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Boosting Internet know-how for community success

Through the MIRC partnership, rural and small-town businesses learn Internet skills needed to gain a competitive edge.

Research shows that most businesses and communities don't have websites, don't use social media to their advantage, and can't be found through online and mobile map searches—gaps that put local economies at a disadvantage.

Extension has gotten a closer look at Internet use by Greater Minnesota businesses since joining the Minnesota Intelligent Rural Communities (MIRC) initiative.

As part of the MIRC initiative, Extension is teaching 18 communities how to use broadband Internet technology to attract new business, visitors and residents.

"We've diversified our commerce using sites like eBay and Etsy," says arts advocate Lynn Kasma, a recent MIRC participant from New York Mills, Minn.

In Akeley, Minn., 79 percent of local businesses have taken advantage of the program; in Sebeka, Minn., 57 percent. More than 1,500 individuals have participated in the grant-supported workshops, benefiting the vitality of rural Minnesota.

The MIRC project is funded through an American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grant to the Blandin Foundation of Grand Rapids.

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