Looking back; inspiring success ahead

Published 1:40 pm Saturday, December 19, 2009

While celebrating past accomplishments here at Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation, we are also looking forward to the new year, to discover more opportunities for helping communities grow and prosper in 2010. For nearly 24 years, we’ve enjoyed partnerships that inspire economic success throughout our region.

In fiscal 2009, SMIF invested a record $5.6 million into 138 successful workforce and business projects. Each effort represented a unique partnership that provided financial, technical and human resources to the southern Minnesota regional economy.

In a recent example, a grant award for community entrepreneurship has enabled further development of Lanesboro Local a virtual, online marketplace (www.lanesborolocal.org) that connects growers and producers with consumers. This hugely successful effort started with SMIF’s asset-based community dialog grant in 2008. (See the complete story online at http://smifoundation.org/fproj.php.)

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Other examples of how we’ve connected people, ideas, issues and resources to advance the economic strength of our communities in the 20-county region include:

Providing a start-up loan to Minnesota’s first rural nanotechnology business (Rushford Hypersonic).

Hosting the first regional conference on older workers that inspired new collaborations.

Investing in 11 new asset-based community partnerships to advance early childhood and workforce readiness.

Awarding more than $314,000 in grants to 18 organizations engaged in economic development.

As we enter 2010, we look forward in particular to collaborating with the Partnership for Regional Competitiveness for Southern Minnesota — a leadership group focused on biobusiness, high-tech manufacturing and innovation. The outcomes this group seeks are more and higher-wage jobs, new and sustainable businesses, and a diverse and skilled workforce in our region.

We’re also building on the successful Owatonna branch of SCORE, finding other experienced business leaders who can counsel startups and entrepreneurs in group and one-on-one meetings.

In addition we plan to launch a new series of “Learning Networks” to connect and leverage resources. The first, planned for January, is focused on Career Education and Experiential Learning for youth.

But we can only accomplish this with partnerships to leverage individual and community assets. Please contact me if you would like to help advance the work of our foundation: timp@smifoundation.org or (507) 455-3215.

In turn, we pledge to continue to inspire success that builds a truly prosperous southern Minnesota next year and into the future.

Tim Penny is the president and CEO of the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation, which provides grants, loans, technical expertise and partnerships for the emerging workforce and new businesses, especially in the areas of bio-medical, bio-agriculture and alternative energy.