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MIRC kicks off workshop series

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The Minnesota Intelligent Rural Communities (MIRC) kicked off a workshop series earlier this month with a focus on helping rural businesses use the Internet to their advantage.

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The MIRC program is funded as part of the American Recovery Act. Coordinated by the Blandin Foundation in Grand Rapids, Minn., and facilitated by the University of Minnesota Extension Service, MIRC's goal is to "implement projects that increase public access to broadband, support market development and foster broadband adoption" in rural Minnesota communities, according to the Blandin Foundation website.

The first workshop was held on Feb. 3 in the New York Mills High School Media Center.

Lynn Kasma, MIRC coordinator, said that roughly 20 people attended the first workshop, which was led by an educator from the University of Minnesota Extension Service.

Four NY Mills high school students assisted participants with typing and other computer issues.

The workshop, called "Roadside advertising in the digital age," assisted businesses in creating a presence on Google maps.

"Every business left the workshop with a Google maps site," Kasma said. "Most of them did not have any kind of presence on the Internet before that."

NY Mills City Clerk Darla Berry discussed the workshop at the NY Mills City Council meeting on Feb. 8.

Mills Liquors had not previously had an entry on Google maps, Berry told the city council, but after the workshop the information will now be properly reflected on Google maps.

Kasma used this example in describing the benefits of the MIRC program for the NY Mills community.

"If everyone has a presence on the Internet, they're not going to lose business," she said. "Someone driving down Highway 10 is going to take out their iPhone and see that they could get liquor in NY Mills and not have to go all the way to Perham."

An additional goal of the workshop series, Kasma said, is to build youth leadership and to get youth involved in the community.

"If you don't have a teenager in your house or business, hire one," Kasma said, "because you need one to help navigate the social networks out there."

Kasma hopes that the youth "techies" will be hired on a part-time basis to assist local businesses with Internet or other technical issues, such as maintaining or updating websites or Facebook pages.

The next workshop in the series will be held on Thursday, March 3, and will focus on doing business on the Internet, Kasma said.

Kasma said that she has not decided on the topics of other future workshops, but expects that one may focus on how to sell through websites such as eBay or CraigsList. Another future workshop could focus on manipulating and uploading digital photographs, she said.

"This is all very exciting stuff," Kasma said. "We want to make sure the businesses here have the infrastructure and technology to grow. I love this community, and I want it to do well."

For more information on MIRC, visit blandinfoundation.org, or contact Kasma at 218-385-4060, or e-mail lrkasma@hotmail.com.

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