Return on investment is impressive

Published 9:44 am Monday, June 20, 2011

Column: Tim Penny, Guest Column

Budgets are tight. No one understands that better than our local city and county leaders. Unfortunately, most have had to accommodate dwindling state local government aid funding along with the effects of the economic downturn.

Tim Penny

In rural Minnesota, we can’t afford not to look for ways to leverage our assets. Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation has built a reputation for investing in and strengthening local assets. We know the return has been great.

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Over the last 25 years, southern Minnesota cities and counties have been supporting SMIF through their annual contributions. Despite tight budgets of their own, county and city leaders acknowledge their continued support for SMIF because they see their annual contributions give a great return on investment.

All 20 of the counties in SMIF’s region have experienced a steady return on investment from their SMIF donation that most investors would envy. The returns on investment range from 500 percent to more than 1,800 percent — with the average at 800 percent.

For example, donor support within one county totaled $756,000. In turn, SMIF has invested more than $8.8 million in grants and loans within that county — an impressive return on investment by any measure!

At SMIF, we also believe it’s important that our investments (grants and loans) leverage additional assets. I love to tell the story about La Crescent’s Healthy Community Partnership initiative we helped launch with facilitation support and a $20,000 grant seven years ago. Since that time, Healthy Community Partnership has started several new health-related programs, in addition to the five projects that came out of the initial process. They’ve gone on to raise almost $700,000 since 2004 and continue to expand their vision of becoming the healthiest community in the country.

I’ll repeat — budgets are tight, and state and federal deficits are high. As a result, local governments will receive less from St. Paul and Washington and must do more with local resources. That’s why investing in local organizations that help to create economic vitality makes good sense. Actually, it’s just plain common cents!

Here at SMIF, we are committed to giving all of our southern Minnesota communities opportunities like La Crescent. We will continue to make sound investments, leverage existing assets, and focus on projects that increase economic vitality. It is our goal to see a region of vibrant, prosperous communities now and into the future.

As always, I welcome your comments and questions. You can reach me by phone 507-455-3215 or email

Tim Penny is the president and CEO of the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation.