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BENEATH THE SURFACE
BENEATH THE SURFACE

Even in the land of 10,000 lakes, water is no longer unlimited; pressures on Minnesota’s groundwater are forcing residents and municipalities to adapt.

RETHINKING A COMPANY TOWN
RETHINKING A COMPANY TOWN

The biggest source of good-paying jobs in International Falls has cut more than 200 positions leaving the community to absorb the blow and start figuring out what its future might hold.

Making Energy Local
MAKING ENERGY LOCAL

Whether they want to be forward thinking, save money on energy or cut their greenhouse emissions, some Minnesota communities are trying different ways to generate power.

To revive or raze: Like many, Sandstone grapples with empty icon
REVIVING MINNESOTA RELICS

Like communities all over Minnesota, Sandstone is trying to find new uses for an iconic old building that once expressed its identify. Can imagination and money outrace the bulldozer?

SKILLS GAPSKILLS GAP
Will enough Minnesotans have the right skills to fill the jobs needed to keep the state's economy humming in the coming decade?
MAKING CONNECTIONSMAKING CONNECTIONS
Have white people and Latinos as communities made the connections that let them do more than live side by side around the state?
RURAL HEALTH CARERURAL HEALTH CARE
Minnesota's rural health care system is under pressure from many sides. Communities are trying new ways to deal with doctor shortages and financial pressure on small hospitals.
THE PRICE OF SAFETY
THE PRICE OF SAFETY
Tight budgets, changing populations, new technology and even new attitudes are making communities in outstate Minnesota change their approach to safety, security and the law
GETTING THERE
GETTING THERE
For many outstate Minnesota residents, getting around is tougher than it used to be. Communities are coming up with solutions to cope with a changing transportation landscape.
ENTREPRENEURSHIPONE JOB AT A TIME
Minnesota communities look for ways to foster small businesses in an effort to grow the economy one job at a time. Facing economic uncertainty, entrepreneurs get creative.
LOCAL FOODLOCAL FOOD

School freezer may be next stop for local food movement

A school in Arlington, Minn., is leading the way to show how institutions might extend the season for local food - by freezing it. But the labor is intensive and financial savings are uncertain.
RURAL HEALTH CARERURAL HEALTH CARE

Rural Minnesota retools health care in wave of hospital mergers

A new round of consolidations that can add services to communities and let patients stay closer to home but that inevitably lead to the loss of local control.
ENTREPRENEURSHIPONE JOB AT A TIME

Job challenge: Grow more entrepreneurs

From the Iron Range to Winona to Montevideo, Minnesota communities increasingly talk of fostering an entrepreneurial culture to create jobs, to attract people, to enrich lives.
BROADBANDBROADBAND

Broadband projects take a bumpy ride

Nearly two years after more than $200 million in federal stimulus money was awarded to 18 Minnesota broadband projects some efforts to extend access have been delayed.
FORCED TO CHOOSEFORCED TO CHOOSE

Communities raise taxes, cut jobs

Tax hikes and job cuts are two main themes emerging from recent trends and decisions Minnesota's 3,200 cities, counties, townships and school districts have been making.
HUNGERHUNGER

Hunger plagues the young and homeless

We take a look at how food can become a main problem for young people without homes — and how they learn to survive, as some have to resort to their own survival skills to get by.
GETTING THERE
GETTING THERE

High tech transit emerging in the woods

Increasing demand and uncertain budgets have rural Minnesota transit systems looking to combine technology and personal service to become more efficient.

Ground Level is an MPR News project providing news coverage, resources, connections and conversations on important topics in Minnesota communities.

Who’s my neighbor? New Twin Cities maps tell the story


U of M flushes toilets with rainwater


$50M pipe might not restore White Bear Lake levels


The steadily growing number of topic pages you can find here is to give you insight in ways that inform and enlighten and let you see opportunities to take action.

Even in the land of 10,000 lakes, water is no longer unlimited; pressures on Minnesota’s groundwater are forcing residents and municipalities to adapt. The biggest source of good-paying jobs in International Falls has cut more than 200 positions leaving the community to absorb the blow and start figuring out what its future might hold. Whether they want to be forward thinking, save money on energy or cut their greenhouse emissions, some Minnesota communities are trying different ways to generate power. Will enough Minnesotans have the right skills to fill the jobs needed to keep the state's economy humming in the coming decade?

For decades, Minnesotans have nursed a growing interest in eating locally. But can this movement become big and efficient enough to move into the mainstream?

Tight budgets, changing populations, new technology and even new attitudes are making communities in outstate Minnesota change their approach to safety, security and the law For years, rural residents have wrung their hands about the loss of young people heading for the big city. University of Minnesota research points to a more nuanced trend of people in their 30s and 40s from urban to rural areas. Communities are coming up with solutions to cope with the changing transportation landscape. For many outstate Minnesota residents, getting to work, to the doctor, to the grocery store and elsewhere is tougher than it used to be. Central Minnesota 2035Residents of five counties in central Minnesota are trying to determine what they want their region to look like two decades from now

 

The ax or the tax? That's increasingly the question before cities, schools and counties in Minnesota as a tougher government spending environment plays out against a backdrop of a struggling economy.

 

 

Have white people and Latinos as communities made the connections that let them do more than live side by side? The difficulties, the angst, the cost and the lessons learned by people making an effort to refresh their towns by saving an iconic old building. Minnesota's rural health care system is under new pressure from national reform and from demographic and economic changes. Communities are trying new ways to deal with doctor shortages and with financial pressure on small hospitals. High-speed Internet access in rural Minnesota can lead to economic, educational and health-care opportunities. Yet building these networks has been difficult and even controversial for some. Minnesota communities look for ways to foster small businesses in an effort to grow the economy one job at a time. For one in 10 Minnesotans, getting enough to eat is sometimes a problem. Some go to extreme lengths to consume enough food and most experience the anxiety that comes with not always knowing where they will find their next meal.

 

Under the greatest budget pressure in years, Minnesota cities are both trimming what they do and exploring new ways to provide services.

 

Like many communities in the "collar" around the Twin Cities, Baldwin Township in Sherburne County faces choices related to growth, taxes and a future shaped by the housing bust.

 

Todd County has more than its share of elderly people. Will existing networks of family, volunteers and government programs remain strong enough as that proportion grows? Minnesotans are finding new ways to tackle water pollution in their communities, forming collaborations, testing farming techniques, requiring property owners to take steps and turning to technology to help matters.

 

The conversation hosted by MPR News' Ground Level and MN Today examining the Skills Gap in Minnesota

The conversation hosted by MPR News' Ground Level and MN Today examining the demands, pitfalls and solutions to an ever increasing transit need.

The second conversation hosted by MPR News' Ground Level project in conjunction with the central Minnesota "Resilient Region" project deals with the availability of affordable housing in the five-county area.

This is the first conversation MPR News' Ground Level project hosted in conjunction with the central Minnesota "Resilient Region" project. It deals with the economic engines of the five-county area.

If your economy depends on clean water, how do you make sure the water stays clean while you take advantage of it?

One of the things made clear in our online chat about farming practices and water pollution was that what people do on the ground in their communities matter. It's also clear in the responses we received from our seven "water panelists" when we asked them about it.

A great conversation on farming practices and water quality with Redwood Falls farmer Bruce Tiffany and water quality director Kris Sigford of the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy ranging from voluntary action that might change farming practices to setting priorities for the state.

As much as any region of Minnesota, the Arrowhead is a complex brew of powerful economic forces, engaging cultural history, new ways of thinking about the environment and changing politics. MPR News and Northlands NewsCenter hosted a forum in April 2011 at the Duluth Radisson, the conversation was hosted by MPR News' Cathy Wurzer.

Ground Level asked nine health care providers to tell us one thing that would make rural health care better in Minnesota.

Wilder Research in St. Paul has revamped its demographic profiles of Minneapolis and St. Paul neighborhoods, making the information much easier to use.

New student housing at the University of Minnesota includes a system for collecting stormwater from the roof and using it to flush the toilets for 600 students.

A draft of a report by the Metropolitan Council says shifting some suburbs' reliance from groundwater to Mississippi River water could cost hundreds of millions of dollars. It also says piping water from the river to raise levels in White Bear Lake would cost $50 million but leave officials uncertain of the impact.

Minnesotans are becoming more aware of the pressure on the state's groundwater resources. Here are 11 ways to use less water on your lawn.

The recent heavy rains have been a drought-buster, leaving Minnesota entirely drought-free for the first time in a long time. But that’s not the same thing as ending concern about the state’s groundwater, Jim Stark, director of U.S. Geological Survey in Minnesota, told MPR News’ Cathy Wurzer on Morning Edition today. Aquifers — water-containing rock…

Where is "Lou T. Fisk?" How about Iowa's only island city?

Golf courses are looking at better technology, not only to let them use stormwater for irrigating grass but to better determine how much water to use and what grass might use less. University of Minnesota professor Brian Horgan explains.

University of Minnesota Extension researcher Ben Winchester identifies three demographic opportunities for rural communities: appealing to immigrants, providing new housing for aging baby boomers and attracting millenials with available housing.

Latino Connections

An immigrant's journey
leading to permission to stay

St. James resident Irma Marquez this month became one of the earliest Latinos in the nation to received deferred status allowing her legally to stay in the United States for two years and to find work. Read her story here ▶

Worthington bakery builds community

Kerry and Juan Cuate opened a Mexican bakery, Panaderia Mi Tierra, in downtown Worthington, Minn. The bakery now caters to the larger community, bringing the diverse population together.

Brain Gain

We're gathering stories from people who have moved back to rural parts of Minnesota after leaving for school or work, or who have moved to rural Minnesota for the first time as adults. Thanks so much for your contributions.

by Jennifer Vogel, edited by Michael Olson, MPR News

10 transit systems in Minnesota with the largest percentage gains and losses 2007-2011.

Outstate transit ridership rose 12 percent between 2007 and 2011. Outstate Minnesota is thought of as dominated by car travel, and it is. And what's intriguing is that some places, like Montevideo, Wadena, Hibbing and St. Peter, far outstripped the overall rate of increase. Others, like Northfield, Faribault and Nobles County, declined by double-digit percentages.

Graphic by William Lager, MPR News

In an era of high overhead, ever more byzantine regulations and payment models, cuts to Medicaid and Medicare benefits, and large medical systems swallowing independent practices, Rutten Wasson relishes her straight-forward manner of practicing. By Jennifer Vogel, MPR News

Video by Vickie Kettlewell Osakis, Minn.

Carol Ford and Chuck Waibel operate Garden Goddess Greenhouse and sell fresh produce to 20 families all winter. Now they want to expand operations, growing more and acting as a middleman for neighboring farms to reach the growing local food market.

 

 

Video by Molly Bloom, Minnesota Public Radio

With just 3,558 residents, or six people per square mile, Travis County along the South Dakota border is Minnesota's least populated -- and it fits most common definitions of frontier. It can be lonely, so people have come to rely on a far-flung network of agencies and collaborators to serve a population that's also one of the oldest in the state. We looked at how the county copes these challenges as part of our Forced To Choose series.

Photos by Ann Arbor Miller for MPR News

by Molly Bloom, Minnesota Public Radio, Curtis Gilbert, Minnesota Public Radio

On December 15, 2012, over 150 central Minnesota residents gathered to consider what their future should look like.

Hear what residents and business owners think about the Central Minnesota 2035 'Resilient Region' project.

 

If you've heard Jon Foley on MPR News talk shows or seen him give presentations at the University of Minnesota or elsewhere, you've seen him work pretty hard at looking for a middle ground.

He directs the Institute on the Environment at the U and one of his main arguments is that the world needs to look at agriculture in a different way.

 

I went looking for my grandparents in the newly released 1940 Census forms but found my real reward when the face of Ardelle Neufeld, an 80-year-old woman I'd never met, lit up at BB's Diner in Mountain Lake. By Dave Peters, MPR News

 

 

Ground Level launched in early 2010 focusing on a wide variety of topics, from the growing complexity of Minnesota's local food system to cities preparing for new fiscal realities, from exurban growth in Baldwin Township to the quest to expand broadband access across the state. The Ground Level Blog chronicles the wide variety of topics with over 500

 

We identify topics that are significant and complex and that play out uniquely at the local level. We want to explore those issues in which people taking action in their communities make a difference and can serve as guides for others.

Ground Level launched in early 2010 and shines a light on a variety of topics, from the growing complexity of Minnesota's local food system to cities preparing for new fiscal realities, from exurban growth in Baldwin Township to the quest to expand broadband access across the state.

We experiment with coverage on a variety of platforms. This includes text, audio and video online, of course - the Ground Level blog, a series of topics pages and social networking, for example. It also includes on-air coverage, public forums both virtual and real-world and collaboration with community-based media.

Our audience consists of Minnesotans interested in community life, particularly those who are taking an active part in it or helping others do the same.

Ground Level is very much an experiment -- in finding ways to learn about and tell stories, in working with other organizations, in walking up to the line between providing insight and advocating specific actions. Our goal is to inform and give people the ability and incentive to engage with their community. We invite your feedback and your ideas, via the blog, twitter at @MPRGroundLevel, phone calls, emails, whatever. Join us.

About the team:

Dave Peters

Dave Peters directs MPR's project on community journalism, looking for ways Minnesota residents are making their towns, cities and neighborhoods better places to live. He joined MPR News in 2009 after more than 30 years as a newspaper and online reporter and editor. Contact Dave