Lead for Minnesota fellowship applications open through June 15

With a goal of bringing young people to rural communities to stay, the fellows focus on a series of projects in their host city or county, including Wadena, New York Mills and Otter Tail County.

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The Lead for Minnesota fellowship opportunities will now include Wadena as program and city leaders look to further support artisan based economic development.

Fellows with Lead for Minnesota are soon coming to the area. With a goal of bringing young people to rural communities to stay, the fellows focus on a series of projects in their host city or county.

Each fellow will start in August as part of the two-year program. The program partners with Lead for America and AmeriCorps to hire fellows. Applications are open to recent college graduates at . The deadline is June 15.

Here are the local locations and projects:


The fellow will work on artisan based economic development projects with the Wadena Development Authority, Chamber of Commerce and the city of Wadena. The idea is to add to the creative businesses already in Wadena with the fellow as a resource for new and current businesses.

The project ideas are limitless with one of the possibilities including a beautification project for the Buckwheat Growers building along Hwy 10, according to WDA director Dean Uselman. One of his ideas is a model like the casino in Las Vegas that uses one building to depict a series of New York buildings.


What was once a department store is now home of Little Round Still in downtown Wadena. The Mural Room, shown here, is viewed from an upper room that could someday by a VIP cigar room of sorts staff said. Michael Johnson/Pioneer Journal

As one of the final steps before hiring the fellow, the city attorney and Lead for America are working on the fellow’s contract.

Uselman hopes the fellow will remain in the community following the two-year program. Lead for Minnesota also aims for fellows to be involved in those communities for at least two years following the program.

“I’m kind of hoping that this fellow decides Wadena is a great place to live and maybe start their own business,” Uselman said. “That’s what I hope, is that they find Wadena as a thriving, progressive, small Greater Minnesota community and that they would want to be a part of that.”

New York Mills

The projects in New York Mills will focus on Main Street and commercial and housing development. The fellow will work with the city, Civic and Commerce organization and the New York Mills Economic Development Authority. The current list of projects include applications for the Small Cities Development Grant, marketing lots for housing and working on a new housing development, planning for the summer festival and supporting the Cultural Center in their capital campaign.

“I think it’ll be a really great asset to our small town to have an extra set of hands on projects,” said city clerk Julie Roberts. She said their goal list of projects is accomplished by volunteers.

After working with Roberts on business economic development projects, she hopes the fellow can run the economic developer area by the second year.


“Trying to get them (the fellow) a very rounded amount of things to do to help them develop because that’s part of it is trying to give them some background and experience in these types of things,” Roberts said.

Otter Tail County

In a partnership with Lead for America, Land O’Lakes and the American Connection Project will have fellows in Minnesota working on broadband projects, including in Otter Tail County. The broadband projects will expand the county’s work with the Blandin Foundation Broadband Community Program . The fellow will work with the Community Development Agency on project coordination and facilitating county-wide discussions.

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As one of five communities selected, Otter Tail County will receive funds and planning and technical support from the Blandin Foundation. (Submitted photo)

As a part of bringing and retaining community members to the area, the fellow will also help with workforce recruitment for technology industries.

The Blandin projects over the last year have included adding free wi-fi spots in the county, library smart rooms, supporting technology distribution for job seekers and youth exposure to technology careers, according to CDA director Amy Baldwin. Baldwin said broadband is of “critical importance” to Greater Minnesota, especially as more services are offered online.

You can read more about the projects on the Lead for Minnesota website.

Rebecca Mitchell started as a Digital Content Producer for the Post Bulletin in August 2022. She specializes in enhancing online articles as well as education, feature and health reporting.
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