GMNP remembers Randy Kehr

We are saddened to report that Randy Kehr, executive director of the Albert Lea-Freeborn County Chamber of Commerce and a founding board member of the GMNP, passed away on Nov. 23 after a battle with cancer. He was 69 years old.

Randy served as executive director of the Albert Lea-Freeborn County Chamber of Commerce for the past 10 years. He was a strong supporter of the GMNP and had been an active member of our board of directors since the organization was created in 2014. Throughout his years in service, Randy was a strong champion and tireless advocate for the Albert Lea community, numerous organizations in addition to the GMNP, and the entire state of Minnesota.

Our thoughts are with Randy’s family and friends; he will be greatly missed. You can read Randy’s full obituary here. The Albert Lea Tribune also published a story about his life in public service.

Child care, broadband discussed at CGMC Fall Conference

A number of GMNP members took advantage of an invitation from our sister organization, the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities (CGMC), to attend the CGMC’s annual Fall Conference last week in Alexandria. The conference touched a number of issues that are relevant to our members, most notably child care and broadband.

Child care was one of the leading topics discussed at the conference. Marnie Werner, acting director of the Center for Rural Policy, was the luncheon speaker and presented updates on their report “A quiet crisis: Minnesota’s child care shortage.” You can watch her presentation here.

Following Werner’s presentation, GMNP Executive Director Dan Dorman moderated a child care panel discussion — you can watch it here. Taking part in the panel were:

  • Nancy Jost, early childhood coordinator for West Central Initiative
  • Tim Penny, president and CEO of the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation
  • Jessica Beyer, business development specialist for First Children’s Finance
  • Amanda Benda, director of Little Huskies Daycare Center & Preschool in Jackson, Minn.

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Workforce housing grants available

The application process for the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency’s (MHFA) Workforce Housing Development Program opened this week, with up to $2 million in grant funds available for projects focused on housing for middle-income workers in Greater Minnesota. More information is available here. The deadline to apply is Jan. 25, 2018.

During the 2017 legislative session, the GMNP pushed for changes to make the grant program work even better. To date, the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development-administered program has helped build more than 320 units in Greater Minnesota with only $5 million in state funding ‒ a large return on the state’s investment. The program was recently moved from DEED to the MHFA, where it will hopefully be even more effective due to reduced costs.

GMNP executive director testifies at Senate hearing on child care

In recent months the Greater Minnesota Partnership (GMNP) has recently started exploring options to expand access to affordable child care in Greater Minnesota. The need is great: from 2006 to 2015, Greater Minnesota has seen a decrease in 25,455 childcare spaces. This has an enormous social and economic impact on communities.

This week, GMNP Executive Director Dan Dorman testified at a Senate Human Services Reform Finance and Policy Committee hearing, where he noted how a lack of child care options has hampered economic growth across Greater Minnesota. You can learn more about the committee hearing in this KSTP story and this Mankato Free Press article.

We are glad to see that this issue is getting more attention at the Legislature and in the media. It is also topic that will be discussed at length at the upcoming CGMC Fall Conference on Nov. 16-17, to which all GMNP members are invited. To register for the conference and see the full agenda, go to