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Introducing Boundary Waters Connect

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.

We found that overwhelmingly people choose to move to rural northeastern Minnesota because of the high quality of life. In fact, only about ⅓ of recent newcomers chose their location primarily for a job. A majority of new residents chose wilderness edge communities, in part, to live among people with similar values. These values include access to outdoor recreation and a closeness to nature.

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:

  • New resident recruitment – We are initiating and supporting activities that build on the extraordinary quality of life and recreational amenities in northeast Minnesota.

  • Community events and organizations – We recently became the sponsor of Ely’s popular Tuesday Group, a community-focused weekly speaker series covering topics of interest to area residents, and which periodically features new residents who share their reasons for moving to the area in a warm and welcoming forum.

  • Promoting tourism – We collaborate with local tourism boards to promote sustainable tourism and new resident recruitment.

  • Supporting local businesses – We collaborate with local businesses through resource sharing and networking, and anticipate hosting 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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