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East Central MN Named Smart21 Community of the Year

March 2, 2022—The East Central region of Minnesota has been named one of the Smart21 Communities of 2022 by the Intelligent Community Forum (ICF), a global movement that seeks to build prosperous and inclusive futures for communities. This prestigious honor recognizes the advances made by the region in recent years.
“We are thrilled to be recognized as a Smart21 Community,” said GPS President Sandy Voigt. “This honor shows the importance of collaborative efforts across the region and would not have been possible without the support of so many people and organizations across East Central Minnesota.”
The award is the culmination of a lengthy process. East Central Minnesota’s participation in the Intelligent Communities process began in 2019, when a connection through the region’s broadband advocacy efforts led the region to complete a questionnaire. Under the leadership of GPS then-President Heidi Steinmetz, Broadband Committee Chair Nancy Hoffman, and Workforce Committee Co-Chair Rebecca Perrotti, GPS convened a group that included Bill Coleman of Community Technology Advisors, through his role as a consultant to the Blandin foundation; the East Central Regional Library; East Central Minnesota Education Cable Cooperative (ECMECC); and GPS’s contracted consultants with the Northspan Group, Inc. to document the region’s assets and efforts to strengthen the region’s economic, social, and cultural foundations.
Next, GPS will complete further detailed questionnaires on the region, which will serve as the basis for the selection of the Top7 Intelligent Communities of 2022 in June. At the ICF Global Conference in October, the organization will name one of the 21 finalists the Intelligent Community of the Year.
ICF studies and promotes best practices for communities as they strengthen local economies and build prosperous futures. Its six-part framework emphasizes the connections between work, connection, sustainability, inclusion, engagement, and innovation for social and cultural growth in a digital age. In 2022, ICF is placing additional emphasis on a concept titled “From Conflict to Community” as it recognizes the importance of learning from past conflicts as communities move forward in a changing world.
Further information on the Intelligent Communities Forum and a complete list of the 21 honorees for 2022 is available from ICF at

The North 65 Chamber is a proud member and supporter of GPS 45:93.