A decade ago, Red Wing Ignite (RWI) made history as the first rural community selected by US Ignite for the first Smart Gigabit Communities cohort. Back then, no one could have predicted that this small rural member of the cohort would go on to make a substantial impact on gigabit broadband delivery, rural entrepreneurship, and economic development.

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The Beginning and the US Ignite Boost

Born out of a community-driven initiative in 2013, RWI pioneered gigabit broadband access in a rural setting. Considering the rural context, this strategic move to leverage technology for innovation was groundbreaking.  As a result of the initiative, Redwing, Minnesota, with an approximate population of 17,000, had better Internet connectivity than some much larger towns and cities in the US! 

Selection and participation in US Ignite’s Smart Gigabit Communities helped RWI gain access to a peer network of 25 other communities spearheading regional economic growth by connecting residents to high-speed Internet and developing applications that solve local problems.

Through the cohort connections, RWI obtained invaluable insights on achieving success and maintaining a forward-facing vision. Additionally, being associated with US Ignite also helped RWI gain the attention of the Center on Rural Innovation (CORI) and establish other critical partnerships in the region and nation. 

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Blast from the Past!

  • Check Out this 2019 Case Study on Red Wing Ignite

  • Watch 5 min video on the “Agriculture Tech Challenge,” one of the 1st rural hackathons organized by RWI and US Ignite.

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As RWI has evolved, its focus has become firmly anchored on rural entrepreneurship and tech-enabled startups. Moreover, all the insights, strategic partnerships, and collaborations that came from being a US Ignite Smart Community have paved the way for RWI to increase its footprint beyond the Redwing area and solidify itself as a regional force. This unstoppable growth and evolution has helped RWI secure highly competitive and prestigious national grants like the Economic Development Administration (EDA) i6 Challenge grant and the U.S. Economic Development Agency’s “Build to Scale” grant. 

RWI’s vision for the future involves addressing challenges in retaining entrepreneurs in rural areas. To make this vision a reality, RWI plans to launch accelerator and pre-accelerator programs in 2024 that will connect and support under-resourced rural entrepreneurs and encourage them to put down roots in the region while they scale their businesses. 


At the close of this 10th anniversary year, RWI proudly shares that they have served 850 entrepreneurs, organized 97 educational events for entrepreneurs, and mentored and coached 191 individuals on the entrepreneurial journey. Moreover this year, RWI received over 70 applications from entrepreneurs across the region for the Ignite Cup, which highlights the value perceived by aspiring business owners in participating in an RWI program. The impact of their work resonates not just in the success stories of entrepreneurs but in the broader landscape of rural economic development. 

Learn more about RWI’s resources for entrepreneurs and businesses at https://www.redwingignite.org/