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Regional Highlights

“ Anyone who would like to repay the community … to thank their community for all that’s been provided … the Initiative Foundation is a great vehicle to make that happen.”
– Patrick Mitchell of the Patrick and Jane Mitchell Family Fund, a donor-advised Partner Fund of the Initiative Foundation


MORRISON: Enterprise Minnesota 6S class participants practice a simulation for better manufacturing process.

MORRISON COUNTY | Workshops Help Manufacturers Shine in Tight Labor Market
Small and mid-sized regional manufacturers learned leadership, team dynamics, improvement practices and the 6S method (sort, set in order, shine, standardize, sustain and safety) during a series of training sessions coordinated by Enterprise Minnesota and underwritten by the Initiative Foundation and Compeer Financial. The sessions were held in Little Falls, Brainerd and Braham during late 2018, with a goal of helping manufacturers become more efficient and competitive in a tight labor market.

TODD COUNTY | Park Upgrade Honors Local Little League Hero
A new granite sign has set in stone Motley’s tribute to longtime little league coach Ernie Converse. Supported by a grant from the Staples-Motley Area Community Foundation (SMACF), a Partner Fund of the Initiative Foundation, the granite installment features a ballpark design sketched by a Converse family relative. The new sign replaces a wooden sign that blew down during a storm several years ago. The SMACF grant also helped with the installation of new park benches at Ernie Converse and Farber parks.

WADENA COUNTY | Jump Start Series Lifts Up Aspiring Menahga-Area Entrepreneurs
Menahga-area entrepreneurs and business owners are getting a helping hand with their business plans through Jump Start Menahga!, a six-week course supported by an Initiative Foundation grant in partnership with the city, the Economic Alliance and the Small Business Development Center. Classes got under way in January and offer participants a chance to refine their business plan and learn how to conduct market research and secure financing.


MILLE LACS: Children grab a book from the Little Free Library at Herington Park in Onamia.

| New Community Foundation Paving Way for Hackensack Vitality
The Hackensack Game Changers, a committee of the newly formed Hackensack Lakes Area Community Foundation, have hit the ground running by adding a map of the city along the Paul Bunyan Trail and business-sponsored flower pots throughout town. The community foundation got its start thanks in part to grant support from Minnesota Power, Xcel Energy and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Community Development Initiative

CROW WING COUNTY | Future Looks 10 Times Brighter for Pequot Lakes Students
The Patriot Foundation, an Initiative Foundation-hosted education fund to support Pequot Lakes-area students, has grown tenfold thanks to an anonymous gift of $100,000 in December 2018. Superintendent Chris Lindholm says the group is “humbled, honored and energized by the incredible generosity of this anonymous donor.” The Patriot Foundation will now be able to provide $7,500 in innovation grants to Pequot Lakes school staff in 2019 and five $1,000 scholarships for graduates.

MILLE LACS COUNTY | Literacy Opportunities Abound in Onamia
Many hometowns across the region have a claim to fame, and Onamia is embarking on its own: Its goal is to become the Little Free Library capital of Minnesota! Through grant support from the Initiative Foundation and the work of the Onamia Early Childhood Coalition, Onamia has installed 10 Little Free Library stations throughout the city. The libraries enable residents to donate and borrow books. Coordinator Susan Bracken says the Little Free Libraries are helping the community become “literacy-rich.”


SHERBURNE: Sherco Solutions: (Left to right) Dan Weber, assistant Sherburne County administrator; Greg Pruszinske, Becker city administrator; and Mark Osendorf, community relations and economic development manager at Xcel Energy.

BENTON COUNTY | Sauk Rapids-Rice Students Dig into History Lessons
Students at Sauk Rapids-Rice Elementary got their hands dirty while learning about local history, thanks to a grant from the Sauk Rapids-Rice Education Foundation. Math, science and history were studied through a project where students used metal detectors to locate lost and planted items. Students also conducted research to find the origins of discovered items and to determine the objects’ value and properties. One student even found an old foil milk cap used on glass bottles in the 1900s.

SHERBURNE COUNTY | Rail Spur Grant Keeps Industrial Park Transition on Track
A 7,000-foot rail spur will help to keep on track the planned construction this summer of a Northern Metal Recycling facility in Becker. Backed by a $1 million Minnesota Department of Transportation grant, the spur will help to repurpose the industrial park as Xcel Energy decommissions two coal-fired power plants over the next decade. Xcel’s decades-long presence in Becker provides 300 jobs and three-fourths of the city’s tax base. Early Initiative Foundation grants helped to fund feasibility and engineering studies to mitigate the adverse economic impact.

STEARNS COUNTY | Hometown Turnaround Opportunity Sparks Ideas
Pop-up stores, empty-building tours, murals and “Ninja cleaning” with a power washer: They’re all ideas shared by renowned community development specialist Deb Brown during her Initiative Foundationsponsored fall 2018 visits to Avon and Cold Spring. Brown urged Avon residents to advertise hunting and fishing tourism and to update Interstate Highway 94 signage. For Cold Spring, Brown recommended community murals to make downtown more inviting.

WRIGHT COUNTY | Monticello, Big Lake Food Shelves Talk Collaboration
When it comes to nonprofits, collaboration is key. With support from an Initiative Foundation grant, food shelf organizations in Big Lake and Monticello have retained a consultant to explore ways to combine services as an alternative to building expansions. Client surveys have been administered and a joint committee of individuals from both boards has been formed to help move discussions forward.


CHISAGO: The Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota has designated 25 communities as Bike Friendly.

CHISAGO COUNTY | North Branch, Chisago Lakes Take Bike-Friendly Approach
North Branch and Chisago Lakes are paving the way to be designated Bike Friendly Communities, thanks to the work of the Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota and grant support from the Initiative Foundation. An assessment was completed for North Branch, and teachers will be trained on elementary curriculum called “Walk! Bike! Fun!” Once designated, they will join more than two dozen other bike-friendly communities in Minnesota. A similar effort is under way in the Brainerd Lakes area.

ISANTI COUNTY | Survey Shows Staunch Support for Broadband Expansion
There’s a healthy appetite for expanded broadband services in Isanti County, according to a Blandin Foundation and Initiative Foundation-funded survey. Ninety-two percent of respondents said highspeed internet was important to the region, and 95 percent of business owners stated internet is essential to their operations. An Isanti County broadband task force will partner with Brainerd-based Consolidated Telephone Company to expand access.

KANABEC COUNTY | Mora, Braham Industrial Parks Ready for Commercial Growth
The Mora Industrial Park is certified as Shovel Ready, thanks to the work of the county’s economic development authority (EDA) and Initiative Foundation grant support. The industrial park’s access to highways makes it an ideal location to attract commercial growth. The EDA is particularly interested in attracting manufacturers, which offer wages that run 17 percent higher than the state’s average. Braham’s industrial park was certified as shovel-ready in June 2018.

PINE COUNTY | Art Opportunities Aplenty at Pine Center for the Arts
There’s more room for dance, art and music at the Pine Center for the Arts in Pine City after the roof was recently repaired. With a major roof leak, water had badly damaged parts of the building, squeezing the summer arts program into a small space. The Greater Pine Area Endowment, an Initiative Foundation Partner Fund, provided a project grant that has restored creative space for students and instructors.

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