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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Julie Sandstede (DFL)

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RELEASE: Minn. House approves Rep. Sandstede bill allowing cities to earn “Telecommuter Forward!” designation

Monday, April 08, 2019

SAINT PAUL, Minn. – The Minnesota House today passed HF 2181, a bill authored by Rep. Julie Sandstede (DFL – Hibbing) to create a pathway for communities to secure “Telecommuter Forward!” status from the Department of Employment and Economic Development. “Telecommuter Forward!” is a strategy for communities to promote telecommuting as part of their economic development strategy and strengthen broadband connectivity.

“In Greater Minnesota we have a fantastic quality of life, with rural character and terrific natural resources. We also know that for our communities to thrive, we need new strategies to diversify our economies to keep them strong,” Rep. Sandstede said. “The ability for employers to offer telecommuting as an option can carry tremendous impact toward this goal. Instead of forcing Minnesotans to ‘move to where the jobs are,’ telecommuting allows us to bring jobs right to them. This program will serve as a catalyst for helping communities to grow, enhance their economies, and deal with future challenges.”

To earn “Telecommuter Forward!” certification, a community must promote telecommuting and designate a single point of contact to coordinate opportunities. Responsibilities of the point of contact include:

  • coordinating with broadband providers, employers, realtors, and other telecommuting stakeholders;
  • working with other stakeholders to identify and develop telecommuter-capable broadband access;
  • promoting telecommuter-friendly workspaces; and
  • being knowledgeable about broadband mapping.

In 2017, the concept was created in the state of Wisconsin, which was trying to find a way to promote local rural broadband with the idea that for rural communities, broadband and job growth can lead to a great quality of life. Wisconsin currently has 13 communities certified in the program and more in the pipeline.

“With initiatives like this that are new to Minnesota, coupled with robust investments in high-speed broadband, I’m extremely confident we can become leaders in this area,” Rep. Sandstede said. “As we work to deliver fast, reliable broadband to all Minnesotans, ‘Telecommuter Forward!’ status can help communities which have good broadband access already market themselves to potential employers.”

The Senate version of the bill, SF 2094, awaits action on the Senate floor.