Guest column: Developing a plan for growth for the future

Published 8:45 pm Friday, November 4, 2022

Guest column by Tim Penny

Over the years of serving as president of Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation (SMIF), I have noticed that foundations, of which there are many in our state, are often touted as organizations that do grantmaking. However, I know that grantmaking is often just the tip of the iceberg of what foundations can offer the communities they serve. At SMIF, while we do invest in our 20-county region through grants, we also invest long-term in our communities and people through a variety of targeted support services.

Tim Penny

SMIF helps entrepreneurs, early childhood professionals and communities identify the best solutions to many of the challenges they may be facing. We are also fortunate to have a broad network of partners and resources at our fingertips that we can tap into and help people get on a path for growth. Our foundation’s motto is “collaborating for regional vitality” — and we can help direct you to the resource needed if it is not something SMIF provides.

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We encourage any entrepreneur in our region who wants to grow their business to reach out to SMIF. You do not need to be a loan client or plugged into our programming in any way. We can help you determine what your next steps for growth could be and which resources or partners we can direct you to for support. For entrepreneurs who might eventually need a loan, SMIF offers an array of options, including a Small Enterprise Loan, which comes with the added benefit of having access to resources like free technical assistance from a wide range of experts.

For those who are in the child care field, SMIF offers consultation services to help providers create a more sustainable business model that also aligns with their personal goals. Sometimes child care business owners need help with developing a business plan or marketing plan. Child care centers can also utilize this support. They might have staffing issues or other challenges that can be addressed by working with our staff.

Outside of one-on-one technical assistance, SMIF also provides customized support to communities seeking solutions to child care challenges. Some of this takes the form of doing an assessment to determine what assets exist in town, and what partnerships could be formed to develop solutions. Currently, our early childhood business consultant is reminding counties that the funding they were allocated through the American Recovery Plan Act can be utilized for child care infrastructure — an important tool for growth. Significant strides in addressing child care shortages have been made in communities like Northfield and Blooming Prairie with the support of SMIF’s services.

The examples listed above are just some of the ways that SMIF provides technical assistance for the region. For those people and communities that are already engaged with us through our programming — like our Community Foundations, Early Childhood Initiatives or Rural Entrepreneurial Venture programs, they have been receiving consistent targeted support services over many years.

Is your community or business in need of support? Now is the time to reach out to SMIF. The best place to start is by emailing inquiry@smifoundation.org and we will connect you with the right person to help you on your growth journey. 

Tim Penny is the president and CEO of Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation. He represented Minnesota’s 1st Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1982 to 1994.