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Stevens FORWARD!: What is it and how can you play a part?

Stevens FORWARD! began as a rough vision of the county's future about two years ago.

Today, the Stevens FORWARD! "Destiny Drivers" are in place after initiative stewards put in more than a year of work identifying the projects and the people who might possibly bring them to fruition.

Each week for the next 15 weeks, the Sun Tribune, the Hancock Record and the Chokio Review will be publishing stories on the 14 "Destiny Drivers," which are pieces that will hopefully create a more cohesive and productive county.

A brief history of

Stevens FORWARD!

Stevens FORWARD! stewards in October 2008 released a list of 14 projects that they believe will make the county a better place to live and do business in the future.

Stevens FORWARD! launched the initiative into the action stage by releasing the 14 initiatives, called "Destiny Drivers."

"We think this can lead Stevens County into a viable future by capitalizing on things we haven't done before," Stevens FORWARD! Coordinator Roger McCannon said at the October unveiling of the initiatives. "We can take advantage of new ideas, like renewable energy."

Stevens FORWARD! was conceived in 2007 by Stevens County commissioners Paul Watzke and Neal Hofland, who retired from the board in December. It's modeled after a successful stewardship program in Bemidji.

A steering group comprised of county residents helped move the initiative forward through a series of morning meetings over 10 months. The group surveyed citizens about what they see as countywide goals. Stevens FORWARD! synthesized the survey's findings and identified the "Destiny Drivers" that it believes will inspire the broad-based community action to make them happen.

Like the Bemidji program, Stevens FORWARD! hopes the drivers will lead county residents to think and work hard to get the region where it wants to be in 15 or 20 years.

Destiny Statement

Stevens County will be the model community in rural Minnesota, recognized for our progressive development and our innovations in renewable energy, agriculture, business, and education. We will achieve this by building upon the intellectual and social capital already present within the county, and by attracting new and diverse talent that will drive our economy and increase our population.

Community Assets

• Unique towns and a strong work ethic.

• A solid base of technology and natural resources.

• An entrepreneurial spirit and culture of lifelong learning.

• Initiatives in alternative energy - wind, biomass, hydrogen and methane.

• A balanced lifestyle of work, worship and play in a beautiful and safe locale.

• A strong and diverse foundation of agriculture business, health care, and education.

Destiny Drivers

Innovative Economy

1. By 2009 we will harness the intellectual capital of the University of Minnesota Morris, West Central Research and Outreach Center, U.S.D.A. Soils Lab, and agri-business and associates into an Innovations Incubator that will produce one new commercial venture each year.

2. By 2012 a Stevens FORWARD! Community Fund of $1.5 million will help finance projects that further the destiny of the county.

3. By 2010 we will create a "Green Internship / Mentor Program" that will support 20 high school and college students per year.

4. By 2010 at least 10 UMM graduates will gain professional employment in Stevens County that leverages their talents and provides opportunity for career advancement.

5. Over the next 10 years we will maintain the highest percentage of high school students in Minnesota going on to higher education (university, college, or technical college).

Social Inclusion

6. By 2010 we will enhance our interconnectedness by better utilizing the technology infrastructure to create a virtual community.

7. By 2013 we will have established an inclusive culture that embraces a diversity of people in our population and encourages their uniqueness to flourish and enhance our community.

Livable Community

8. By 2015 Stevens County will be the first carbon neutral county in the world, demonstrating viable models for green housing, neighborhoods and public buildings.

9. By 2012 we will have the finest retirement community in western Minnesota, attracting 20 new retirees to our community every year.

10. By 2015 revitalization initiatives will energize our downtowns and retail centers, increasing commercial and retail sales.

11. By 2015 we will invigorate our parks, lakes and trails to be the finest in western Minnesota.

12. By 2015 we will construct an outdoor Aquatics Center that will serve Stevens County and the surrounding region.

Working Together

13. By 2012 we will build a stronger coalition between the University of Minnesota Morris and the region to increase enrollment to 2,100 of which 1,800 will be on-campus students.

14. By 2010 an Intergovernmental Council will ratify a Statement of Interdependence that will guide us toward greater efficiencies among our public institutions and services.

Are you a 'Champion'?

Stevens FORWARD! stewards are seeking "Champions" -- people who want to get involved in the initiative and spearhead a Destiny Driver. For more information, visit the Stevens FORWARD! Web site at, or contact Coordinator Roger McCannon via email at:, or by phone at

(320) 287-0882