Guest Column: Why I love where I live in southern Minnesota

Published 7:39 pm Thursday, January 24, 2019

Guest Column by Tim Penny

Tim Penny


There have been moments throughout my life when opportunities arose to move to a different part of the state of Minnesota, or even a different part of the country. Anyone who knows me, knows that I love living in southern Minnesota and that there are many reasons why I choose to stay here. As the president of Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation, I can’t imagine a better way to serve this region, which has always been my home.

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In 1862, my great-great grandfather homesteaded in rural Freeborn County northwest of Albert Lea on the shore of Penny Lake. Our family lived and farmed in that same area for the following three generations. My generation and my children’s generation are the fifth and sixth to call rural southern Minnesota home.

As a young man, I aspired to serve this region and was fortunate to do so for six years in the state Senate and 12 years in Washington. Upon leaving Congress, I was determined to make a future for myself and my family in rural Minnesota close to my home roots. The presidency at SMIF culminates my commitment to and passion for southern Minnesota, and I am so fortunate that the 20-county region served by SMIF is much the same as the region I served while in Congress.

As I travel throughout the area, I have the pleasure of visiting with many partners and hearing their hopes and dreams for their communities. People live here because of family, work, good schools, open spaces and beautiful landscape. They stay here because there is a common vision for a future that embraces change, diversity and innovation.

This commitment to a bright future for our children, business owners, small towns and new immigrants directly connects to the work that we do at SMIF in early childhood, economic development and community vitality. Over the past 32 years, SMIF has listened to the needs of this region and aligned our resources with those needs, investing more than $111 million back into southern Minnesota. In each county there are loan clients, grant recipients or program participants that we have had the honor of supporting throughout the years.

There are so many reasons why people love living here, and at SMIF we are infusing that theme into the work we do over the next few years as we embark on a $3.5 million “Love Where You Live” endowment campaign to strengthen our region’s future. We believe this theme gets at the root of everything we do at SMIF. This campaign will allow us to support more entrepreneurs, prepare more children for their future and increase financial investments in our communities, putting SMIF in a position to continue making this region a place people want to call home.

I can’t believe how lucky I am to have served this region for so much of my life. I love where I live because of the people. You are what makes southern Minnesota special.

You can find more about our new campaign at

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

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