Jim Mulder

Jim Mulder

What are some ways that we as Minnesotans can make this state stronger in the years to come?

That is part of what will be covered on Aug. 6 at the “Making Minnesota Strong for the Next Decade and Beyond” forum at Farmfest.

One of the panelists for this forum will be Jim Mulder, director of the Association of Minnesota Counties. Mulder brings a unique perspective of working with all the counties in the state and witnesses firsthand the triumphs and troubles that counties face.

Mulder said he was interested in being part of the panel because “I think it is really important that citizens think about our future.” He said “business as usual” won’t work in the future; this includes figuring ways to promote a healthy long-term lifestyle.

For the state to prosper, Mulder believes that the government model has to make sense, has to be based on outcomes, and systems have to become transparent.

Rural areas face many challenges. Mulder said some rural areas have relied too much on what is going on in St. Paul and Washington, D.C., when the focus should be on the community.

Mulder said there are some neat things counties are doing to better themselves. Beltrami County, for example, has “created performance standards that meet the needs of their citizens,” he said.

Concerns for the state include “fundamental issues about the resources available,” said Mulder. In rural communities that includes the flight of their children. “How do we build a lifestyle to encourage people to come back to rural Minnesota?”

There is also the need for resources to maintain services, including broadband in rural areas.

Mulder will focus his panel discussion on how to empower communities to take stronger control over decision-making. He will also talk about how vital it is for people to become leaders; It is those leaders who bring about change, success and new ideas.

As for what he hopes people walk away with from attending this forum, Mulder simply answered that “the best is still yet to come.” With the opportunities for rural communities to take part in this new age of energy — corn, soybeans and wind — Mulder said the sky is the limit.

In addition to Mulder, panelists include Carol Molnau, Minnesota lieutenant governor; Colleen Landkamer, incoming U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development state director; Linda Hennen, incoming State Farm Service Agency director; and Bev Durgan, dean and director of University of Minnesota Extension.

The panel will include a keynote address by Gov. Tim Pawlenty. This forum begins at 10:30 a.m. Aug. 6.

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