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Red Wing Ignite rolls out

Bill Wallace, project director for US Ignite, speaks to community members at the Anderson Center Tuesday.

Last July, Red Wing and Winona-based Hiawatha Broadband Communications were selected to participate in US Ignite, a national program aimed at spurring the development of next-generation Internet applications and services.

On Tuesday, a small group of community members officially debuted Red Wing Ignite, the local branch of the national endeavor.

Close to 100 community leaders - including members of the Red Wing City Council, Goodhue County Board, Red Wing School District, the arts community and area businesses - gathered at the Anderson Center to hear about the local program.

"We really just wanted to make sure that people came left with concrete outcomes about what Red Wing Ignite wants to implement," organizer Neela Mollgaard said.

US Ignite highlights communities that have high-speed broadband connections - like Red Wing - and encourages development of new applications for the technology. There are 12 service providers in 25 cities scattered across the nation participating in the project.

The goal is to invent technologies that will revolutionize the Internet but that aren't possible with today's Internet, US Ignite project director Bill Wallace said Tuesday.

"We will determine new applications that will reinvent this country," he said. "If we don't do it, other countries will."

Now, Red Wing Ignite will provide four services locally: a business incubator, which will attract technology-based businesses to the community; a test bed community to test new applications; education and events; and marketing and promotion.

The potential of the project, Wallace said, is huge.

"This is a microcosm of Silicon Valley before the Internet boom took off," he said, calling Red Wing a leader in the project. "You have the chance to solve major social problems."

"Just think of how far we've come in 20 years," Hiawatha Broadband Communications CEO Gary Evans echoed, "and just think of - with the help of Ignite and communities like Red Wing - where we'll be in 2033. This is an amazing opportunity for all of us here, and it's one that we can't fumble."

Moving forward, Mollgaard said her group hopes that community members will get excited about Red Wing Ignite's potential and find ways to be involved in the project.

"I think there's a lot of excitement and I think everyone now sees the possibilities in the future," she said.

- R-E staff writer Danielle Killey contributed to this report.

Sarah Gorvin
Sarah Gorvin has been with the Republican Eagle for two years and covers education, business and crime and courts. She graduated from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities in 2010 with a  journalism degree.
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