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Boundary Waters Connect is committed to fostering sustainable wilderness edge communities where you can live, work and play. We seek to connect people and resources in ways that grow our local economies and make our communities more vibrant.  


For several years NMW’s economic & community development task force has been researching rural trends, as well as talking with civic leaders, legislators, and local businesses. What we learned reinforced our belief that rural communities and wilderness enjoy a unique and mutually beneficial relationship. 


Counties with recreational amenities do better economically than other rural counties; recreation drives varied economic benefits. Furthermore, remote access to work and education can accelerate a growing “brain gain” in which the population of residents ages 30 - 49 is increasing in rural Minnesota. These newcomers have significant education, skills, connections, spending power, and children.


Thus, creating especially welcoming communities is essential for economic growth. In addition, sharing and celebrating the diversity of in-migration stories can further grow our rural economies.  


Boundary Waters Connect will support efforts that promote economic development and quality of life within northeastern Minnesota’s wilderness edge communities by: 


  • Identifying instances of successful in-migration and sharing the unique narratives of wilderness edge community members. 

  • Staying up to date on data, trends, and best practices among economically successful rural communities. 

  • Researching governmental and non-governmental infrastructure support crucial to economic and community development in our region. 

  • Building a database of resources for new residents and entrepreneurs. 

  • Providing opportunities for collaborations across economic sectors. 


Current Boundary Waters Connect initiatives include: 


  • Hello Neighbor programs and services – We are leading initiatives that build on the extraordinary quality of life and recreational amenities in northeast Minnesota. We offer programs and services designed to connect new residents with established residents. We help new residents get plugged into the community by directing them to volunteer and social opportunities, and providing answers to the myriad questions that new residents have about their new home. 

  • Community events and organizations – We sponsor Ely’s popular Tuesday Group, a free weekly educational forum covering topics of interest to area residents. We also host a seasonal reading and discussion group focused on community and economic development called Long-Form. We host sporadic focus groups to learn about various constituent groups' needs, and an annual BWC BBQ over Fourth of July weekend, which brings together residents and tourists in a central location: Chapman Street Commons pocket park on Chapman Street. 

  • Supporting local businesses – We collaborate with local businesses through resource sharing and networking, and host programming designed to attract, strengthen, and retain local business. 


Please reach out and engage with us by contacting Lacey Squier, the Boundary Waters Connect Manager, via email ( or by call/text to 218-216-9141. 

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