Red Wing Ignite kicked off a new chapter in its five-year history by branding a new outreach effort called "Ignite Minnesota" on Feb. 27.

After recently being named a Smart Gigabit Community by US Ignite, and becoming the first rural community to join this international network, Red Wing Ignite has spun that energy into the Ignite Minnesota effort.

Four part-time technology ambassadors have been hired in Winona, Rochester, Red Wing and the Twin Cities to help maintain connections with businesses, entrepreneurs, investors and technology builders. Funding for these positions is being provided by grants from US Ignite and the National Science Foundation.

Ignite Minnesota puts Red Wing at the center of the technology conversation for our state and places the city among the ranks of San Francisco, Washington, DC, and Adelaide, Australia to evolve technology and unite business leaders across boundaries.

"What's unique is that we're trying to represent rural America. We can focus on the intersection of agriculture and technology," said Executive Director Neela Mollgaard. "We also feel like we have a model that we've implemented that's successful that could be replicated elsewhere in the nation."

Eighty-five people attended the launch of Ignite Minnesota, which included video messages from Senators Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith. This effort is receiving resounding support, not just from the capitol, but from stakeholders, academics, businesses and the community as well. Members of Ignite Minnesota's intellectually diverse and varied steering committee are working together to help impact the region and the state.

Red Wing Ignite will continue to function locally, as well, and accelerate businesses in our region. Mollgaard said this greater connectivity will add value to area entrepreneurs and startups.

"The main reason why we're being looked at from a statewide perspective is that we're so diverse in geography and population," said Shannan Harris, program coordinator for Red Wing Ignite. "Just looking at Red Wing, compared to the size of the other US Ignite communities, in order for us to play equal in the sandbox it was necessary to take a statewide approach."