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Initiative to help businesses make effective use of Web

WILLMAR -- An 18-month initiative is being launched to help local businesses use the Internet to market their products and services.

The project is a team effort between the Kandiyohi County and City of Willmar Economic Development Commission and the University of Minnesota Extension.

"There are simple and creative ways businesses can use the Internet that they may not be using now, to reach new customers, sell more products and services, and stay connected with their existing customers," said Jean Spaulding, assistant director of the Economic Development Commission. The EDC will be working with Extension and local businesses to coordinate a series of educational offerings and consulting services for local business owners and residents.

The first workshops start Feb. 22. Topics will range from "Doing Business on the Internet" to effective use of the social media. Courses will be taught by Extension educators who will also offer more advanced workshops, as well as being available to consult with businesses.

Spaulding said she's enthusiastic about the potential for this initiative to help local businesses make better use of the Internet.

"What we'll be offering will really benefit our local businesses and the community overall," she said.

As part of the project, the University of Minnesota also is conducting a short survey to learn the current level of Internet usage and understanding of Internet technology in Kandiyohi County. Information gained from the survey will help Extension work more effectively with businesses.

Businesses are encouraged to contact the Economic Development Commission to receive a copy of the survey or complete the online version.

Extension's work in Kandiyohi County and Willmar is part of the larger Minnesota Intelligent Rural Communities project, a coalition of statewide partners that includes the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, the Minnesota Learning Commons, regional development commissions and Extension. The project's focus is to realize the full potential of broadband technologies in rural Minnesota communities. It is funded through an American Recovery and Reinvestment grant, of which the Blandin Foundation of Grand Rapids serves as project administrator.

For more information on programs, dates and locations, contact Jean Spaulding at the Economic Development Commission at 320-235-7370 or jean@kandiyohi. com.