Minnesota Compass Holds Listening Session In Brainerd
Listen, learn and understand – those were the motives behind today’s discussion on how to best represent the Brainerd region in data form.
“I was fearful that this would be another entity that comes out and tells rural communities as to what they have and how great they are and how they are growing, but would not seek the knowledge and experience of local people,” said Cheryal Hills, Region 5 Development Executive Director. “I was really grateful to hear that they were valuing those opinions.”
Community members voiced their opinions on the strengths of the area including great location and natural resources, but also took time to speak about the issues.
“Affordability and accessibility of childcare is a huge issue across the state,” said Ellen Wolter, a Minnesota Compass Researcher. “All of the connections that were made here today about how that connects to retaining and attracting workers and workforce issues in terms of ensuring that the right skills are here in the region.”
The workforce discussion branched off into talking about workforce housing needs.
“Virtually everyone who came today is talking about the same challenges,” said Don Hickman, Initiative Foundation Vice President. “We have lower than usual median household income, which means we are more competitive.”
When asked what data could be helpful, questions arose that included: “What is the real cost of housing?” “What is the typical debt load?” “What wage do people really need to earn in order to meet those childcare and housing needs?”
“We will be incorporating all of this feedback going through where there are themes that overlap or regions where there are differences in issues and strengths. We will think about how and where we can incorporate the suggestions for data needs,” said Ellen Wolter, a Minnesota Compass Researcher.
Throughout the discussion, Wolter noticed overlapping of input from other communities, but was not aware of the FCC and broadband restrictions in the area.
“Areas that are being covered by FCC dollars but are not deploying broadband to our rural communities that still have broadband needs,” said Hills.
After discussion about what data might be helpful in the future, participants got a chance to explore the Compass website and look at some current data.
Minnesota Compass’ mission is to bring unbiased, raw regional data that can be compared to other places in Minnesota. The online resource is available to the public, where based on today’s discussion, it will continue to grow with more resources. Visit the website at: http://www.mncompass.org/