Foundation looks ahead to the next year

Published 10:28 am Monday, December 31, 2012

By Tim Penny, Guest Column

Here at Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation, during the past year, we highlighted our work in early childhood development. It was an exciting year of partnerships, growth and progress as we watched our dollars at work in the lives of young children.

Tim Penny

In 2013, we will spend the year highlighting our work in entrepreneur development. Since inception in 1986, SMIF strives to catalyze entrepreneurial activity within the region and has played a strong role in growing local business by supporting entrepreneurship. We have provided early-stage investments, traditional loans, micro loans, technical assistance, mentoring and regional leadership to further our vision of creating economic prosperity and community vitality. Over the past 27 years, SMIF has invested more than $24.5 million in business start-ups and expansions, affecting more than 420 businesses and supported more than 3,200 jobs.

Email newsletter signup

Our 20-county southern Minnesota region has a rich heritage of invention, innovation and entrepreneurship in the private sector. We believe this region’s future, like its past, will be built by people who have this entrepreneurial spirit combined with the skills and commitment that go with it.

Southern Minnesota is home to many well-known, locally grown businesses that significantly impact our region’s economy, including Taylor Corp., Davisco Foods, Rosen’s Diversified, Wells Concrete, Viracon, Fastenal, Hormel Foods Corp., and Red Wing Shoes. Forbes listed three of these companies — Taylor, Davisco and Rosen’s — on its “List of America’s Private Companies,” noting their 2010 revenue (collectively) topped $5.1 billion. It is clear that SMIF has a role in advancing this entrepreneurial heritage and through our various resources.

To kick off our year of investing in entrepreneurs, we are holding an entrepreneur conference, “The Entrepreneurial Bridge…linking entrepreneurs to resources,” on Feb. 12. Our goal is to provide entrepreneurs (and those working to assist them) with practical resources to boost entrepreneurial financial support, build access to education and business expertise, and increase and strengthen regional connections. For more information about this conference, visit

In addition, our entrepreneur team is hosting local “Coffee with your Community” breakfasts to share information about SMIF’s lending resources. We continue to provide business loans across southern Minnesota through our small enterprise and “gap” funding loan programs. We also have a trained entrepreneur development specialist delivering technical assistance and mentoring to our loan partners. In addition, we have 40 SCORE counselors ready to provide mentoring to area business startups.

SMIF is committed to supporting local entrepreneurs in creating and growing strong businesses that provide quality jobs and have a positive local and regional economic impact. With the support of partners — local, regional and statewide — we will be successful in creating a system that is coordinated and connected. This means that entrepreneurs can quickly find and tap into the right business development resources, and that investors can find high-impact, high-quality entrepreneurs in which to invest.

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


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