In 1999, Bridging Brown County grew out of discussions by Blandin Community Leadership Program Alumni and other community leaders including Catherine Rasmussen, University of Minnesota Extension Educator. The original concept developed is summarized by this quote from the BBC website home page by Rasmussen: “Many of us think of our “community” as only the town in which we live. But we also belong to a larger rural community: the community formed by all residents of Brown County. “We are a neighborhood of communities that share common challenges and opportunities.”
Brown County, like many rural Minnesota counties, is changing in demographics, economic base and political power. The population is aging, decreasing in size and changing in ethnic background. While agriculture remains the major economic force, its face has become off-farm owners managing large tracts of land or large animal productions. Many Main Street storefronts are empty with chain stores and eateries replacing locally owned businesses. Redistricting has reduced state legislative representation from 2 to 1 senator and from 3 to 1 representative.
As a county, there had always been divisions between the east and west ends of the county, between urban and rural interests and between municipalities of different sizes. These divisions seem to have been magnified by the changes happening within Brown County. This group of volunteer leaders felt the need to change these trends.
The original action plan was two fold: bring together representatives from throughout Brown County for education and discussion.