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Greater St. Cloud Community Pillars

Greater St. Cloud Community Pillars 2016

More than 350 people attended the Feb. 26, 2016, Greater St. Cloud Community Pillars Forum. Read the IQ Magazine story about progress that is being made in the greater St. Cloud area or the live report by the St. Cloud Times with special emphasis on the region's most recent social capital survey.

Growing business. Developing our future workforce. Improving physical amenities. It's all part of a multi-faceted partnership to improve the greater St. Cloud area.

The CentraCare Health Foundation, the Central Minnesota Community Foundation, the Initiative Foundation, the Morgan Family Foundation, St. Cloud State University, Times Media and United Way of Central Minnesota have joined forces for a community visioning project to identify ways to increase the St. Cloud area's vitality.

Working together, these organizations have created a grant to advance priorities, leverage  resources and increase community engagement. To date, this community-driven effort has resulted in the following priorities:

Retain, Expand, Attract Business

Recreational, Natural Resources

Elevate Arts, Culture

Support Aging In Place

Cradle-To-Career Support

Infrastructure, Transportation

Assist Those Facing Poverty

Expand Inclusive Participation

Learn more about the history and the details of the Greater St. Cloud Community Pillars. It is through the broad involvement of many community members that we can bring about significant positive change for our community!


Greater St. Cloud Community Pillars History

The Greater St. Cloud Community Pillars Forum is an annual gathering of hundreds of area residents who have a shared interest in working collectively to advance the region’s top priorities.

The goals of the annual forum are to elevate awareness, increase collaboration, leverage resources, provide an opportunity for people to volunteer their talents, and to reinforce a shared vision for the region.

“Greater St. Cloud truly has all the resources to continue to build a great community,” said Kathy Gaalswyk, Initiative Foundation president. “The key to continuing to make the community better is a common vision that engages people, encourages collaboration, and excites the larger community about what our community can be.”

The Greater St. Cloud Community Pillars initiative got its start in 2010 when 40 Greater St. Cloud area leaders took a bus trip to Dubuque, Iowa—a city that was having great success in planning and executing a shared communitywide vision. What they learned was a revelation: The secret to Dubuque’s success was not in the assets the community possessed but in the way in which it collectively used its assets to plan for the future. On the bus ride home, community leaders realized that St. Cloud had the necessary assets. It was a common vision that was missing. And from that inspiration, the Greater St. Cloud Community Priorities initiative was born.

Much has already been accomplished. 

  • The Greater St. Cloud Development Corporation has served as a guiding force for business growth and expansion with strategic programs to develop, retain and attract skilled workers, advocate for regional transportation infrastructure, support a vibrant downtown, encourage workplace health and wellness programs and promote our regional assets and brand.
  • Health and wellness is front-and-center with plans for a $27 million, 93,000-square-foot regional aquatics center at Whitney Park. The center, a partnership between the city and the St. Cloud Area YMCA, will serve St. Cloud, Sartell, Sauk Rapids, St. Augusta, St. Joseph and Waite Park. Construction should begin in summer 2015.
  • Mississippi Partners, a volunteer organization that aims to promote recreational and natural resources by promoting river trails, parks and sustainable commercial development, is playing a major advocacy role to elevate the Mississippi River to its proper place as a key regional amenity. The organization’s map shows trails linking to parks, piers, portages and boat access areas. It also marks river miles, rapids and dams. More than anything, though, the organization is serving as a unifying voice for St. Cloud, Sauk Rapids and Sartell to work collectively rather than handling development issues on their own—all for the greater good of the region.

Numerous other efforts are under way:

  • The Central Minnesota Council on Aging is partnering with area healthcare providers and higher education institutions to provide opportunities for seniors to receive basic health assessments and to learn how to better foster independence.
  • The United Way of Central Minnesota is working with St. Cloud State University’s School of Public Affairs to assess the breadth and depth of regional homelessness and to recommend strategies and systems to prevent it.
  • The Cradle to Career task force has been working to support student success by increasing access to early childhood education, childcare and training; addressing achievement gap issues; identifying and reducing barriers to recreation, learning, service and leadership roles for youth; and by providing workplace and business experiences for youth and adult learners that include internship and apprentice opportunities.   

“Greater St. Cloud is a great place to call home and will only continue to get better by us imagining what the future of our community might be,” said Steve Joul, president of the Central Minnesota Community Foundation. “It’s a diverse community with six municipalities, three counties and multiple civic-minded organizations, each with its own plans and visions for the areas they serve. The opportunity exists for us to continue to find priority areas we all share that will strengthen the region as a whole. In strengthening the whole, each individual partner is better off as well.”


Greater St. Cloud Community Pillars Details

Retain, expand and attract businesses

  • Advance a regional branding effort.
  • Maximize the impact of educational institutions on regional economic development via commercialization of intellectual property and university-business partnerships.
  • Nurture culturally diverse entrepreneurs.

Support student success through a cradle to career approach for education and workforce development

  • Launch a web-based talent portal to link workers, employers, educators and resource partners. 
  • Establish the Executive Leadership Group to guide Partner for Student Success transition and engage community. 
  • Provide workplace and business experiences for youth and adult learners. 
  • Increase access to quality and affordable early childhood education, child care and training. 
  • Expand strategies for addressing the educational achievement gap for people of color or poverty.
  • Empower youth in the community. Identify and reduce barriers to recreation, learning, service, and leadership roles for youth.

Expand inclusive participation and engagement of people of color in community leadership

  • Facilitate connections for immigrants and refugees with the broader community.
  • Address language barriers that prevent access to health, education, housing and other critical services.

Enhance recreational amenities and natural resources

  • Provide expanded access to, activities on, and stewardship of the Mississippi River. 
  • Develop regional community and/or aquatic center.

Invest in regional transportation and infrastructure

  • Support regional air service, including Chicago connection. 
  • Facilitate extension of Northstar rail to St. Cloud. 
  • Extend Wobegon and other trail systems to urban core areas and river corridor for recreation and non-motorized transportation. 
  • Support expansion of I-94 from Rogers to St. Cloud.

Elevate culture, arts and “sense of place”

  • Connect and enhance downtowns, river and neighborhoods with place-making and public arts.
  • Create a sustainable source of funding for the arts.

Assist those facing poverty

  • Implement strategies to expand the pool of and access to affordable housing, mental health, transportation, and other critical services. 
  • Develop options for housing, assistance to homeless people and/or those in crisis.
  • Expand access to essential services (like mental health) by addressing language, transportation, out of school activities, and other barriers.

Support aging in place

  • Develop strategies to assess and address opportunities and needs for seniors and the aging population.



Matt Varilek

(320) 631-2005

Don Hickman

 Don Hickman
Vice President for Community
 Workforce Development
(320) 631-2043