Blandin-led MIRC Partnership wins Tekne Award

Billed as the “Academy Awards for high tech,” rural Minnesota communities and partners received a Tekne Award in Minneapolis on Nov. 1 from the Minnesota High Tech Association for their work on broadband access and adoption.  Representatives of the Minnesota Intelligent Rural Communities (MIRC) initiative collected the “Innovative Collaboration Award” in front of a crowd of nearly 1,000 at the Minneapolis Convention Center.

CTAC founder Bill Coleman has been working with the Blandin Foundation on the program since its inception. He was instrumental in the planning and have been working with communities involved with the collaboration for several years.

Selection of Tekne finalists and winners was made by an independent panel of judges.  In choosing MIRC, an initiative convened by Blandin Foundation and involving 30 partners, judges noted that, “MIRC has benefited from a legacy of collaboration. MIRC partners are numerous and the impact the collaboration has had on broadband adoption is significant. In fact, the [broadband] adoption rate is 29.8 percent faster in MIRC partner communities when compared to the rest of rural Minnesota.”

All rural regions of Minnesota have engaged in broadband projects as part of the MIRC Initiative.  Individual communities initiated more than 70 locally designed and led demonstration projects, such as Lac Qui Parle County’s “Commuter Computer” (mobile learning lab) or Winona’s “Project FINE” (language-specific computer literacy training in Hmong and Spanish).

Statewide MIRC partners provided training to more than 8,000 individuals, computers to more than 1,600 households and has resulted in more than 40,000 households in rural Minnesota subscribing to high-speed Internet.  The two-year initiative was funded through a $4.3 million American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grant administered by Blandin Foundation and will be completed at the close of 2012.

“Resilient, vibrant communities are connected communities,” said Dr. Kathy Annette, Blandin Foundation CEO.  “And the quality and diversity of those connections is a hallmark of a community’s leadership and sustainability.  Through MIRC, engaged local leaders and statewide partners worked together to bring the promises of broadband to many of Minnesota’s rural communities, including all residents in their progress.  Blandin Foundation is thrilled that coalition’s ambitious and innovative work has been honored through the Tekne Award.”

Presented by the MHTA, the Tekne Awards honor those who play a significant role in discovering new technologies that educate, improve lifestyles, and impact the lives and futures of people living in Minnesota and all over the world. The program reinforces Minnesota’s place as one of the most competitive and technologically advanced regions in the world. A full list of winners and finalists is available online at

“The Tekne Awards recognize those whose leadership and dedication to technological innovation helps demonstrate Minnesota as a global player in technology-based markets,” said Margaret Anderson Kelliher, President & CEO of MHTA. “This year’s finalists should be extremely proud of their role in helping Minnesota excel.”