Innovation Funding

2017 City & County Innovation Funding

Another resource NJPA is committed to providing is our Innovation Funding program. This will be the fourth annual Innovation Funding cycle. Innovation Funding is a project partnership opportunity for Region 5 cities and counties. NJPA will work alongside regional initiatives and financially support them to ensure successful regional impact. NJPA created the Innovation Funding program in 2014 to help public agencies in Cass, Crow Wing, Morrison, Todd, and Wadena counties (Region 5) fund initiatives aimed at creating collaboration and improving the region. The program promotes outside-the-box teamwork on projects that might not otherwise get off the ground. This is an annual funding opportunity, with $307,670 awarded for the first round in 2014, $411,933 awarded for the second round in 2015, and  $420,235 awarded for the third round in 2016. In 2017, NJPA is slated to award $450,000.

This unique funding opportunity includes an “Innovation Funding Review” day, where representatives from Region 5 entities attend a day-long priority setting and application review day to rank and select awarded projects. NJPA does not select projects. Review Day for 2017 will be on Thursday, June 1, from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at NJPA’s campus in Staples

 Click here to register to attend the 2017 Innovation Funding Review Day.  Lunch will be provided to those who register.


If you are interested in submitting an application for the 2017 funding round, please review the application materials on our website.  Applications will be due to NJPA by Wednesday, May 10, at noon. No late applications will be accepted.  APPLICATIONS MUST MEET THE FOLLOWING MINIMUM REQUIREMENTS:

  • Must be submitted by a city or county entity.
  • Must include a resolution from the city or county entity.
  • Must be complete and on time.
  • Must be regionally focused, directly benefiting multiple entities and promoting government inefficiencies. Regional impact does not include users who would be using a facility, but instead a program or project that is developed and led by multiple entity partnerships.
  • Nonprofits that are involved in applications must have a city or county elected official on Board of Directors in order to qualify or be involved in Innovation Funding application. Nonprofit must also physically exist in Region 5 to be involved with an Innovation Funding application.
  • No multi-year requests.
  • Project application has not been funded by Innovation Funding for two years.
  • No operating costs or mandated work can be included in application budget.
  • Projects that could be defined by the categories below:
    • In·no·va·tion /inəˈvāSH(ə)n/
      • a new method, idea, product, etc.
      • significant, positive change.
      • application of better solutions that meet new requirements, unarticulated needs, or existing market needs.
      • production or adoption, assimilation, and utilization of a value-added novelty in economic and social spheres; development of new methods of making; and establishment of new systems. It is both a process and an outcome.
      • to be called an innovation, an idea must be replicable at an economical cost and must satisfy a specific regional need. Innovation involves deliberate application of information, imagination, and initiative in deriving greater or different values from resources, and includes all processes by which new ideas are generated and converted into useful products.
    • Region 5 focus valued with an allowable emphasis on Sub-Regional impact
      • a part of a larger region, geographically or economically.
    • Encourage true collaboration of units of government, private sector, and community.
      • the process of facilitating and operating multi-organizational arrangements for solving problems that cannot be achieved, or achieved easily, by single organizations.
      • any joint activity by two or more organizations that is intended to produce more public value than could be produced when the organizations act alone.
      • the linking or sharing of information, resources, activities, and capabilities by organizations to achieve an outcome that could not be achieved by the organizations separately.
    • Focus on S eed funding, to build capacity for new ideas.
      • funding help with new products.
      • start-up capital.
      • funding required to get a new initiative started.
    • Promote innovation that can be replicable, such as pilot projects
      • activity planned as a test or trial.
      • act of testing something.
      • something that can be copied or re-created.
    • Reassure sustainability of projects
      • ability to be maintained or supported in the future.

NJPA reserves the right to pre-review all applications and remove any applications that do not meet the above minimum requirements. Applications that meet minimum requirements will be invited to the “Innovation Funding Review Day” and will be required to attend to provide a brief presentation about their project proposal.

2017 Application Information:

  Process for Innovation Funding 

  Public Purpose Checklist 

  Innovation Funding Application

2016 City & County Innovation Funding Results

Wadena County Veterans $50,000 – The Veteran Service Officers of the following counties; Cass, Crow Wing, Morrison, Todd, and Wadena counties, are requesting $50,000. The request is to enhance veterans’ projects and improve initiatives in our areas. Providing improved services, fiscal abilities, community appearance and overall well-being of areas within our counties. Requesting $5,000 for Veteran Grave upkeep and head stone repair located in Cass County. Crow Wing County is requesting $15,000 towards paying for a replacement van for our disabled veterans in the central Minnesota area. Requesting $5,000 for the Randall Minnesota Veterans of Foreign Wars, Curtis-Olson Post #9073 project. Service organizations and veterans wish to move a Veterans Memorial from its current location by the Randall water tower where it is hidden and invisible to the community. Requesting $10,000 for Todd County’s Grand Army of the Republic or United States Civil War Grave Yards. The Veterans Grave stones and monuments in these grave yards are in need of repair and upkeep. Requesting $15,000 for the Wadena Veterans Park Committee to build a Veteran’s Park. The committee is in the process of building a Veterans Park for Wadena County and surrounding area Veterans.

City of Royalton Police Equip $100,000 – City of Royalton proposed a Laser Shot simulator that would benefit 32 Region 5 law enforcement agencies. The purpose is to train, educate, and improve the skills and knowledge of law enforcement officers that serve the approximately 162,000 people that live within Region 5. Without assistance, purchasing this system would not be possible due to funding not being available within the city nor are there currently any federal or state grants that would assist the Royalton Police Department to cover the cost of the training system. The law enforcement agencies within Region 5 are in need of this training system because, unlike other professions, it is very difficult to provide “real life” and “high risk” training scenarios for law enforcement. This is due to the fact that many of these situations are life-threatening for both the officers and the public. They requested funding of $100,000.

Cass County Regional Marketing $100,000 (tie for 3rd) – Cass County presented their project for region and city branding, termed Placebranding. The Cass County Economic Development Corporation would manage it.  This would help the region highlight its assets, individual communities could maximize their impact, and build a culture of community collaboration. The overarching goals of the proposed project are to (1) attract potential workforce – primarily millennials; (2) attract businesses – either startups, or relocations; and (3) build a culture of collaboration among the municipalities of the region. The proposed project will result in a brand that will build a favorable internal and external image of the region and its small cities – one that builds social capital within the region, is owned by its communities, and which is attractive to those external to the region. The process of creating the regional brand will align individual entities around common themes and build a culture of collaboration. CCEDC is requesting $100,000 in Innovation Funding for their Regional Marketing Plan.

Todd/Wadena Corrections $70,235 (tie for 3rd) – Todd and Wadena County Corrections presented The Community Concern for Youth Program that is designed for early prevention, intervention and diversion of youth ages 10-17 (approximately), who are experiencing personal problems as well as problems with the law. The purpose of this program is to prevent youth from entering the court system, by working with the youth and their families to hold the youth accountable and provide opportunities for change. The Community Concern for Youth Program also provides education and assistance in helping youth resolve conflicts at home, school or in their personal lives. There is no other agency in the area that provides diversion services which keep youth from going to court and having a criminal record. On average, the Community Concern for Youth Program serves approximately 70 youth per year and requested funding for $70,235.

Eagle Bend Kitchen $100,000  – City of Eagle Bend and Todd County Health & Human Services presented the Hilltop Regional Kitchen project which cooks, serves, and delivers meals for Wheels, Bundled Services, and congregate dining meals for Todd and Wadena Counties. The kitchen is currently producing over 50,000 meals per year. While senior meal production has consistently increased, there is no availability for expansion within the current kitchen facility. As the senior population continues to grow, the need for a new kitchen facility will become increasingly necessary. A new kitchen facility in Eagle Bend will ensure that Todd and Wadena county residents have the necessary nutrition and services they need to stay independent and in their homes. The new, larger Hilltop Regional Kitchen will increase effectiveness of meal production, and in turn, increase the meal counts to produce greater profits to support the growing nutrition program. Additionally, the facility will provide space for regional classes, education opportunities and community events. They requested $100,000 for the project, but would receive $29,765 in partial funding from NJPA.

The NJPA Board of Directors approved $420,235 for Innovation Funding this fiscal year, allowing five projects to be fully funded.  Official funding of the projects were approved by the NJPA Board of Directors on June 21st

Below are examples of successful Innovation Funding projects from 2014 and 2015.  If you have any questions, please contact Anna Gruber.

2015 City & County Projects:

Morrison County Food Hub – submitted by Morrison County Community Development
NJPA funding: $100,000
Region 5’s Resilient Region Plan recommends strong support of local foods. Local farmers sell their produce to SPROUT MN who aggregates, packages, resells and delivers locally-grown commodities to five school districts, hospitals, community colleges, several restaurants, and over 100 CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture) in Region 5. There will also be a year round farmers market in the facility that allows growers to sell directly to consumers during the non-growing season. SPROUT also intends to partner with U of M Extension Food Educators, County Public Health professionals, and hospital nutritionists to teach the nutritional value of locally grown foods.

Dental Clinic – submitted by Morrison County
NJPA funding: $100,000
Apple Tree is a nonprofit community clinic and critical access provider founded to address the unmet dental needs of individuals in MN. Through the NJPA funding and a partnership with Morrison County, community organizations and Apple Tree Dental, dental access will be available to residents in Region 5 (especially those who use public insurance for dental care). Apple Tree will serve low-income children and families in rural areas, adults with disabilities, mental health patients, minorities, and elderly in communities in all Region 5 counties, as well as neighboring counties. Funding will cover staffing Apple Tree through a dental professional loan reimbursement program to recruit and retain dentists and related staff. “Dental care access for the low-income and disabled population on medical assistance is extremely limited, or they have to drive an hour for services, so by partnering with Apple Tree Dental, we are bringing this critical service closer to our residents,” stated Brad Vold, Morrison County Social Services Director.

Drug Task Force Agent – submitted by Wadena County
NJPA funding: $81,383
A Wadena County Drug Task Force Agent’s salary, training and promotional materials will be funded for one year. This project leverages the resources of other counties, each city in Wadena County, and Wadena County to provide a Drug and Violent Crime Task Force which has intensive training and specialty skills to more effectively combat major crime for over 13,000 residents. The position was also funded in 2014-2015 and proved to be successful. The agent worked on over 48 cases and was instrumental in eleven arrests in Wadena County in the first quarter of 2015 alone – that’s more drug-related arrests than were made in the last three quarters of 2014 in the Wadena area. It is expected that this will continue to result in an increased number of arrests and convictions in the arena of drug distribution and/or violent crimes. “We are very grateful for money received from NJPA through the Innovation Funding Program. It is making a huge difference in Wadena County and the surrounding area,” reported Sheriff Carr.

Speed Sign Awareness – submitted by City of Pierz
NJPA funding: $76,250
Twenty-five portable radar signs will be purchased to add to the five purchased last year through NJPA’s Innovation Funding Program. Each Region 5 county will be allocated 6 signs for use. These signs decrease driver speeds in key areas and increase safety for children and pedestrians. Eric Hanneken, Pierz Police Chief, said, “Speed continues to be one of the major killers, contributing to numerous crashes involving serious injury. Studies show that compliance continues even after the radar speed sign has been moved…”

Aquatic Invasive Species Awareness – submitted by Crow Wing County, facilitated by Mississippi Headwaters Board (a joint powers board of Aitkin, Beltrami, Cass, Clearwater, Crow Wing, Hubbard, Itasca, and Morrison Counties)
NJPA funding: $54,300
Funding from NJPA will be used to create and implement a regional campaign aimed at recreational boaters and lake users to increase awareness of aquatic invasive species. AIS media awareness tools will be distributed through infomercials in PSAs in the following markets: Minneapolis, MN, Fargo, ND, Duluth, MN, and Sioux Falls, SD.

2014 City & County Projects:

City of Pierz – Speed Awareness Signage – The goal of this long term project named SPEED AWARENESS is to purchase 5 TC-400 portable radar signs to be implemented when needed throughout all communities of Region 5.  The total funded for this project was $16,124.99. The equipment is stored at city hall in Pierz or at a neutral location, allowing easy access to all Law Enforcement Agencies within our Region.

Todd County – Public Health Mental Health Initiative – The Morrison-Todd-Wadena Community Health Board has identified through its 2013-2014 Community Health Needs Assessment that mental illness is a significant community health issue and concern. To improve mental health and emotional well-being at the population level, effective mental health treatment is necessary but is not sufficient. Similarly public health approaches alone are also not enough. Regional partnerships are needed to address the root causes to maximize impact and improve health outcomes and mental well-being for all residents. This proposal will include three strategies to address mental health awareness, prevention, and available treatment. The first strategy will develop a promotional campaign to increase awareness of the mental health services already available in Region Five and provide information on the early signs and symptoms of mental health concerns. The second strategy will provide training on early childhood mental health research and evidence-based practices to providers and community stakeholders in Region Five, specifically focusing on childhood protective factors and adverse childhood experiences.  The third strategy will identify current chronic disease prevention programs and referrals that incorporate components of mental wellness. The total funded was $68,000 for salaries, promotional materials, meetings, and trainings.

Wadena County – Drug Task Force Agent – This project is intended to cooperatively address the need for additional specialty law enforcement capabilities for the residents of 5 cities and Wadena County. This project leverages the resources of other counties, each city in Wadena County, and Wadena County to provide a Drug and Violent Crime Task Force which has intensive training and specialty skills to more effectively combat major crime for over 13,000 residents. Once funding is received, the identified Agent would be formally assigned to the Task Force. Approximately 6 months of training prior to the Agent being actively deployed in the field. Expect to hire one additional law enforcement officer. Potential Agent has already been identified.  Having an Agent from Wadena County participating on the Task Force gives the County direct access to all of the skills and resources of the Task Force. We expect that this will result in an increased number of arrests and convictions in the arena of drug distribution and/or violent crimes.  Total Funded: $72,544.88 for salaries and promotional materials.

Morrison County – Food Hub – The Region developed the Resilient Region Plan (HUD/DOTIEPA Sustainable Communities planning 2011 grantee) which recommends strong support of local foods. Morrison County and Community Development, along with SPROUT MN, an existing food hub network of 40+ low-income growers (Including Amish, Latino &tribal), have partnered together to develop a food processing facility and Marketplace in Little Falls, Minnesota as part of the regional local food hub. The food processing facility allows for growers to transform their fresh commodities to a processed (frozen, dried, canned, baked) product that expands the seasonal markets. The Resilient Region plan and this proposal serve the same  5 counties as NJPA: Cass, Crow Wing, Morrison, Todd and Wadena. The population of the region is 162,000 and this project has the potential to impact every single household. SPROUT MN, managed by Arlene Jones, aggregates/delivers locally-grown commodities to 5-school districts/hospitals/community college/ several restaurants and over 100 CSA’s (many-of-which-are prescribed-by-Local-physicians-through-a-hunger-Prevention-program). SPROUT MN will manage the food hub and Marketplace, which will serve organizations and farmers in the counties of Morrison, Todd, Crow Wing, Cass and Wadena counties. Local farmers will be able to sell their produce to SPROUT MN who will aggregate, package and resell those commodities to institutional customers through the area. There will also be a year round farmers market in the facility that allows growers to sell directly to consumers during the non-growing season. By increasing grower incomes through value-added markets, we add value to our agricultural industry which is the largest industry cluster in central Minnesota. The strategy stabilizes incomes which in turn stabilizes local tax base and enrollment of our children to our schools. In addition to the food processing facility and the indoor Marketplace, SPROUT intends to partner with U of M Extension Food Educators, County Public Health professionals, and hospital nutritionists to teach the nutritional value of locally grown foods and will additionally partner with local prime chefs to give cooking demonstrations of underutilized fresh commodities, such as a rutabaga, at the Little Falls Marketplace facility.  Total Funded: $100,000 for the building costs for the marketplace.

City of Long Prairie – Jacob Bower Trail – We see new trails being built all around Minnesota. Sherburne County, Benton County, and Stearns County all have advanced trail systems being connected. One of Stearns County greatest trail you can ike from St. Joseph to Fergus Falls on the Lake Wobegon Trail it’s over 103 miles long. This is just one of many trails that have been constructed in Central Minnesota. Our group, we have the City of Long Prairie, City of Swanville, City of Grey Eagle, City of Browerville, and City of Clarissa, City of Eagle Bend, City of Bertha, City of Hewitt, City of Wadena, Wadena County, and Todd County that would like to connect our trail the Jacob Brower Trail to the Lake Wobegon Trail on the south end and on the North end to Wadena. The trail will be approximately 57 miles long and will run along the railroad right -of-way and/or TH 71.  Total Funded: $51,000 for a feasibility study for the trail.