Guest column: Having gratitude for local entrepreneurs

Published 8:45 pm Friday, November 25, 2022

Guest column by Tim Penny

In this season of giving and gratitude, I am inspired by how generously the people in our region showed up on Give to the Max Day, which was Nov. 17 this year. In just five days, over $85k was raised by Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation’s (SMIF) 30 community foundations. As a donor myself, I am so moved by the generosity of our area residents.

Tim Penny

In addition to November being a charitable time of year, it’s also the time where many of us turn our minds to holiday shopping. At SMIF, we see everyday how our small businesses are the backbones of our communities and local economies. For many small businesses, this is a crucial time of year. SMIF invests in businesses through our lending and equity programs, as well as providing technical assistance, economic development grants and more. In 2022 we provided support to 1,546 entrepreneurs across the region. As consumers, we also believe in buying local, especially when it comes to holiday gifts.

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While online shopping remains very convenient, we know that it means so much when we focus our shopping on our local small businesses. Our region is rich in opportunities to spend locally, from locally made foods, honey, wines and beers, to local shops, restaurants, coffee shops, yoga studios and more. Whether we can shop in person or purchase items or gift cards from these local businesses online, your patronage is greatly appreciated by all.

This month on Nov. 5, SMIF was honored to be a part of FEAST! Local Foods Marketplace, sponsored each year through collaboration with Renewing the Countryside and other regional partners. FEAST! brings local food businesses from Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin together under one roof, where attendees sipped, sampled and shopped over 90 vendors. Being back in person for this annual event was really fun, as nothing beats seeing our fellow Minnesotans face to face, all while sampling a wide variety of foods and drinks. If you missed the event, a full list of the vendors is available on the FEAST! Local Foods website, which is sure to give you plenty of gift-giving inspiration.

As we gather this holiday season in a way that looks more back to normal than the past few years, we will give thanks for many things, including our local entrepreneurs who continue to make the region a vibrant place to live (and shop!). I hope you remember them as you purchase your holiday gifts this year.

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

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