‘Making it home’ in regional small towns

A family walks on a sidewalk in Spring Valley, Minnesota.

Southeast Minnesota is taking an all-hands-on-deck approach to the region’s workforce shortage. University of Minnesota Extension supports those efforts in many ways, including managing Making it Home initiatives in regional small towns like Spring Valley.

Spring Valley is looking to attract some of the 45,000 new workers southeast Minnesota will need before 2033, many of whom will have jobs in nearby Rochester, with its growing technology sector and world-class Mayo Medical Center.

“Southeast Minnesota realizes economic ripples move throughout a region,” says Bruce Schwartau, a Kasson resident who leads Extension’s community economics programs. “The region is working together to address issues such as transit, housing, and being a welcoming place.”

“We keep our thumb on the pulse of these regional efforts,” says Cathy Enerson, community and business development specialist for the town. “But we know we’ll have to stand out as our own community within those marketing efforts.” That’s where Extension’s Making it Home initiative is helping them out.

Extension Community Vitality educators Jennifer Hawkins and Beth Kallestad guided Spring Valley through the Making it Home program, hosting local discussions to create a community-wide vision for attracting new residents.  

“We trained six terrific facilitators for local study circles,” says Hawkins. “Those facilitators brought together school children, retirees, teachers, newcomers, and others to talk about what’s great about Spring Valley, and how those assets can be leveraged to attract more residents.”

As Spring Valley moves through its list of things to do, it will continue to draw Extension’s support. “We’re modest in the Midwest. And it can be expensive to share the word,” says Enerson. “But our region is moving forward, and we want to stay on that train.”

University of Minnesota, Twin Cities