Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Pooled Resources

Many towns across central Minnesota want to build a community center to provide not only a place for residents to gather but also to attract tournaments or events. But such a huge investment may not always be the right choice. IQ's article by Gene Rebeck profiles four successful community centers in Crosby, Walker, Wadena and Eden Valley. Check out what they learned to see if a community center makes sense for your town.

Friday, May 24, 2013

They Are the Champions

Talk about a dream team! In its inaugural year, the high school varsity robotics squad from Becker High School not only won the Minnesota State High School League Championship, but also traveled to compete in a national tournament in St. Louis.

A relatively new "varsity sport of the mind," robotics combines the thrill of competition with the kinds of tech-savvy skills needed in today's workplace. Embracing this activity at the high school level is a way for towns across central Minnesota and beyond to create relationships between students and local businesses that will hopefully translate to a better prepared future workforce.

To learn more about robotics and the Becker team's success story, check out this article in our most recent issue of IQ.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

VIVID: Global citizens form a new palette for business in central Minnesota

Signs of central Minnesota's increasingly diverse community are everywhere, from the Latino-owned businesses that have given new life to Long Prairie's main streets to the Halal grocery stores that now serve St. Cloud's Muslim shoppers. In fact, immigrants from Mexico and dozens of other countries have such a profound economic impact that if they were removed from the labor force, one estimate says the state would lost more than 24,000 permanent jobs and $1.2 billion in personal income.

IQ's new cover story by Laura Billings Coleman takes a look at the changing face of central Minnesota and the new opportunities for businesses and the region's economic development.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Polaris sees an upside to the long winter

A recent article in the StarTribune reports that Polaris experienced a 217 percent increase in snowmobile sales this year, thanks in part to our snowy winter.  Even though this winter has seemed endless and downright cruel to many of us ready for warmer temperatures, there's been a distinct upside for companies that depend on strong winters. For a deeper look, check out the current issue of IQ, which examines the economics of snow.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Annandale Community Field Day: Apr 27

The Annandale Area Community Team (ACT) and the Initiative Foundation would like to invite you to a Community Field Day on Saturday April 27th!

The event is designed to bring leaders together to share ideas in community and economic development and tour projects in the Annandale area.  These include recreational park amenities, downtown green space, bike paths, and a food shelf.

Annandale, with a population of about 3,000, began working on improvement projects in 2002 when they joined the Initiative Foundation’s community development program. 

The community has been had some significant successes and is willing to share their experiences with other civic minded groups as they attempt to improve wherever it is they call home!

“Our goal is to cross-pollinate ideas and learn from each other,” said Dan Frank, Senior Program Manager for Community and Economic Development.  “We’re hoping that Annandale’s successes and challenges will inspire those conversations and relationships.”

The free event, which includes a complimentary lunch, tours, and educational presentations, is scheduled for 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, April 27th.

To register or for more information, contact Robert Muschler at (320) 632-9255,

All you need to bring is comfortable weather-appropriate clothing and the knowledge you already possess about your community. You may be asked to share one or two things that you believe your town does well. What is the “shining star” in your community? In addition to food from a local eatery there will be door prizes from the ACT group!


10:00: Welcome and Coffee at City Hall

10:15: Hear from Annandale representatives
- Town Description (history, demographics, etc)
- Issues
- TCI process experience 
- Projects- successful and otherwise
- Current projects, priorities and challenges
11:00: City Tour 

12:00: Lunch and Discussion, Your Community Successes

1:00: Adjourn

To learn more about the Annandale team, their past projects and their goals for the future visit:
  Or read an article in IQ Magazine, featuring Annandale's projects!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Snow Business

It's mid-March and winter is still going strong. That might be tough for those of us who could use a burst of warm air and sunshine. But for central Minnesota businesses that depend on snow, a white winter usually means a lot of green. From snow machine maker Arctic Cat in Thief River Falls to Little Falls Machine, which manufactures snow plows, to the 8,500 businesses statewide that depend on winter tourism, our region's businesses benefit greatly from good winters and have to find ways to adapt when mother nature keeps our lawns brown in January.

The latest issue of IQ takes a close look at the impact winter has on the region's businesses, from manufacturing to farming to construction. Learn more from this in-depth story by Laura Billings Coleman.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Welcome, Dan Meyer!

We recently welcomed Dan Meyer to our board of trustees, where he will serve a renewable three-year term. 

Dan is the board chair of Atomic Learning, Inc., which provides technology training services and products to schools, small businesses and individuals. Meyer was among a group of educators who launched Atomic Learning in 2000 and served as CEO from 2007 through 2012. 

“Dan’s passion for technology and education make him an excellent addition to our board as we address challenges facing central Minnesota businesses and communities,” said Kathy Gaalswyk, Initiative Foundation president. 

“The combination of changing demographics in the workforce, skills needed by an increasingly technological workplace and the globalization of our economy present significant challenges and opportunities for the Initiative Foundation to continue to positively impact the region,” said Meyer. “Being asked to be on the Board of Trustees is a significant honor.” 

Dan holds a BA in Business Education from Concordia College, Moorhead, MN and a MA in Technology & Learning from the University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, MN. Dan currently serves on the Brainerd YMCA Foundation Board and has been involved with many other organizations including the International Society for Technology in Education and Partnership for 21st Century Skills. 

Welcome, Dan!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Double Bottom Line

Central Minnesota's business landscape is dotted with coffee shops, energy companies and second hand stores. All sell a product in the hopes of turning a profit. Now, some are also fueling nonprofit organizations with their proceeds.

Nationwide, foundation assets--one of the primary sources of funding for many nonprofits--fell by an unprecedented 17 percent in 2008. Although grantmaking has stabilized, the long-term impact and outlook seems uncertain.

As more organizations compete for less grant money and government funding becomes less reliable, a growing number of nonprofits are turning to social enterprise to ensure their organizations' fiscal health. In basic terms, a social enterprise model uses entrepreneurial, revenue-generating strategies for earned income. Those strategies and activities are directly tied to the nonprofit's mission.

In the current issue of IQ, Rachel Reabe Nystrom profiles three outstanding central Minnesota models of social enterprise: Wadena's The Cyber Cafe; the Common Goods thrift store operated by Brainerd's Bridges of Hope; and the Rural Renewable Energy Alliance in Pine River. 

Check out the full story here.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

2013 Valspar Paint Program

In 2013 Valspar Corporation will once again be offering nonprofits and communities a chance to apply for free paint and coatings through its “Minnesota Beautiful” partnership with the Initiative Foundation.

Representatives from the Initiative Foundation and Valspar will select 8-10 restoration or beautification projects to receive paint and coatings based on their visual impact, public benefit, volunteer participation and support, intended use and benefit to the needy.  

Projects that may qualify for a grant include historic buildings, community centers, public buildings, facilities for seniors or people with disabilities, murals or other visual impact projects.  Ineligible projects include denominational churches, city maintenance, schools (except murals) and privately owned buildings.  Projects must take place in one or more of the counties in the Foundation's service area.

Applications are due by March 4, 2013. For more information or to apply download the fact sheet/application or contact Dan Frank at (877) 632-9255 ,  

Friday, December 28, 2012

Bare Market

Rural grocers are crucial to their communities. Not only do they provide jobs with steady incomes, but they also give residents easy access to fresh and healthy food and community connections. Today, as this article by IQ writer Andy Steiner demonstrates, many rural grocers are having a hard time competing with discount retails such as Walmart and Target, which sell food in addition to consumer products.

Fortunately, there are several central Minnesota grocers who are surviving and even thriving in this increasingly difficult business. From Chris' Food Centers in Sandstone and Pine City to Gosch's Store in Randall, enterprising grocers are drawing customers with their personal service and commitment to quality.