Pine City Recognized for Environmental Sustainability Efforts

  • GreenStep City receives award for work to cut energy and other costs
GreenStep Zach Borich May 2014

Last month, intern Zach Borich gave a presentation to the community about what the GreenStep initiative is. Borich is a PCHS grad and now a UMD student.

The City of Pine City has the honor of being recognized as a Minnesota GreenStep City and will receive an award at the upcoming League of Minnesota Cities Conference on June 20th for advancing to become a Step 1 City.

“This award shows community members and other cities across Minnesota that the City of Pine City is taking great steps in the direction of energy and resource conservation and innovation,” shared Nathan Johnson, the Minnesota GreenStep Cities Coordinator for the City of Pine City.

Minnesota GreenStep Cities is a challenge, assistance, and recognition program.  As one of 67 participating cities, the City of Pine City is helping to lead the way in sustainability across the state of Minnesota.  The City of Pine City has worked hard to implement best practices in order to fulfill their sustainability goals.  Actions that are taken within the program focus on cost savings, energy use reduction, and the encouragement of civic innovation.  Details on the best practices the city has completed can be seen by visiting, clicking on “See all cities” next to the map, and then clicking on the city’s name.

“This award is a great achievement for the City of Pine City,” Council Member Brian Scholin said.  “And by being a part of the program, the City of Pine City and our 66 peer cities are helping to secure Minnesota’s natural beauty for the future while also helping our cities thrive economically and socially.”

About GreenStep Cities:  Minnesota GreenStep Cities is a voluntary challenge, assistance, and recognition program to help cities achieve their sustainability and quality-of-life goals.  This free continuous program is based upon 28 best practices that are tailored to Minnesota cities, focus on cost energy savings and energy use reduction, and encourage civic innovation.

GPS 45:93 region points to more signs of economic opportunity

While the Twin Cities and Duluth have historically been the bosses when it comes to Minnesota economic activity, five counties nestled in between are now getting a second look by developers and site selectors for a whole host of reasons.

Over the last two decades, the GPS 45:93 region of Minnesota—Chisago, Isanti, Kanabec, Mille Lacs and Pine counties—has enjoyed tremendous population growth.  From 1990 to 2010 the 5-county region welcomed more than 54,600 new people.  The region’s population increased over twice as fast as the state average, jumping nearly 50 percent GPS4593 Logocompared with 21.2 percent statewide.

All but one county in the region were among the 11 fastest-growing counties in the state (out of 87), Chisago County (up 76.6 percent), Isanti (up 45.9 percent), Pine (up 39.9 percent), and Mille Lacs (up 39.8 percent).

With that growth, the Twin Cities pushed a little further into the countryside and Mille Lacs County was added to what is now a 16-county Twin Cities metropolitan statistical area (MSA) because now more than a quarter of its workforce commutes to the core counties of the MSA.   Chisago County was added to the metro in 1973 and Isanti County in 1983.

“Yes, urban Minnesota is reaching ever more toward us but it is because of what is offered here,” explained Nathan Johnson, president of GPS 45:93.  “Places like Mille Lacs County, and much of our region, are gateways to Minnesota’s natural amenities.”

As an example, Johnson pointed to the north end of Mille Lacs County which borders Lake Mille Lacs, a statewide destination for those who love nature, fishing or other forms of outdoor recreation.

In 2013, Polaris Industries completed a $20 million expansion that doubled the size of its research and development facility in the GPS 45:93 region.

In 2013, Polaris Industries completed a $20 million expansion that doubled the size of its research and development facility in the GPS 45:93 region.

Johnson is also the community development director for the City of Pine City, in Pine County, which borders the Twin Cities MSA to the south.  Both Pine and Mille Lacs counties are home to a Grand Casino, the largest employer in the region.   Other major employers include Hazelden, and the more recent additions of Polaris Industries and Andersen Windows.

“With growth comes more opportunity,” described Johnson.  “We now have more workers for jobs, and a more qualified workforce.”

And while much of rural Minnesota is losing jobs, the GPS 45:93 region—a mix of suburban, exurban and rural—is bucking the trend.   Even the two most rural counties in the region, Pine and Kanabec, gained jobs between November 2012 and November of last year, according to the latest employment figures released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Besides natural amenities, the region has ample transportation amenities.  It is on Interstate Highway 35 and BNSF Railway’s mainlines between Minneapolis and Duluth, and there is high-speed passenger rail as well as commuter rail in the planning stages.

“The GPS 45:93 region is a place of promise for companies ready to relocate or expand just north of the Minneapolis-Saint Paul urban core,” said Johnson.  “There is a reason this part of the state keeps growing, due to our highly-regarded small towns, award-winning schools, reasonably-priced houses and ready-access to employment opportunities here and in the Greater MSP region.”

“We also have some of the closest state-certified, shovel ready land to Minneapolis and St. Paul,” Johnson said.  “We have hundreds of acres available in our industrial parks.”

Also, Pine Technical College and Anoka-Ramsey Community College’s Cambridge Campus are offering training for the benefit of the region’s employers.  And this spring, Pine Technical College opened the doors to the Pine Innovation Center, an entrepreneurial center and technology business incubator to serve start-up companies.

At its most recent executive committee meeting in Cambridge, May 30, members of GPS 45:93 debated the merits of adding more incentives and tools to recruit business, including the possibility of a regional equity fund.

The concern is that while the region may be a good fit for all other reasons, it has the potential to lose businesses because it cannot put in an equity injection into a new business prospect.  No decisions were made at that meeting to establish such a fund but one of GPS 45:93’s partners, the Initiative Foundation, claimed to offer a suitable alternative in the interim.

“The Initiative Foundation’s financing programs offer a range of options based on the needs of potential businesses,” said Sandy Voigt, Initiative Foundation development officer. “Whether you are working with an aspiring entrepreneur, a nonprofit with a great idea, an existing business owner or referral from a commercial lender, we have an array of programs to meet financing needs.”

GPS 45:93 is a multi-county regional economic development consortium whose mission is to better position the region to attract high-wage, technology based jobs; collaborate on business retention and expansion; recruit new businesses; and encourage entrepreneurial activity.

For more information, visit

New Artist Opening on June 13

PCA logo largeThe Art Center welcomes Donna Jean Carver this month as the featured artist in the Gallery.  Carver is a resident of Willmar, MN where she works from her studio “Topaz Tiger”.  Her work can be found on a variety of online stores with canvas paintings, greeting cards and more.

“For as long as I can remember I have had a passion for creating,” says Carver.  “My most enduring love has been painting, mostly acrylics, I like to experiment so I have done everything from abstracts to zebras.”  The variety of styles in Carver’s work makes her artwork appeal to people of all ages.

“My paintings have been displayed in many art galleries. In the last few years I have gone back to my “farmer’s daughter” roots and have created many rustic paintings, some on recycled denim or vintage feed/seed sacks either from memory or photos. It seems like these paintings strike something in the heart of many people who have memories, real or imagined, of life on the farm during what seemed like a simpler time.”


The Art Center will host an Opening Night Gala on Friday, June 13th from 5:00 – 7:00 PM in the Gallery space at 265 5th Street SE.  The public is invited for this free event to drop by for light appetizers and an opportunity to meet the artist.

Study makes case for National Heritage Area

The Heritage Initiative recently released the Feasibility Study for the proposed North Woods and Waters of the St. Croix National Heritage Area.

Feasibility St Croix HeritageThe Feasibility Study features a rich narrative of the region’s history, culture and natural resources. It also describes the public process that led to this point, and the many places throughout the region where our heritage can be experienced firsthand. It is illustrated with a diverse set of historic and contemporary photos.

The document is based on more than four years of research and discussion throughout the region of Minnesota and Wisconsin connected by the St. Croix River and its tributaries. It makes the case that the area is deserving of national recognition for its stories and resources.

Review the study
During the one-month review period, the Feasibility Study will be available at 32 locations throughout the region, including the Pine City Public Library. It is also available online.

Please share your feedback on the document via email, our website, or mail. The deadline is 5 p.m., Friday, June 30.

Seeking letters of support
While National Heritage Areas are managed locally, they require Congressional designation and support from the Park Service.

This is why the Heritage Initiative task force is asking local governments, tribes, businesses and nonprofit organizations to provide letters of support at this time. These letters will be included in the final Feasibility Study, demonstrating the potential of our National Heritage Area.

Letters can be sent to or:

The Heritage Initiative
℅ St. Croix Valley Foundation
516 Second Street, Suite 214
Hudson, WI 54016

Newspaper series
To help people throughout our region better understand where we’ve been and where we’re going with the Heritage Initiative, several newspapers throughout the region are publishing a series of four articles about the effort. Read the first two below.