Regional Highlights

“The Initiative Foundation has been instrumental in helping our organization provide quality services to the community. …We would have not been able to help as many people without their support.”

– Shannon Wegner, Arrows Family Services, Milaca and Little Falls

Camp Confidence
TODD: REACH students volunteered at Camp Confidence in spring 2023.

MORRISON COUNTY | Grants Help Spruce Up Little Falls Businesses
Several Little Falls businesses have a new look thanks to the Initiative Foundation-administered Main Street Economic Revitalization program. The grants cover nearly one-third of project costs, including updates at the Purple Carrot Market, demolition and remodeling at The Falls Theatre, and a remodel and expansion at Chiro Plus Rehab. When the projects are complete, more than $3 million will be pumped into downtown Little Falls through this Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development collaboration.

TODD COUNTY | Program Schools Students in Soft Skills
Soft-skill training is making a comeback in the Staples-Motley school district. The Cardinal REACH program helps students explore Relationships, Education, Accountability, Character and Hard work. With support from the Staples-Motley Community Foundation, a Partner Fund of the Initiative Foundation, 2023 REACH students traveled to Camp Ripley for a tour and volunteered at Camp Confidence to put down mulch, fix fishing poles and clean cabins.

WADENA COUNTY | Wadena Nonprofit Tackles Childcare Shortage
Wadena County has an estimated shortage of more than 500 childcare spots—a local challenge that contributes to a shortfall of workers to fill open job positions. The MAHUBE-OTWA Community Action Partnership is stepping in to help with support from an Initiative Foundation grant. The project will help those who already provide childcare, particularly in the Latino community, go through the licensing process to add childcare slots in Todd and Wadena counties.

Onamia Childcare Center
MILLE LACS: A host of dignitaries were on hand for the Onamia Childcare Center grand opening.

CASS COUNTY | Walker Food Shelf Finds Some Sunny Relief
A clean-energy analysis funded by the Initiative Foundation and coordinated by the University of Minnesota is bringing a ray of sunshine to the Walker Food shelf. The study found that a clean-energy transition could significantly curb costs, freeing up resources to better serve community needs. The effort also is providing home energy guidance to clients: While the average Minnesota household spends 2 percent of its income on home energy, low-income households can spend 40 percent or more.

CROW WING COUNTY | National Inspection Academy Launches in Baxter
Science and technology industries have safety standards to meet, many of which require a method called nondestructive testing (NDT). The new National Inspection Academy in Baxter is helping to fill the pipeline of NDT professionals—a high-demand career field. An Initiative Foundation loan helped this nonprofit technical school get started in its offerings—from ultrasonic to radiographic to magnetic particle testing—with in-person and online classes.

MILLE LACS COUNTY | Onamia Makes Gains in Childcare, Affordable Housing
An August grand opening by Mille Lacs Corporate Ventures (MLCV) unveiled two long-awaited projects: a childcare center and workforce housing in Onamia. MLCV secured Initiative Foundation and Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development grants to launch the childcare center. In Red Willow Estates, a 30-unit development, MLCV is addressing a vexing challenge: Half of the area’s workforce commutes up to 50 miles daily resulting in about 72 percent of local jobs being filled by outside residents.

Blattner Tour, CareerSTART
STEARNS: CareerSTART students visit Blattner Energy in Avon.

BENTON COUNTY | Opening Doors to Vulnerable Renters
Nearly 200 vulnerable renters found housing thanks to the work of HousingLink’s Beyond Backgrounds program and an Initiative Foundation grant. For renters with one or two red flags on their background checks, it can be nearly impossible to find housing. HousingLink provides coaching and rental research to vulnerable renters. The nonprofit does monthly check-ins with property owners and managers and provides financial backing if a renter runs into unexpected challenges.

SHERBURNE COUNTY | New Tech Brings New Opportunity to Elk River Food Shelf
Community Aid of Elk River (CAER) can better meet its mission to fight hunger with new technology funded by an Initiative Foundation grant. The Network for Good donation software will help CAER secure funds and work more efficiently to serve 4,000-plus people annually in Sherburne and Wright counties. The Initiative Foundation-hosted Three Rivers Community Foundation has provided ongoing support to CAER’s youth program, which offers supplemental weekend and summertime food when they’re not in school.

STEARNS COUNTY | CareerSTART Helps Teens Explore Career Paths
The Boys and Girls Club of Central Minnesota continues to expand its CareerSTART program, which helps youth of all ages learn more about career paths. Through speakers, trips and virtual-reality activities, students can explore a range of careers, from the medical field to carpentry. The Initiative Foundation is proud to support this program with the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, the Morgan Family Foundation and Partners for the Future.

WRIGHT COUNTY | Pilot Childcare Program Reduces Obstacles for Providers
CPR and first-aid classes are a must for childcare provides, but fitting them in during a long and busy workday without shutting down family service for an afternoon isn’t always practical or affordable. With grant support from the Initiative Foundation, Wright County Community Action is knocking down barriers by offering free after-hours training. To date, nearly 200 Central Minnesota providers—42 from Wright County—have gone through the program.

Nontraditional Lender Forum
KANABEC: The Nontraditional Lender Forum attracted more than 50 bankers, lenders, business owners and entrepreneurs to the Braham Event Center.

CHISAGO COUNTY | Wyoming Rallies Around Plan to Reinvigorate its Downtown
The downtown area is the heart of many small communities, yet downtown Wyoming has seen little development for the past three decades. An Initiative Foundation-funded plan is looking at ways to make downtown Wyoming more accessible and welcoming. Researchers will also assess connectivity to the Sunrise Prairie Regional Trail. The analysis and plan will be assembled based on comments and needs expressed by downtown business owners and the general public.

ISANTI COUNTY | Education Fund Flourishes to Benefit Cambridge-Isanti Students
In about a year and a half, the Bluejacket Education Foundation has gone from non-existent to funding seven projects at Cambridge-Isanti schools. A recent $10,000 grant round will fund cross-country skis for middle school students, a cedar-strip canoe project for high school industrial tech students, and a chemistry component for grade-schoolers. Hosted by the Initiative Foundation, the Bluejacket Education Foundation aims to create opportunities to support student endeavors and the wider community.

KANABEC COUNTY | Forum Showcases Nontraditional Lending Opportunities
For some business owners, nontraditional financing is the only option. A Sept. 6 forum at the Braham Event Center gave more than 50 bankers, lenders, business owners and entrepreneurs the opportunity to explore nontraditional lending options available in East Central Minnesota. As a Community Development Financial Institution, the Initiative Foundation proudly sponsored this event in collaboration with local partners to help spark economic opportunities in the region.

PINE COUNTY | Study Explores Business Park, Transportation Upgrades
A guaranteed path to bolstering the local economy is to ensure workers have access to high-paying, stable jobs. The city of Sandstone and Pine County are using federal funding, along with financial support from Minnesota Power and the Initiative Foundation, to study how transportation improvements could ultimately attract businesses and add jobs at industrial parks in Pine City, Hinckley and Sandstone. Armed with this study, the team will evaluate the best investment strategies.

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Regional Highlights

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