Koochiching County

More than $20,000 in grants were recently awarded to local projects by the Koochiching Technology Initiative, or KTI.

Jim Yount and Ted Saxton of KTI, told The Journal last week nine proposals were submitted to the group, and six requests were funded.

“The total is just under $23,000,” Yount said.

Projects that received funding include:

  • Interactive teleconferencing equipment upgrade project for Backus Community Center, $650
  • Co-working space at the Birchdale Community Building. 
  • International Falls Public Library, Borderland Young Professionals and Ballans iSpace, co-working meetups, $5,000
  • KCC-TV, "About Us" - video stories of the community, $4,712
  • International Falls Public Library: the library reaches into the community, $5,635
  • Servants of Shelter, internet access for homeless individuals and families, partial funding at $1,530

“We're excited about this,” Saxton said.

The Koochiching Technology Initiative was formed by a steering committee in 2018. The group applied to the Blandin Foundation to become one of four Blandin Broadband Communities for a two-year period ending in 2020, and was successful in that application.

Upon being accepted, Blandin partnered with the initiative to launch specific projects to the benefit of the community, which encompasses Koochiching County and Kabetogama. The program has $75,000 in grant money available, which helped with the first round of projects.

“We have two phases,” Saxton said, adding the next round of funding will come toward the end of the year. “The deadline for the next round is Nov. 30.”

When funding projects, the steering committee narrows down requests and receives final approval from Blandin.

“We want to look at promoting the community as a whole,” Yount said.


In addition to funding local projects, KTI is also working to collect survey responses from specific Borderland residents about their interest in paying for broadband services, or high speed internet.

The men said Paul Bunyan Communications is hosting the survey and so far, more responses are needed to move forward.

“We're going to be pushing it a little more,” Saxton said.

Residents with addresses in Ray, Ericsburg, Kabetogama, Rainy Lake and near The Junction are eligible to take the survey.

The plan last week was to look into hiring a casual contractor to help get survey responses up to where Paul Bunyan requires to move forward.

“Our goal is to increase that response rate,” Yount said. “The results of the survey is what will be used to convince internet providers like Paul Bunyan and Midco and Frontier to provide high speed internet, and also to get grant money available at the state and federal level. They will be more likely to grant that money if we can show them the survey.”

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