MINNEAPOLIS -- Northern Township's partnership with the city of Bemidji for planning and zoning purposes paid off with an award last week.

The Greater Bemidji Area Joint Planning Board received a Local Government Innovation Award from the University of Minnesota's Humphrey School of Public Affairs. According to a press release, the program recognizes projects in up to five categories, including cities, counties, schools, townships and tribal nations.

The GBAJPB, made up of the city and Northern Township, was named the leading innovator in the township category. The release states the win was based on JPB's cooperation with comprehensive joint planning, zoning and administrative work that helps turn natural barriers and competition between municipalities and townships.

The program is organized with assistance from the Bush Foundation and its Native Nation Building program. The award program is co-sponsored by the League of Minnesota Cities, the Association of Minnesota Counties, the Minnesota Association of Townships and the Minnesota School Boards Association.

The awards are given by a panel of judges who consider submissions based on creativity, sustainability and collaboration.

"Creating something innovative only takes place when there's pause to consider what we know and set aside current beliefs to explore another better path or process," said Jay Kiedrowski, senior fellow at the Humphrey School and LGIA program lead in a release. "These awards are a reflection of that. They represent innovative ways to do the things that local government traditionally does, but in new models with new efficiencies and collaborations."

According to the release, the results of the GBAJPB's efforts has resulted in enhanced economic vitality and protection of natural resources.