will complete the program this summer. Projects from this cohort included digital marketing training for Hibbing businesses, wi-fi on Mt. Iron-Buhl school buses, a community website (elyite.com) for Ely residents and visitors, and wi-fi hot spots for check out at the Chisholm Public Library.  A full listing of projects is at https://blandinfoundation.org/content/uploads/IRBC-Project-Matrix-2017-18.pdf

“Blandin Foundation is excited to continue our partnership with Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation to ensure that broadband access and the skills to use it spur opportunity and prosperity for Iron Range communities,” said Dr. Kathleen Annette, president and CEO of Blandin Foundation. “The IRBC program has been the launch point for many communities in designing the technology-powered future they want. We are thankful for Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation’s leadership and recognition that Iron Range communities will be stronger for it.”

The program application timeline and instructions will be available in July 2018 at www.broadband.blandinfoundation.org.