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Column: Red Wing demonstrates value of connectivity

As efforts to improve Internet access throughout rural Minnesota continue at the state Legislature, last weekend’s “Red Hot Hack” event hosted by Red Wing Ignite provided great real world examples of what cutting-edge technology and broadband connectivity can mean to a community.

The event brought together approximately 50 individuals from around the community and state who share an interest in leveraging high-speed Internet access to drive growth and increase quality of life through innovation and entrepreneurialism.

Event sponsors included Red Wing Port Authority, Hiawatha Broadband Communications, StarTech Computing, Minnesota High Tech Association, Blandin Foundation, Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation and US Ignite — Red Wing Ignite’s parent organization.

While much of Greater Minnesota works to improve its broadband infrastructure, Red Wing Ignite is taking advantage of its fast-as-anywhere-in-the-world gigabit connectivity to demonstrate the value of unbridled 21st century Internet access. The “Red Hot Hack” challenged participants to explore creatively how such high-speed connectivity can be used to improve the way we live, learn and work.

Among the innovative ideas, or applications, to emerge from the event were new ways to: market local business and promote events; provide meaningful networking and mentorship opportunities to students and those just beginning their careers; more easily and intelligently access news content on the web; and more efficiently browse and access large electronic files and other online documents.

The ideas resulting from last weekend’s event embody what Red Wing Ignite is all about: bringing innovation to reality by providing an open, technology-rich environment in which new businesses can thrive.

In addition to hosting dynamic, high-value events such as the “Red Hot Hack,” Red Wing Ignite aims to 1) serve as a business accelerator for bandwidth-dependent entrepreneurs, developers and small business start-ups and 2) provide a co-working space for fostering partnerships and collaboration.

Less than nine months after Gov. Mark Dayton joined a group of more than 300 regional stakeholders to cut the ribbon on Red Wing Ignite, the effort continues to build momentum. Just as the “Red Hot Hack” was the first such event known to take place in a rural community, Red Wing Ignite demonstrates the promise and potential of bringing cutting-edge technology and Internet access to rural Minnesota’s rural innovators and entrepreneurs.

Although Red Wing isn’t Minnesota’s only rural community with a strong entrepreneurial spirit and history of innovation, our 21st century broadband infrastructure and commitment to maximizing its use will serve us well into the future.

Matt Schmit, DFL-Red Wing, can be reached at or 651-296-4264.