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NW Minnesota


Contributing to a vibrant future for northwest Minnesota

We bring together talent and resources in northwest Minnesota with University of Minnesota knowledge and seed funding to drive sustainability in agriculture and food systems, tourism and resilient communities, clean energy and natural resources. Our innovative initiatives are community identified and valued, citizen led, University engaged and collaborative, so we are local in many places.


Source: MN DNR

The region

The region's natural history shows up in a diverse landscape shaped by ice and water and representing all four major biomes in Minnesota. Its cultural history traces the stories of indigenous people, voyageurs and fur traders, immigrants from northern Europe, and later from all parts of the world.  The Red River of the North and its tributaries drain just over one fifth of Minnesota.  The landscape includes remnants of native boreal forest, aspen parkland and maple, basswood forests, and tall grassprairie. The Red River Valley has a strong agricultural identity; it conjures images of deep, rich soils and agricultural productivity.

wheat.jpg The Northwest Region in Minnesota is not defined by county boundaries, but for reference, it generally serves Kittson, Roseau, Lake of the Woods, Marshall, Pennington, Red Lake, Clearwater, Beltrami, Polk, Norman, Mahnomen, Clay, and Wilkin counties.  Ottertail and Becker counties are often included for food systems projects. Water related projects include the area that drains to the Red River of the North. rsz_counties.jpg The region is home to 215,000 people. Median age in the region is 41 compared to 37 in Minnesota. Agricultural production, manufacturing and health care are important economic sectors. Minnesota Compass tracks and analyzes trends that affect quality of life.

The work

The NW Regional Partnership organizes its work around four focus areas: Natural Resources, Clean Energy, Food and Agriculture and Resilient Communities. In 2011, the board partnered with the Center for Sustainable Building Research to select indicators in each of the four focus areas. Click here to access the complete Visualizing Indicators report.

A primary goal of this project was to identify indicators for the Northwest region as well as counties which make up the region. In addition, the research team identified the need to be able to organize this data to view the whole system, and components of each system. For each of the focus areas, indicators were selected for the following perspectives on the system, and represented visually.

Explore our 2017 projects

Each year our five regional boards support community-driven projects related to our four focus areas. These projects foster innovation, deepen understanding, and build relationships that empower Greater Minnesota communities to advance their future sustainability.

Visit our storymap to explore projects by region and focus area.

Explore Storymap

What's new

people gathered around a table discussing downtown Thief River Falls new vision

Thief River Falls: New Vision for Downtown

Thief River Falls is imaging a whole new downtown. In the summer of 2017, Thief River Falls Chamber and its Downtown Development Association worked with Virajita Singh and Joe Polecek from the College of Design.

View more information

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