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Commentary: Ignite develops resources for the community

By Neela Mollgaard, Red Wing

2016 is an exciting year for Red Wing Ignite. As a local nonprofit founded in August 2013, we’re committed to building the community of Red Wing. Our efforts are focused in three primary areas:

•supporting youth with needed skills for the workforce,

•supporting business acceleration and

•growth of our local economy.

As we wrap up our annual report for 2015, we’re thrilled to share with the Red Wing community some of our greatest accomplishments. Red Wing has received national publicity through the development and activities of Red Wing Ignite. Our nonprofit has been highlighted as a leader at the US Ignite Conference and we’ve been guest speakers at both the Kansas City Tech Week Conference and Minnesota Border to Border Broadband Conference.

We closed the year as a partner with the Red Wing Public Schools and helped implement a coding curriculum for sixth- and seventh-grade students, further developed a STEAM — Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math — network with stakeholders from K-14 and made strides with coding and technology programs by bringing international programs to Red Wing and worked with local professionals to mentor students.

Additionally, we’ve had the privilege of recruiting and supporting over 30 business startups and entrepreneurs over the course of 2015. With the many resources available at Red Wing Ignite, we are able to connect and collaborate with mentors, customers, and investors both nationally and regionally to accelerate startup initiatives.

A changing scene

Each business we supported looks different. Last year we helped an entrepreneur who had a solution to help elderly and disabled individuals stay in their homes with the support of high-level medical care and greater access through a new telemedicine healthcare application. We also supported a business concept that took a new approach to citizen voting that would increase access and reduce costs. These examples are a small sample of innovative technology solution startups that were offered collaboration and connection through Red Wing Ignite.

Our co-working offices, located at 419 Bush St., was home to more than 20 businesses and organizations with additional offices available for those who are seeking an environment to foster creativity, collaboration and advancement. The open-concept layout with offices lining the perimeter has seen 16 companies pitch their startup concepts to investors during our investor events and countless business meetings.

As we look to 2016, we are excited to implement three key initiatives in the first half of the year. On March 11 and 12, Red Wing Ignite will host its third annual Red Hot Hack. The event will welcome developers, startups, and individuals with business ideas from around the state to problem solve, create and deploy solutions. In previous years, winners were invited to Silicon Valley – a hub for startups and global technology companies – to collaborate with like-minded professionals, including potential mentors and investors.

Ignite Cup

Red Wing Ignite will host its first Ignite Cup on April 26. Entrepreneurs are invited to this first-annual startup competition to launch and accelerate their business concept. What’s exciting about the Ignite Cup is that we’ve partnered with MN Cup, the largest statewide startup competition in the country. The winner of the Ignite Cup will be an automatic semi-finalist in the nationally-recognized MN Cup.

These two solution-focused events will round out our spring season, and we’ll begin the summer with our internship program.

This 12-week program will partner college students with Red Wing businesses and organizations to allow the students to exercise their creative thinking and problem solving skills to develop solutions to current issues. We are looking for students studying computer science, entrepreneurship and/or business to participate in the internship as well businesses, organizations or nonprofits that would benefit from this support.

At Red Wing Ignite, we are committed to strengthening the community through the education of our youth, business startup acceleration and local community involvement and development right here in Red Wing. Our hope is that 2016 will be a year where we can increase our resources to provide startups the ability to grow, further develop marketing initiatives to position Red Wing as an innovative place to work and live and double the number of students that we are able to provide learning opportunities to help prepare them for the workforce.

I encourage you to visit for details on the Red Hot Hack, Ignite Cup, and the summer internship. Thank you for your support!

Neela Mollgaard is executive director of Red Wing Ignite.